(I hope this is on-topic.)

I am deciding which language to learn next. I am a native Spanish and fluent English speaker. My three options are Latin, Italian, and French. I would like to receive your insights on which option is the optimal, given my current knowledge, and the following criteria:

  1. efficacy: how well I can learn it, primarily in reading and writing, but ideally in speaking too;
  2. speed: how quickly I can learn it;
  3. stepping stone to learning a further language.

If you think there is another criteria of relevance, please mention it. Surely, the "usefulness" is also important, but that is a much more personal aspect, which I am not including, as it might disqualify this as primarily opinion based.

Important: Assume I would allocate the same level of time to whatever option I take, and that I have access to the required books, videos, and other online tools. Notice that I plan to learn the language by myself, and I do not live in countries where these languages are spoken, nor plan to move to learn them (not that Latin is spoken anywhere on a regular basis anyway).

  • I assume you want to learn to a very high level of fluency? Commented May 8, 2017 at 22:45
  • @AnthonyPham Yes. Not to stop half way. Enough to read novels, newspapers, watch movies and ideally have a decent conversation with another speaker.
    – luchonacho
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 8:05

4 Answers 4


Efficacy: Italian is the way to go here, if you are Spanish speaking. I speak Portuguese myself and it is one of the most natural languages to understand, after Spanish.

Speed: Italian as well, for the same reasons as cited before. It is just so much more like Spanish that will make the faster among the three.

Stepping Stone: Inside the group, Italian as well, it will be much easier to first learn Italian and then learn Latin, they are closer than Spanish and Latin. Outside the group, French will probably give you a broader idea of how a language might work differently from your own. Knowing English in addition to a original mother language gives you a faint idea, but languages in general are very different from one another, in things like structure which are very hard to grasp until you just "know" how to do it.

As for the usefulness, you gotta consider that for the things you said you would be doing, like reading etc, there is just a lot more content in French than there is in Italian. You gotta take in account that not long ago, the global language wasn't English, but French.

Another thing, it sounds like this will be your first language after English, so you WILL feel like it is harder, people use English all the time, we are exposed to it all the time, even people that never studied it end up learning a little bit. With another language, that is mostly not the case, as in, your learning curve will not be aided by a storm of information in that language.

  • 1
    "Italian as well, for the same reasons as cited before. It is just so much more like spanish that will make the faster among the three." Could you elaborate on what sources were cited? Commented May 9, 2017 at 23:26
  • 1
    The source is me. I am portuguese speaking person which was born in a heavy italian dialect speaking part of brazil, and you basically just can't get much closer to spanish than portuguese. I can, to an extent, comprehend what stuff means when it is written in Italian, and in the italian dialect, but I can't in french, and so should he, if his mother tongue is spanish. You might say that I find italian easier because of the area I was born, but that is not true, even my parents, who migrated from other areas there, have an easy time understanding the language at a basic level. Commented May 10, 2017 at 10:32

Efficacy : I'm not entirely sure. My first guess would be Italian as I agree too that Italian is a bit closer to Spanish than it is to French. However, as you are fluent with English, you might see if you pick French that there is a lot of similarities between English and French, and between French and Spanish. French has a lot of difficult grammatical quirks, but once figured out, it allows the use of a lot of different phrasings of sentences, often including phrasings that also belong to other languages( and a lot of those won't even sound archaic), those are somehow useful sometimes when it comes to translate from one language to multiple other ones.

Speed: Definitely Italian if you want to really be fluent fast, lot of french people have an easier time learning Spanish first, then Italian, than the opposite. (Learning Italian won't really help you learn French though).

Stepping Stone : If you intend to learn all three languages, then you should go for Italian or Latin. French is a mix of Latin, Greek, and Germanic. Most of what you'll learn in French won't help much when learning the other two. Latin would cover both, but it is kind of hard to learn as it's a dead language, so I would definitely go for Italian. However, if you want a more generic stepping stone, I would go for French, knowing Spanish, English and French would basically give you the keys to learn "easily" all occidental languages.

From what I've seen, French and Italian people both struggles when it comes to speak english, to the point they might even get "shocked" when they see that one of their compatriot can speak it fluently or understand it without subtitles. If you intend to travel, you should keep that in mind.


I agree about Italian and Spanish being closer than French and Spanish. Italian immigrants usually learn Spanish very fast. On the other hand if you intend to travel in Africa or other places like Quebec, Martinique etc. French has a much wider use than Italian. Downsides are the difficult orthography and a lot of difficult to grasp gramatical quirks.

Wish I was as good in Spanish as in French 😊


The number of speakers is also important. Latin isn't spoken outside of the Vatican, and Italian isn't spoken outside of Italy and Switzerland. However, French is spoken in six continents, especially in the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe.

  • Welcome to Language Learning! I noticed that you've recently posted several answers. Some of those really look like one-line comments, failing to address questions (or are only tangentially relative). Please note that every answer on this site must address the original Q and stand on its own on addressing it (e.g. not be a commentary to the Q or to another A). Also, while your personal experience is valuable, we prefer answers that are based on facts and references, preferably on academic research. Your experience/opinion can be part of it, but can't be the whole basis of your post. Commented Jan 4, 2023 at 9:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.