Speaking a foreign language may or may not be a part of your personal vision of arete. For me, knowing at least a little Latin is the hallmark of a well-educated person. I also have a general interest in the classics. For those reasons, Latin is a pursuit of mine. I’ve also flirted with Esperanto, studied some Russian, and have a basic understanding of Spanish.
Studying a foreign language is a great way to exercise the brain. It can also be useful. Below is a list of observations I’ve made about various languages.
- If you learn some Russian, native speakers will be surprised and impressed to hear you say pretty much anything, because outside of Eastern Europe, no one speaks Russian. Russian is also very difficult.
- Spanish can be useful because there are so many native speakers, but no one bats an eye if you speak it.
- Mandarin would also be a useful language to speak and is very consistent and logical from what I hear.
- French is one of the most pretentious languages. Peppering your speech with conversational French will make you seem intelligent even if you say simple things. That’s what Frasier did on Cheers.
- Latin is very difficult but even more pretentious than French. It will make you sound like a genius… or a child molester, depending on whether you’re in a church or not.
- Ancient Greek just doesn’t have the prestige of Latin. I don’t know why. It is impressive, however to be able to read Greek words. Ancient Greek has little in common with modern Greek, though.