6 answers

Chinese vs German

Updated Boise, Idaho

I'm trying to decide what language I want to take for high school. As I've talked about before, I've been thinking about taking a train apprenticeship. The rail company is based in Switzerland, and a lot of their instructions are in German. So if I take German, it would help me get my foot in the door, and it might get me higher pay. But, I do plan on joining the military, and (Mandarin) Chinese is a mission-critical language, and more valuable. But both languages might get me an extra $300 or so more in pay a month.
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6 answers

John’s Answer

Updated Silver Spring, Maryland

I am currently a recruiter in the language servicing industry. I would advise against German because of the high proficiency which most Germans speak English. Chinese is going to be the major language for business in the coming years and a highly sought after language currently.

Alexandra’s Answer

Both languages can be very useful but you should also consider whether you have the time and resources to learn them. If you went to work in a German-speaking country, you might be able to take courses while you work and communicate with your peers in English. If you pick Chinese, you would likely benefit from a course before you depart to live and work in China. You could do both if you are interested. I would suggest focusing on Chinese while you are in the United States so that you have that background before you have the opportunity to depart for an experience in China. Do some research on how long classes take and whether there are good ones in your area/school. Having Chinese under your belt will make you stand out among other professionals. You can still pursue an opportunity in Germany and try to learn German on your own time.

Justin’s Answer

Updated New York, New York


For six years, I worked in the U.S. for a German company. For the past five, I’ve worked in the U.S. for a Chinese-owned business. Thus, I’ve been heavily exposed to both languages in the course of my career. Per the prior comment, it’s true that English is very widely spoken in Germany and Switzerland. However, knowledge of the language can be quite helpful if you plan to live in either place in the future. There is a significant social and professional benefit to being able to speak to people in their native language.

Chinese is spoken by over a billion people, but almost all of them live in China. Learning the language is extremely useful if you envision working in China. However, English is still predominates everywhere else in the world.

I suggest studying the language that interests you more. That can be a function of your future work interest, but also which type of challenge you want. Since English is rooted in German and largely uses the same alphabet, it can be easier to learn. Chinese is a bigger challenge, since it relies on characters and it much more sensitive to the tone of your voice. That can make studying Chinese more difficult initially, but a satisfying accomplishment of you gain proficiency.

Good luck with your studies.

Stephan’s Answer

Updated Dublin, County Dublin

Hi Christian,

If you are planning to take an apprenticeship in Switzerland and If you were to relocate there, I would recommend to learn German. This will allow you to reach out to your colleagues, understand the business processes, instructions and also to adapt to the new city you would be living in.

Plus if you decided to stay or come back to Switzerland for work this would be the right skill to have.

Throughout Europe, companies are desperate to hire employees who can speak german to ease business.

Investing time in learning Chinese would be a good option if you decided to have a career in the military as the learning curve for Chinese will be a longer than German.

I hope this helps.

Bridget’s Answer

Updated Minneapolis, Minnesota

Either are great options. Taking a foreign language is a great decision. I would take whichever interests you more. Chinese is harder to learn but very high demand in the business world. Good luck!

Xi (Seraph)’s Answer


From what I saw in Europe and from all German friends I have, most educated German speak English, some is in native speaker level. It maybe helpful to learn German if you want to study in specific majors which require German literacy. If you are just visiting or doing business, you can get around by using English in Germany.

Whereas in China, English is not as popular as in other countries. It would be helpful if you know daily Chinese to do business or to study over there.

Happy to share more if you are interested in learning Chinese.