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Which language should I study?


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Hi all!

I am a first-year student studying art history, and a requirement of my university's program is that I study two different languages. I am planning on taking a course this summer so I can put lots of focus into it. I am currently taking French, and am between taking either Italian or German this summer. I am interested in going to graduate school as well (and know that a lot of schools require reading knowledge of certain languages) and am most interested in the Renaissance and Baroque eras as of yet, so that's why I am focusing on Italian and German.

I'm split because on one hand I have been told Italian will be much easier for me since I know French (I am at B2 level if that helps), and since I am more interested in the Renaissance I thought it might be better? I might also want to apply to the Venice Guggenheim internship in the future, and a requirement is that you know some Italian. However, I have personally been really interested in German culture/language for a while and have picked up a little bit. Someone suggested that I take German in the summer because it's harder and I'll have more time to focus on it, and Italian I can take another time because it'll be easier for me to pick up?

Any suggestions or experience in how either or both of the languages helped in grad school/the art field/jobs in the non-art field would be amazing and appreciated! Or any tips on studying those languages!

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One upside to German is the easy availability of money. The DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) has a very ready supply of funding for students learning and/or doing research in Germany. Obviously there are comparable opportunities in Italy, but with nowhere near the same level of funding, and with a lot more competition. 

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In general, if you are interested in Northern Renaissance, then German would be helpful. If Southern Renaissance, then Italian. I know a lot of phd programs require 3 language, mostly French, German, and another language that is appropriate for your area of study. For MA, it's mostly 2 languages - German and French. Sometimes schools waive one with Italian or Spanish, but not all. 

But this is just what I've heard, and I am sure it varies from programs to programs. 

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Of course, what really matters is the relevance the chosen language to what you plan to study, but it's also a good to consider the fact that German will open up your linguistic horizons way more than Italian. What I'm trying to say is that due to the relationship between French and Italian, if you needed the latter for research down the road, you could take a reading course and work your way through. German is so completely different. Taking German would open you up to Dutch, Scandinavian languages (to a limited extent) and some others. Overall, I think German would be more practical, but I study Northern Ren so I'm biased. I'm currently giving myself a crash course in Dutch which would be much harder without the German minor I did in undergrad (I also speak French fluently so).

tl;dr think of your art interests, the grad programs you might want to go to (UPenn requires German AND French, I believe), and what other languages you might need to work with

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