Originally Posted by dmash
As an undergrad, what is the best language to start studying right now?
Chinese? Spanish? Japanese?
Well, if this is your second language, you should learn the one you're most interested in. Once you master one, really understand how it works and think in it, learning another language, even from a different family, is significantly easier. (Though obviously it's not nearly as easy, after you're fluent in French, to go to Mandarin as it is to go to Italian.)
In any case, the language you're most interested in is likely to be the one you'll progress in the fastest. Learning languages is really about learning how language systems work, and making those systems part of your own second nature. From that point you tend to get interested in languages generally, and your ability to pick up new languages improves. You learn to just "feel" your way around a language rather than thinking consciously about how to say, "my postillion has been struck by lightning" or whatever.
BTW, don't hesitate to start a third language before you've mastered the second. If anything it will help you with both.
On the other hand, you could just learn the language of the country you think has the hottest chicks.