Maybe you have dreams of traveling around the world. Or perhaps you hope to conduct business all over the globe. Learning to speak another language will allow you to do these things and so much more. But what are the best languages to learn? Naturally, knowing where you want to go and who you want to talk to will help guide this decision.
Hundreds of millions of people speak some languages. Other languages are much more obscure. This is an important thing to keep in mind. If your goal is to communicate with people, it just makes sense to learn a common language rather than a rare one. Granted, if you are planning to go to Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, speaking Rotokas will come in handy.
However, with only 4,000 native speakers, this isn't one of the best languages to learn to communicate globally. On the other hand, learning a widely-spoken language will let you interact with millions of people.
Reasons To Learn Another Language
There are many reasons you should learn a new language. Fluency in more than one language can advance your career and make you a valuable asset to any business. Regardless of the industry in which you work, knowing another language sets you apart from the rest of the competition and makes you more marketable in today's global economy.
Being bilingual also makes global travel easier and more enjoyable, plus it increases your overall appreciation of other cultures. Music and art become much more meaningful when you understand the language. Learning a new language improves analytical skills and problem-solving skills in addition to enhancing memory and listening skills.
10 Best Languages To Learn
What are the best languages to learn? In part, that depends on where you want to go. If you are planning to spend a lot of time in Central America, Spanish might be most useful to you. But if you plan to spend most of your time communicating with people in India, Hindi is the better choice. Likewise, some languages make it easier to learn others. For example, Spanish and French are quite similar because they are both romance languages that come from Latin. Consequently, learning one makes it easier to learn the other.
For the sake of this article, we will assume that you are a native English speaker. There are approximately 360 million people who speak English worldwide. Learning another language will let you communicate with millions more. In no particular order, here are the 10 best languages to learn if you want to interact with people around the globe.
Learning Spanish will serve you well not only in Spain but in Latin America as well. Spanish is an official language in more than 20 countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. More than 400 million people speak Spanish natively.
Even in the United States, speaking Spanish can be an asset. Hispanics are now the largest minority in America. Not surprisingly, many of them speak Spanish. There are currently as many as 33 million people living in the states who are Spanish speakers. The U.S. also does quite a bit of trade with Latin American countries. For these reasons, speaking Spanish looks great on your resume and job opportunities for bilingual people are numerous.
The largest country in South America is Brazil. If you plan on conducting business in Brazil or plan to spend a lot of time here in your travels, Portuguese is one of the best languages to learn. People on all four continents speak Portuguese, and it is the official language of eight countries, including Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, and Mozambique. Although not official, Portuguese is also common in countries such as Luxembourg, South Africa, and Namibia.
An estimated 215 million people speak this language. There are several different dialects of Portuguese. The most common of which is Brazilian Portuguese. Nearly150 million people speak this particular dialect.
Similar to Spanish, people in many countries other than France speak French. While there are only 77 million native French speakers in the world, more than 220 million across the globe speak this language. French is an official language in 29 countries, including Belgium, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, and Switzerland. People living in approximately 60 countries speak French fluently.
Known as the language of love, French is one of the best languages to learn, especially if you enjoy the arts. France is famous for their films, literature, and fashion. Universities in France provide some amazing educational opportunities and with the fifth biggest economy in the world, being able to speak French advances your job opportunities as well. As a romance language, learning French can also make it easier to learn other languages, such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian.
According to estimates, 270 million people around the world speak Russian. Russian is an official language not only in Russia but also in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan. There are many other countries where people commonly speak Russian as a second language even though it isn't an official language, including Armenia, Israel, Moldova, and Ukraine.
This language is particularly useful if you work in science and technology. While English is the most common language for published works in fields like chemistry, physics, and mathematics, Russian comes in second. The Russian Space Agency is responsible for transporting NASA's astronauts to the International Space Station. Russian is a priority language to many government agencies, such as the Department of Commerce and the Department of Energy, which means there are plenty of job opportunities for people who are fluent.
China is a booming economy and a traveler's paradise. Approximately 873,000 million people speak Mandarin. This means a whopping 14 percent of the people on the planet speak Mandarin. This language is spoken in several countries, such as Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, and Mongolia as well as China. With China's booming economy, Mandarin is one of the best languages to learn for business. Many top-level CEOs are fluent in Mandarin, including Mark Zuckerberg.
When traveling through Southeast Asia, knowing how to speak Mandarin will make all the difference in your overall experience. Many native English speakers assume that Mandarin is difficult to learn because it is so different. However, that isn't necessarily true. While some languages rely on complex verb conjugations, Mandarin has none. In fact, Mandarin has no verbs, no tenses, and no subject-verb agreement either. While the prospect of learning 80,000 Chinese characters may seem daunting, you can take comfort in knowing that only 3,500 are common in general conversation.
One of the last pictographic languages, Japanese is known as a gateway language. As with the romance languages, once you are familiar with Japanese, it is easier to learn Asian languages such as Mandarin and Korean. Japan currently has the second largest economy in the world, making Japanese particularly useful to business professionals.
Unlike most of the other languages on this list, Japanese is spoken in a fairly concentrated geographical area. Of the 125 million people who speak Japanese, 124 million of them live in Japan and Okinawa. But if you hope to visit Japan and want to truly immerse yourself in the culture this country has to offer, learning the language is essential.
More than 300 million people around the globe speak Arabic. It is an official language in more than 20 countries, including Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and Yemen. If you plan to travel to the Middle East or plan to do business with these countries, a firm grasp of the Arabic language can be a huge asset. In addition to business, government jobs abound for those who can speak Arabic. And if you want to learn more about Islam, knowing Arabic allows you to read the sacred texts of this religion in their original language.
India's economy is growing rapidly and so is their population. Currently, the population of India is at 1.25 billion. Experts predict that India will overtake China to become the most populated country in the world by 2030.
Urdu is the official language of Pakistan and is slightly different from Hindi. However, because Hindi and Urdu share the same vocabulary, grammar, and basic form, they are generally considered one language. In addition to being the official language of India, Hindi is also the most common language in South Asia.
Approximately 205 million people speak Bengali. This is the second official language of India and is also an official language in Bangladesh. According to a report published by the British Council in 2015, Bengali is expected to be the third most spoken language in the world in just a few short years. Since Bengali is one of the fastest growing languages worldwide, it is one of the best languages to learn now because it will put you ahead of the game. If you plan to do business in these areas, Bengali will give you an edge.
With somewhere around 102 million speakers, Punjabi has risen to the top of the list of best languages to learn to communicate globally. The main places you will find people who speak Punjabi is in India and Pakistan, but approximately 1.44 percent of the world population now speaks this language. Like Bengali, Punjabi is growing quickly and learning it now can put you a step above the competition.
Which Language To Learn
These are the best languages to learn in general, but how do you know which one will fit your specific needs? To start with, you need to consider where it is that you are interested in traveling to. Where do you dream of living? What countries do you plan to do business in? If you plan to travel through Central and America, Spanish or Portuguese may be a good choice. But if you are hoping to focus on expanding your business in China, Mandarin makes more sense.
Another thing to consider when deciding on a language to learn is how you will actually go about learning it. In days gone by, the only way to learn a new language was to study it in school. This meant that if nowhere close to you had classes in the language you wanted to learn, you were just out of luck. Nowadays, things are different. There are now multiple ways to learn a new language on your own. Rosetta Stone is a trusted program that has stood the test of time. However, if you are on a tight budget, there are also free options, like DuoLingo.
Now is the time to take the next step in communicating globally by learning a new language. With so many ways to learn, there are no more excuses. Start on your next adventure today by choosing a language and diving in. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Learning to speak a second (or third) language just might change your life!