Whether you’re learning a language to provide professional opportunities or just trying to check off that bucket list, you want one that’ll give you more bang for your buck. But how do you decide which languages are the most useful to learn?
To be fair, all languages are useful. But the language you might learn to impress international business partners will be different than the one you’d need to backpack across Europe.
Here are eight different languages and the factors that make each a useful language to learn.
You might be surprised that English isn’t the most commonly spoken language in the world. Chinese and Spanish have that honor. But in 55 countries, English is the most commonly spoken second language, so it makes sense to speak English if you plan to live or study abroad.
With more than 1 billion native speakers, Chinese dominates Asia and the world as the most frequently spoken language. But keep in mind that Chinese includes ten Sinitic languages like Mandarin and Cantonese. Speaking Chinese is also an important asset in business because of the country’s role as a rising global leader.
The most widely spoken second language in the United States is Spanish. In fact, there are more Spanish speakers in America than in Spain, so you won’t have to travel far to get plenty of mileage out of this language.
Standard Arabic is the written language in many countries where various Arabic dialects are spoken. In fact, Arabic is the official language of 59 countries, so it comes in handy across much of the Middle East and Africa.
German is the most widely spoken language in Europe due to the sheer number of native speakers. It’s also the official language of not just Germany but also Austria and Liechtenstein. It’s also frequently spoken in Central and Eastern Europe.
While you might think Portugal when you think Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese is actually the official language of Brazil. Because of Brazil’s booming economy, currently, the 7th largest in the world, and a bustling tourism sector, speaking Brazilian Portuguese is increasingly valuable and can be a serious asset on any resume.
Although English dominates the internet, making up more than 50% of the content on the web, Russia comes in second. Russia’s rising geopolitical influence also makes it a useful language to acquire and it’s also listed as a critical language by the U.S. State Department.
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