If you want to learn a language but can’t decide which one to go for, then we’ve got some tips to help you make your mind up.
The decision will, of course, rest on lots of factors that are personal to you. Where you are likely to travel to, which cultures you are most interested in, and which languages your friends and relatives speak.
But here are two more universal considerations that you might want to take into account.
The World Economic Forum recently published a list of what it called the most powerful languages: Those that have the greatest influence and the potential to empower the people who learn them the most.
The Power Language Index is an algorithm that takes into account many factors to produce a listing for the Top 10. The metrics are numerous but come under five broad headings:
Some of these factors may be much more important to you than others, but this score is designed to give overall guidance – for your average person.
Here’s the Top 10 in order of most powerful:
2. What are the easiest languages?
This is also personal to you and your experiences. For example, what your existing languages are and your preferred learning style. Factors you should consider are:
1. Your appetite for rules and structure. – how grammar-heavy is the language?
2. Your ability to mimic complex sounds. – is the language hard to pronounce?
3. Your ability to access learning resources. – do you have friends or family that speak the language?
4. Your willingness for a challenge. – how similar is the language to your mother tongue?
For English speakers, the other European languages are probably easiest, with Spanish identified by many linguists as the easiest of all. Although English shares roots with German, it is not seen as an easy language to learn. French is mid-way between the two.
Of the non-European languages, Arabic may be the easiest. The initial pain barriers when you first tackle a language with a different script can be high, so making a start with a listening and speaking methodology is a much easier way in.
You should take all factors mentioned into consideration, but if you’re still struggling to make a final choice, then we recommend prioritising ease of learning. Language learning can be a tough process and, unless you know you’re really good at it, choosing a language that won’t be too painful to get to grips with is the right move.
Being over-ambitious is the death of many an enthusiasm. Whichever language you opt for, try not to rush it. Little and often is the maxim of the successful language learner and, much better to do 15 minutes a day for months than a week of intense activity followed by nothing. Language learning has to become part of your daily life, not a special event.
Language learner, teacher and contributing author to the Rosetta Stone magazine
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