No matter what your native tongue, adding another language will bring unparalleled benefits to your personal and professional life. The learning process itself improves mental capacity, and knowing multiple languages helps people cross social and cultural boundaries. The professional benefits are equally significant, including more job interviews and higher pay. With benefits like these, it is no wonder that learning another language is more popular than ever, as evidenced by more than half a billion users downloading the language-learning program Duolingo, making it the world’s most popular educational app in 2022. The value of knowing a foreign language is a given, but the question remains – Which language should I learn?
If you’re able to read these words then you already know or are learning English (Great!), but the value of a solid knowledge of English in the year 2023 cannot be overstated. Though it is only the third-most commonly spoken native language (after Mandarin and Spanish), it is the world’s most common second language and has enough total speakers to make it the most widely-spoken language in the world. English is Duolingo’s most popular language, and is a required school subject in 142 countries around the world.
As China continues to grow as an economic powerhouse and world superpower, it should come as no surprise that its language is flourishing as well. With more than one billion native speakers, Mandarin is the most common Chinese dialect. Other countries have taken notice of the language’s importance, with over 70 countries across the globe making Mandarin Chinese a part of their national educational curricula.
Like all Chinese dialects, Mandarin is notoriously difficult to learn to speak, so if you are able to stick it out and reach fluency, you have put yourself in a very enviable (and potentially lucrative) position. Learning to read and write Chinese is not quite as tricky,
as learners can opt for either the Traditional system of characters or Simplified. Depending on your location and personal goals, you may also choose to study other variants of Chinese like Cantonese or Hunanese, but in terms of sheer power of numbers, it is hard to argue with Mandarin’s significance in 2023.
Spanish is the most popular foreign language to learn in North America for a number of reasons, and its popularity is only growing. In terms of total number of native speakers in the world, Spanish trails only Mandarin. Knowing Spanish opens up the doors to almost every country in Central and South America, as well as an entry into Europe via Spain. The United States itself has even become the second-largest home to Spanish speakers in the world, behind only Mexico.
Learning Spanish provides significant career opportunities in North America and Europe, and for native English speakers it is one of the “easiest” foreign languages to learn. It has an almost identical alphabet and a relatively easy spelling structure, plus there are many online and in-person classes available for those interested.
Not only is French the language of love, Voltaire and Proust, it is the official language of 29 countries and a non-official language of many more. The breadth of the French language is significant. Europe of course has a large number of speakers (in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg), but many people do not realize that there are nearly twice as many French speakers in Africa.
There are also notable enclaves of French speakers throughout North and South America, as well as Caribbean nations like Haiti and Martinique. French is in fact the only official language of Canada’s Quebec, and has more than twelve million speakers in the US.
Multilingual Arabic speakers are in high demand for a number of industries, and as such, are well compensated for their work. Government agencies around the world are always looking to employ Arabic speakers to serve as foreign services officers, linguists, and translators. Furthermore, knowledge of Arabic can give your CV that extra edge needed to get hired in the oil industry or as a foreign language teacher at an international school in the Middle East.
Nevertheless, that higher pay does not come easy. Arabic is particularly difficult for non-native speakers to master. The Arabic language has unique sounds that simply do not exist in English, so speaking and listening are especially demanding for new learners. If you are up for the challenge though, your efforts learning Arabic will be well rewarded.
Not everyone is going to want to jump onboard for the difficult task of learning Russian, but there are a great deal of benefits. First off, it is the most widely-spoken language in Europe. Couple that with the fact that Russia is the largest country in the world, and you start to get the idea. Add in recent international issues, massive oil reserves and a growing need for Russian-speaking translators, interpreters and government agents, and you have a clear picture of how important this language is in 2023.
Learning Russian is not for the faint of heart. It has relatively complex grammar rules and an intimidating-looking Cyrillic alphabet, but persistence will pay off and adding Russian to your multilingual arsenal will showcase your capabilities as a polyglot. That is not to mention the fact that Russian, plus the five other languages showcased on our list here, form the six official languages of the United Nations.