If you’re considering taking up a new language as a hobby, you’re in good company: with more apps than we can handle to aid us linguistically, and organizations such as our good selves who are here to help you learn, the range of sources to help you tackle a language is truly astonishing.
Not surprisingly, English is up there as the most popular language to learn, since it is, rightly or wrongly, seen as the language to use for travel, trade and Tyrion to get himself some more wine.
Here are some of the other favorite languages to learn.
French is, unsurprisingly perhaps, a Romance language of the Indo-European family, and has a lot of its roots in Latin.
French is the official language in: Belgium, Benin, Burkina, Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central, African, Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte, d’Ivoire, Democratic, Republic, of, the, Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial, Guinea, France, Guinea, Haiti, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Republic, of, the, Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo, and Vanuatu. There are 80 million native speakers, and an impressive 140 million speaking French as a second language.
According to The Local, French is the second most popular language in the world to learn, after English of course. 77 countries list French as their second favorite, and whilst being runner up in many things in life is sometimes little more than accepting disappointment, this is actually a rather impressive statistic. Especially so, since in Britain and America, Spanish has usurped French as the language to learn in high and secondary school.
Like French, Spanish is a Romance language, part of the Ibero-Romance group of languages evolving from several dialects of Vulgar Latin.
Spanish is spoken officially in: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Player, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela. It is, however, spoken in many more countries besides these. Spanish has an impressive 400 million native speakers and 90 million using it as a second language.
Spanish may be considered the best choice for a second language, and as the ‘language of the future’ according to the British Council. There are many reasons for this: Spanish is a phonetic language so unlike English, what you see is what you get – it is relatively easy to learn. The potential for communication when travelling is truly overwhelming given how many countries have Spanish as its national tongue. In the US, the demand for Spanish in the workplace is huge, especially in the nursing, construction management and media sectors. And finally, who doesn’t want to hear Pablo Neruda’s poetry in its original form and understand every line?
German takes up a branch of the Indo-European language family tree, with around 48 distinct living German languages.
German is the official language of: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Belgium and Luxembourg. German has around 78 million native speakers and 8 million conversing in it as a second.
So why should you learn German? Well, for starters, if you speak English then learning German should technically be a breeze with all of its similarity. Germany is the world’s second-largest exporter, so think of the work opportunities. German is among the ten most commonly spoken languages in Europe and is actually the lingua franca in much of Eastern Europe since it was, and in some cases still is, taught in school. For the scientists amongst us, German is the second most commonly used language around the lab. And if that doesn’t inspire you enough, how about attending Oktoberfest using the local lingo?
All in a day’s work…
With so many of us listing at least our basic grasp of another language on our CVs, it is pretty obvious that language learning is an asset when it comes to gaining employment. Given the prediction that the Chinese economy will surpass that of the US by 2030, is it any wonder that more and more people are looking to Mandarin as their next language to learn?
Mandarin is the most widely spoken dialect of Chinese, and forms part of the branch of languages referred to as Sino-Tibetan.
While Mandarin is technically only an official language in China, Taiwan, and Singapore that equates to around 16% of the entire world’s population speaking Mandarin as their first language. Despite predictions by the United States Foreign Service Institute that it would take around 2200 classroom hours for English speakers to master Mandarin, approximately 17% of state schools in the UK offer the language on their curriculum, and around 100 colleges in the US offer Mandarin as part of their degree programs.
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Of course, for every ‘must learn’ language when it comes to thinking about your career, there are a plethora of others to consider. Portuguese is the 4th most popular language sought in US job openings, and as the official language of Brazil, and the potential for economic growth due to its wealth of natural resources, Portuguese might be a language worth giving a go.
If you are in to your technology then perhaps Japanese is the language for you. With multinationals such as Sony, Toshiba and Toyota seeking international employees, and the potential for so many other job vacancies within the technology sector, why not consider breaking the language barrier and learning Japanese yourself?
Our final outlier choice is Arabic, which is the fifth most-spoken language in the world. Arabic countries are a largely-untapped area of business potential, and there are a vast number of job openings in governmental positions that require Modern Standard Arabic: what better way to do business than to get to grips with the beautiful sound of this language?
Fun in the sun
Naturally, all work and no play makes us very dull indeed: the expansion of your travel horizons if you learn another language should be motivation enough to get you at least considering learning another tongue. From ordering a delicious Italian treat in Rome to bartering effectively in Turkish in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul; what’s not to love about learning languages?