Have you been asking yourself, “Which language should I learn?” lately? There are countless reasons why you should learn any of the most useful languages. That being said, for most people, the biggest motivation to learn one of the most useful languages is professional. Being able to speak one or several foreign languages has become one of the most sought-after skills in the professional world. But what language to learn? What are the most important languages when you are an English native speaker or you already have mastered English?

English has been established as a sort of lingua franca spoken globally. However, English does not suffice to be able to communicate in all work sectors (particularly those related to tourism and international business).

most useful languages

Last Updated: 08/20/2020

Apart From English, What Are the Most Useful Languages to Know?

This video and article are for anyone who wants to learn a second foreign language besides English and for native English speakers who want to master a foreign language, but who may not know which language to learn. All languages, of course, are useful, and there are plenty of reasons to learn each one.

Determine the Most Useful Languages to Learn for YOU

I identified two main criteria that you can use to determine the most useful languages:

  • The number of speakers throughout the world
  • Relevance in economic and political contexts

According to Ethnologue, the top 10 most spoken native languages in the world consist of Chinese (or the ensemble of its 12 variants including Mandarin), Spanish, English, Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese and German. (See the complete table.)

For the second criterion, I base my conclusions on official statistics from the U.S. Census that highlight the U.S.’s global business partners. U.K. trade partners are similar to those in the U.S.

Here are the seven most useful languages for an English speaker to learn:

Breakdown of the Most Useful Languages to Learn for Professional Reasons

As we said, many people learn a new language to get a new job, to move up the ladder, or to earn more money at their current job. In our opinion, these are the most interesting languages to learn if your language goal is professional in nature.

1. Spanish

most useful languages

Spanish is the most spoken language in the world after English. It’s also the native language of more than 400 million people across 44 countries, which makes it one of the most useful languages to know.

For those who want to do business, Spanish skills can be an asset for communicating in Spain and throughout Latin America. The considerable size of the Spanish-speaking population of the United States makes it even more attractive on a resume. Americans who plan on working domestically in law, social services, or in business can truly stand out by being proficient in Spanish.

Spanish is often said to be an easy language to learn. For example, Spanish is phonetic (you read words as they are written). However, the tenses and verb irregularities are more complicated than in Spanish than in a language like French. It’s also important to realize that for a non-native learning Spanish, you have to compete with native Spanish speakers.

Money talks: It’s quite obvious why learning Spanish has huge financial benefits for job seekers. In both Europe and the US, Spanish is the most commonly spoken language after English. It is also the officially spoken language of four continents. This makes learning Spanish very beneficial, especially for those in business simply due to the number of people who speak it.

 

2. French

With Canada being the number one trade partner of the U.S., learning French can majorly boost anyone’s professional worth. Spoken by more than 290 million people worldwide, French has truly become a global language. It is the official language of 29 countries including France, Canada, Switzerland, Monaco, Luxembourg, Senegal, Côte d’IvoireHaiti, Belgium, Rwanda, Togo, Mali, and more.

louvre museum

France dominates in pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, aeronautics, energy production, and more. In addition, with global initiatives to promote development in areas of Africa, French is key. Many countries throughout West Africa, Central Africa, and East Africa use French as one of the official languages. Being able to communicate in French can land you consultant, non-profit, administration, and tons of other jobs.

French is also an official language of NATO, the United Nations, the Olympics, the Red Cross, and other international organizations. For Americans, since most people learn Spanish in school, speaking French gives you an edge over other jobseekers.

Money talks: Due to the wide usage of the French language as the second most learned language after English, learning French is extremely valuable. Knowing how to speak French opens the doors to positions in businesses all over the world, from Belgium to Switzerland to Canada.

 

3. A Chinese language, such as Mandarin

most useful languages

China has become an unavoidably massive presence in the world (recent statistics show that 36% of the world’s population either lives in China or India). In addition to its growing population, China has a stronghold on exports to the U.S. and the U.K., making it a valuable trade partner. Because of this, Chinese is an incredibly useful language to learn.

If you want to work in international business or banking, learning a Chinese language is one of the most useful languages to know if you want to beef up your resume. The tricky part is that there are 12 different Chinese languages, the most common being Mandarin (845 million people speak Mandarin, out of a total population of roughly 1.4 billion).

Learning Mandarin is an excellent idea because it is such a prized skillset for the business sector and one of the extremely important languages in the world. Diplomatic and military professionals also will find Mandarin helpful. The small percentage of people who manage to master Mandarin have an incredible advantage over their monolingual peers.

Mandarin is known to be difficult to learn how to write since there are multiple moods and registers to conquer. However, its grammar, conjugation, and tenses are infinitely easier.

Money talks:  If you’re in the business industry, learning Chinese will open up a world of opportunities for you due to the more than a billion people who speak it.

 

4. German

Germany’s economy has been steadily growing, reaching far beyond the Rhine. Such growth has propelled the country into one of the world’s strongest economies. It’s in the top 10 for import and export partners for both the U.S. and the U.K. It’s also an official language of Austria and Switzerland, both of which boast strong economies, too.

most useful languages

German is the most common native language. More than 90 million people in the world speak it.

However, many learners of German claim it is not the easiest to learn. High schoolers, for example, tend to have difficulty communicating in German, even after years of study (as opposed to a language like Spanish). This could be due to a lack of interest and motivation. If you’re going to learn German, it’s best to do so when you have the time and can buckle down with your German lessons several times a week.

Money talks:

German is the language to learn if you want to earn the big bucks! In fact, you can earn up to 125,000 extra euros just in bonuses! You may be surprised by this as most people would assume a more common language such as Spanish or Mandarin would allow them to be more prosperous. However, knowing German as a second language puts you in a special niche and thus is more economically valuable. Additionally, Germany is a European powerhouse and so yields higher financial benefits than other languages.

 

5. Japanese

japan

Although surpassed by China in recent years, Japan’s economy is remarkably strong. 122 million people speak Japanese as their native language, making it one of the most spoken foreign languages in the world.

Learning Japanese can be one of the most useful languages to know for those who work in the automotive, communications, and financial sectors. Japan is the 3rd biggest producer of automobiles and makes up one of the biggest producers of mobile technology. According to Forbes, Japan is also home to some of the world’s most powerful companies including Mitsubishi, KDDI, Softbank, NTT, and more.

The Japanese travel to tourist destinations throughout the world. If you want to work in the tourism industry, Japanese can also be a great skill.

Money talks: Due to the increasing global role of the Pacific Rim and Asia, as well as the economic ties between the US and Japan, learning Japanese is a great idea.

 

6. Arabic

The global importance of Arabic is clear: it’s the 3rd most common language, with more than 300 million native speakers spread throughout 57 countries in the world.

Many Arab countries provide the West with vital resources (like oil). It goes without saying that geopolitical events of recent years have also forced the Western world to become more familiar with the Arab world.

most useful languages desert middle east camels

As noted in a comment made by Solal, written Arabic follows a standardized system common in the many places where it is spoken. However, the richness of Arabic is apparent in the different dialects or variations of the spoken language. A Moroccan may not necessarily understand a Lebanese person. Egyptian Arabic is a good dialect to learn. Some people say it’s the most universal dialect (due in part to the Egyptian film industry).

Arabic has been classified by the U.S. State Department as one of the hardest languages to learn, along with Korean, Japanese, Mongolian and Mandarin. In other words, you need a certain level of motivation!

Knowing how to communicate in Arabic is a plus for government and military jobs. It’s also great for people who want to work in the journalism and tourism industries.

Money talks: The Arab region, considered one of the wealthiest regions in the world has a GDP of over $600B. Knowing Arabic means the ability to enter into the Middle Eastern economy, which has grown by 120% in the last five years.

 

7. Portuguese

portugal

According to Wikipedia, Portuguese is the 5th most spoken language in the world (although these statistics are always estimates). Portuguese is spoken not only in Portugal but also in the booming economy that is Brazil. People also speak Portuguese in several African countries like Angola, where natural resources abound.

The 8th strongest economy, Brazil has experienced rapid growth and become a major trade partner with the U.S. and Europe. Its strongest exports are minerals, iron, steel, coffee, and grains. While Spanish has become the de facto language to learn for many, Portuguese is rising in importance. Business, logistics, and agriculture professionals are sure to find Brazilian Portuguese a handy language to know.

Money talks: Although Portuguese isn’t as in demand as Spanish, it is currently on the rise. That’s because Portuguese is the official language in Brazil, an emerging economy.

 

Bonus Video and Infographic About the Most Useful Languages in the World

Here’s a quick recap of the most useful languages and why they’re so beneficial.

If you liked that video, subscribe to our channel for more language facts and tips.

 

Which Languages to Learn

 

Conclusions

Naturally, if you’re going to work in a specific country, you don’t need to think twice about what language to learn next. Learning the language of the country or region where you’ll be living is the most practical solution.

The list below can give you an idea of the most common languages spoken. This chart is meant as a general guideline since it’s not easy to estimate. Here are the 10 most spoken languages:

Language – Countries – Number of speakers (in millions)
1. Mandarin Chinese – China, Singapore, Taiwan – 1 080
2. English – United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, several African countries – 508
3. Spanish – Spain, Latin America  – 382
4. Hindi – India, Pakistan – 315
5. French – France, Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, several African countries, Oceania, Antilles, South East Asia – 290
6. Russian – Russia, CEI – 285
7. Indonesian Malay – Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei – 260
8. Arabic – North Africa, Middle East – 230
9. Portuguese – Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, Guinée Bissau – 218
10. Bengali – Bangladesh, India – 210

(Note: These statistics vary according to the criteria used)

 

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