People are asking all over the world, “What Is the Most Useful Language to Learn After English?” Language specialist recruitment agency called Euro London says that your salary is 10-15% on average bigger if you speak another language. That’s already one reason why it would be cool to get another language under the belt.
All of us can admit that English is probably the most useful language in today’s world. It’s an international language that you MUST know if you want to travel, make business and find the most information on the Internet.
But which one would be the most useful after that?
In this article, I am going to give you brutally honest answers and insights. Be ready!
“Mandarin, Spanish, French…” – Are They Really the Most Useful Ones?
Many times you can hear that the more speakers some language have, the more useful it would be to learn. Language schools are advertising big numbers of native speakers in order to catch your attention and get you in their lessons.
But is the number of native speakers really the most important criteria?
Let’s say that we would take this strategy. The first language to learn would be Mandarin. Then Spanish. The third would be Hindi. Before you would get into French, you would need to study at least these languages (because they have more native speakers): Bengali, Punjabi, Wu, and Telugu.
Have you ever heard of those languages before?
Yeah, I haven’t either. We see that the number of native speakers can’t be the only criteria
Which Language Gives You the Most “Ego Points”?
Let’s say that you are having a conversation between your friends and somebody says that he speaks Mandarin, English, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, French, German, Russian and Japanese. Then there is an African guy who says he speaks 8 African tribe languages and English.
Many people would say that the first guy is better and more impressive because he speaks those big languages. Those languages are “media-sexy” and popular. Everybody wants to learn them and he speaks them already. Who would need 8 African tribe languages?
But imagine if you would the most of your life in Africa where people don’t speak Japanese, Spanish, Russian or any other of those languages. They speak their own tribal languages. That’s why you would need to speak what they are speaking.
You see, sometimes the reason why people learn languages is just that it seems cool in other people’s eyes. If I am honest, chose Spanish mainly because one of my friends started studying it also in the high school. Then I picked other big languages saying, “There are so and so many native speakers in the world.”
But is it the right approach?
Which One Do You Need in Your Daily Life?
Let’s say that you marry a Greek woman and move to Greece. Would it help you to speak all those big languages that have hundreds of millions of native speakers? Not really. The most useful language for you to learn would be Greek.
If you move to a village in Africa to make a missionary work, the most important language is the one that locals are speaking. If you want to make a big impact in their community, it doesn’t happen by speaking Japanese. I guess you got my point so far? 🙂
I started to study French in 2015 because I thought that it would be the most useful language for me. Now after living for 8 months in Austria, I can say that German would probably be more useful until today. Of course, the situation may change in the future if I move to a French-speaking country.
Want to Make More Money as a Translator?
If you are working as a translator or interested in that career, you may wonder which language would be the most profitable. Language guru Benny Lewis has a long experience as a translator. He says surprisingly those who translated least spoken translators usually earned more money.
There is so much competition, for example, in Spanish-English or other big language pairs that prices go down. But let’s say that you would be a Somali translator in Finland, you could make big money at the moment.
There are so many refugees that the State of Finland would constantly need your services. You could earn much more than very highly educated professionals. I know this from the experience because I was working in the refugee center in Finland.
If you are interested in working online as a translator you can read this article or try One Hour Translation (the link takes to my full review on my other website) that I am using myself to earn some money by translating English-Finnish.
The Best Foreign Language to Earn Money?
One big reason why people are learning new languages is that they want to improve their CV and career opportunities. Which language would be the best for this purpose?
Again, it depends on your personal situation quite a lot. It’s true that in many businesses Chinese can be useful, especially if you are outsourcing your workforce in China. More than 1 out of 6 in this world are Chinese so it’s probable that you confront them if you are making international business.
I noticed from my own experience that German is very useful language in Europe. It’s the most spoken native language in Europe and people are speaking it in rich countries like Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. If you want to get the highest salary as an employee, learn German and move to Switzerland.
It’s, of course, easier said than done but if you speak German, you multiply your possibilities to work in Switzerland. In the Western part Switzerland they speak French so that would also be a useful language there. With French, you could also find jobs easier in Luxembourg where salaries are very high.
Why Do You Want to Learn a New? – Define Your Reason!
I have heard that some people learn new languages just for fun. It’s proven that language learning has many benefits itself whether you have specific reasons or not. Then it really doesn’t matter which language you are learning. You can choose, for example, Mossi, Uyghur or Shona.
Okay, I’m kidding.
For me learning a new language “just for fun” is not a reason. I have many goals in life and I define why I want to do what I want to do. I believe it’s important to know what is your direction in life so you are not just a taken everywhere because of winds of the world. Define yourself or otherwise other people will define you.
I started studying French in 2015 because my dream was to make a missionary work in Africa. I think it was a much better reason than to study Spanish just because my friend was studying it as well.
Bill Gates, the guy who has the most money in the world, speaks only 1 language which is English (of course he “speaks” some computer languages). It’s a proof that you can manage in life without learning any language. However, I heard that he said in the interview he wished to speak some other languages as well. But probably he didn’t have big enough reasons to do it.
In my opinion, your reason will also define which language you want to learn next. I don’t qualify “I just want to be a polyglot” as a good reason. 😉
Why do you want to learn languages? What is the most useful language for you?
I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and I promise to reply you personally.
Thank you for this very informative piece. I speak another language which is Haitian Kreyol. When I lived in Miami, FL, it was very useful and common.
Unfortunately, I rarely speak this language residing in Minnesota as there are not too many Caribbeans here. However, there are other languages I could learn to open up for more clients.
that sounds like an exotic language because I haven’t heard of it before. It would be interesting to hear how it sounds.
To be honest, I have never been in the U.S. yet but I will come for sure in the future. I guess Spanish could be useful in many parts of the U.S. What about other languages?
Language is essential for many reasons today. Like you say, a job in one thing. I start learning Spanish because I know people there who were important for me and I wanted to know their better so I could speak with them Like most Spanish they didn´t talk English.
Here in Iceland, we learn in school English, Danish, and then choose between Germany, Frensch or one another language (when 3th is when we are in High school. The first two and when we are 11 or 12).
One of the best chess player in the history, Robert James Fischer (from the USA but was Icelander his last years) start learning Russia so he could get the benefit of the outstanding chess books from Russia on that time.
So like you say, you need to know why you want to learn it!
thank you very much for sharing this information about language learning in Iceland!
I am also a great chess player so I know Bobby Fischer well. It sounds very reasonable that he learned Russian back then because there were so many good chess books in Russian and most of his competitors were from Soviet Union. I believe his Russian skills helped his communication with them.
Language is a human system of communication that uses arbitrary signals, such as voice sounds, gestures, and/or written symbols. The study of language is called linguistics.
Linguists (that is, specialists in the study of language) have defined language in many different ways. Here, chronologically arranged, are a few of those definitions.
That’s true. After all, language is nothing more than a system to communicate with other human beings 🙂
Very good point that which language to learn should not only based on the amount of people speaking it. Which languages that are the most useful really does depend on the person and the place we live.
I do however think that a goal to learn a language can also be “just for fun”. I know you write that you do not think this is a good reason. For me it also depends how “for fun” is defined. But learning a language can greatly help and affect the brain and any new learning can in that way be helpful. I have found that learning a new language can also create a greating understanding of the culture of that country or region, so in that way it also gives us a greater understanding of other people and that things can be done in a different way than what we are used to.
So I think that learning languages has many postive benefits than just being able to speak it. And I think it is a much healthier way to spend some spare time than for example watching many hours of TV. Just my thoughts:-)
you are right that language learning has several benefits and I have written about it in many other posts. I think you misunderstood my point about “just for fun” language learning.
My point was that behind there are still some more meaningful reasons like you point out. Cultural understanding, brain functioning, etc. These are clear benefits.
Leaning new languages is definitely much more beneficial than watching TV. I think the last time I watched TV was in the last October or November around 10 months ago. I think I need to limit also watching some YouTube videos because some of them are just crap and don’t take life any further.
It’s so cool to learn something new and make progress in life. Tony Robbins says, “Progress equals happiness.” That’s so true. When we are making progress on some areas of our lives, we feel happy. If we are going backwards, it feels bad.
Very interesting point of view you present in this article. I suppose a good point to consider is also the presence of said language in global media and global commerce, depending on what you’re aiming for. Maybe just amount of literature published! I guess there’s many reasons to pursue languages to learn.
those are also good reasons but I wouldn’t solely count on them. The world goes round and round but sometimes it doesn’t affect my life at all. That’s why it’s important to think what is the most important language for your personal situation.
I have heard that Mandarin is a very important language for us to learn today, and if I knew this language, I could probably get some very good translation jobs. In America, I would say that the second best language to learn would be Spanish.
The Hispanic population here is huge, and there are business popping up left and right that are owned and run by primarily Spanish-speaking people.
you are right that Chinese can be an important language in many cases. However, I haven’t really needed Chinese even once during my life. All Chinese I have met have spoken English. But if you want to target your business for Chinese people or hire them, it will be very helpful for you to speak their native language.
I moved to the Czech Republic and began learning Czech because of course, I needed it to function in daily life there! You wouldn’t believe how many people would ask me why I was bothering to learn Czech, though– and these people weren’t just tourists or visitors, some of these people were foreigners who had been living in the Republic for extended periods of time!
Many of them would say things like “Czech only has 10 million speakers, why would you bother? No one uses Czech outside of the Republic.” It struck me as extremely rude. Why WOULDN’T you learn the language of the country you’re living in? It’s true that many people in the Republic speak English, Russian, or German, but not everyone, and almost no one in a low-tier governmental position (like police, postal workers, etc) does.
To live in a country for an extended period of time and not show the culture the most basic respect of learning how to communicate with them on their terms is ridiculous!
that’s a good point. I met many people in Spain who had lived there for 20-30 years and could hardly say “Hello” or “How are you?” in Spanish. I agree with you that it’s good to learn at least some basics because it already helps in the daily communication and it helps to create a good first impression with locals.
Most people in Finland (my native country) speak English fluently but if you want to get a job, most likely you need to be able to speak at least some Finnish if you’re a foreigner. Even though there are less than 9 million Finnish speakers in the world, it can be the most useful language for foreigners who live in Finland.
Ok, I have just finished reading the article and I think I got the answers to my question. It really depends on what is your goal. If you go to Greece and live there you should learn the Greek language and so on. If you want to focus on business you should learn a language like Mandarin.
I am doing business lately with Chinese people and they struggle to speak the English language so I thought it would be good to learn Chinese. I did not know that Bill Gates knows only the English language 🙂 I thought he speaks more than one! So my next goal would be Chinese. How about yours? 🙂
Yeah, it sounds that Chinese will be the most useful language for you. Already every sixth person on this planet is Chinese so it will be a great resource during your life when you will be able to speak it fluently.
I am planning to move to Ukraine in December (after ~3 months). If I go there, I’m gonna study some Russian for sure. I bet it will help me in my everyday life in Ukraine.
I think that whatever the most useful language is for you depends on both what you’re planning to dedicated yourself to and the place in which you live. Language is a tool for communication so what you want to learn is the language that let’s you communicate with the people you need to communicate with.
In terms of sheer numbers the answer would be Spanish, Hindi and Chinese since knowing them means you have can communicate with a rather large amount of persons. I mean, this would be the straightforward answer: just learn the language with the largest amount of speakers. But I would say that it isn’t that simple since Chinese is a rather hard language to learn and you might actually be able to learn both Spanish and French in the time that it takes you to learn Chinese.
Either way, the amount of people isn’t everything. It also depends on the area of your interest; if you want to work in engineering or the automobile industry you’re actually better off learning German or Japanese instead of Spanish and Chinese, for example.
Try to think of exactly what you want to learn a second language for and that will help you narrow down your answer regarding which language is the most useful for your own situation.
Great analysis Mapprent!
One big reasons why I started studying Spanish and French were because I thought there are lots of speakers in the world. However, German would have been more useful in my situation than French.
Benny Lewis said that for him learning Chinese was way easier than learning Spanish or French. It was because Chinese isn’t so hard as many people think. The other reason was that Benny had learned proper language learning techniques and the mindset which helped him to be successful.
Hmm. Interesting read. I do agree though that an additional language will be very useful specially if you are going overseas and you have already picked the country which you will be traveling to, specially if it’s work related. As what you have said, it will increase your salary earnings since you already have an advantage when it comes to their mother tongue.
But I would beg to disagree though about what Benny Lewis said. It seems that I am having hard time learning Chinese instead of Spanish or French. Maybe it is because of the complex words specially on how they are written. But I guess it’s subjective.
it can be subjective what you said about Chinese, Spanish and French. But one reason may be that you hear lots of people drumming, “Chinese is hard, Chinese is hard, Chinese is hard.” and guess what we believe them. We start thinking that Chinese is hard.
Anyway, another two reasons that you think Chinese could hard are that you may be using ineffective techniques and having a different mindset. I’m sure that Benny’s course would help you to change that and learn Chinese faster than ever.
Is Japanese or Spanish not a great option? I hope it is. Some of my friends speak a little bit of Spanish. I know people that can speak Japanese because I am an Anime fan.
Both of them can be great options. For me Spanish has been an ultimately useful language and I’m happy I decided to study it back in high school. Japanese can also be useful. It depends on your reasons as I discussed in the article.
I really want to learn Russian and Chinese. Considering political situation at the moment I think they are both of very important value. And to be honest, they sound pretty cool to me ! I also always wanted to learn how to write Chinese words. People say it’s really complicated.
those languages can be definitely useful in your life. People also say that Russian is complicated because they are using cyrillic alphabet. However, one of my friends who doesn’t know very much about language learning, studied the alphabet in one evening.
People say many things which aren’t true and that applies also to language learning. I think that all languages are easy but especially Chinese. Of course, you need to do the work but practice makes progress 🙂
In my view, if you’re not going to move to another nation which speaks a certain foreign language, then another reason to learn it would be economic. In other words, you got more on your resume to bargain with. For instance, a person knowing Spanish and English could get more jobs in the USA – simply cause there are so many Spanish speaking people.
That’s a very common reason for learning new languages. Recently, one international transportation company was very interested in hiring me because I speak 6 languages at some level so I would have been very useful for them. I have also seen it many times before that language skills have benefit for my career.
I totally agree with your views about learning new and different languages. I will never try to learn a different language just so I can look cool and classy in the eyes of the people around me. Most of the times, it is also not true that one needs to learn a specific language just because of the massive number of people that speaks it.
I live in the Philippines and apart from my mother tongue (Tagalog), we speak English and Spanish. There is almost no need for me to learn Mandarin although more than a billion people speak the language since Mandarin is rarely being used in my country.
The language one needs to learn really depends on the place and culture he intends to be part of. I don’t think one should learn Spanish if he wants to live and interact with the people of Indonesia or Vietnam.
Good points John. There are many different languages in Asia. However, Spanish isn’t very common there unlike in the other parts of the world.
By the way, I was last year two months in Indonesia and I think it was quite an easy language to learn.
I agree with John, it depends on what country you want to go or have business?
About the term “Cross-cultural studies” if you are involve in social service like the United Nations, And you have the passion to help the 3rd world country then the best langues that u must learned aside from your own dialect and English is the language of your choose country to help.
Language is power! You can’t connected to them and help them if you can’t understand their language and culture. Language is a bridge to reach one another.
that’s a great idea. Language is a bridge to reach one another. It connects people. Sure, we can communicate with non-verbal language as well, but learning to speak or write the same language, takes the relationship to the next level. Otherwise it can be challenging to create a meaningful relationship.
I only speak English because I’m from Nigeria and English is the official language we speak here, but as a result of reading this article on which language we should learn, I think that it is important to learn a new language. Especially since I’m planning to travel to Europe soon when I have the financial power to do so. Then, I think learning German, as you rightly pointed out, would be a great idea to learn as well.
My friend that is learning German told me that it is quite hard to learn, but I wouldn’t mind learning it as well since it is worth it.
German is one of the easiest languages on Earth for an English speaker. Some people just have so negative attitude or bad learning techniques that they say it’s hard.
Have a look at Why German Is Easy by Benny Lewis.
I am a Filipino and I speak only Filipino and English. I’m from the Philippines. But I have one language that I want to learn and that is Japanese, why? I watching anime always so I can easily catch up some words in Japanese then subtitling into English.
Now, I recently learning some Japanese speaking techniques and some writing in Japanese from the internet. So If I encountering some Japanese people then I easily communicate to them. Learning another language is a new chapter of my life. Next language I will try is Korean, this is also easy one I think.
sounds interesting. Many Asians are interested in learning Japanese and Korean in my experience.
However, here in Europe people rarely use to study those languages. One of my best friends studied some basics of Japanese but he’s probably the only person I know personally. Of course, there are some people here as well who study those languages but I think that languages like Spanish, French, German, etc. are more popular here.
Good topic for everyone. Maybe one can choose its 2nd language based from his or her field of work. For example if you for for a international company like Samsung which I think is from Korean… Korean language is more suitable for you. But if for just a hobby or opinion. French language seems cool. Good day!
that’s a good point of view. I am a full-time online marketer and I want to maximize my influence in the world. Therefore English is definitely the most important language for me because it’s the most spoken language on the Internet.
I was trying to learn Spanish for a while and then stopped because I had to learn even just the basic of the Korean language because I’ll be visiting the country soon. I realized that it is a must for me because even through there is google translate, it’s not as effective as we want to. I also considered the fact that not all people there can speak nor understand English.
Learning other languages is just like what you said, what is most appropriate or applicable for you or where you’re going, not the coolest one. What’s the use of being fluent on something when you don’t actually need to.
That’s true. For you learning Korean can be useful now but for me it wouldn’t make sense. I hardly meet any Koreans and I’m not planning to visit there soon.
You’ll have a great experience when you first study some Korean and then have an opportunity to go to the country and hear it in practice. I remember when I started learning French. I didn’t know anybody but then I booked the tickets to Paris to give me more motivation for studying. When I arrived there I was like, “Wow! People really speak French in real life!” It always helps when you see something “in flesh” instead of just on TV or on Internet.
I think learning Mandarin will get you far in the business world. I have been to many companies and almost all of them are partnered with Chinese companies. Most of the time, the company needs a representative to talk to these partners. The salary increase for being bilingual doesn’t hurt.
sounds interesting. I think that’s the case especially in big industrial companies or if you are working in Asia. Chinese people are getting everywhere. Every sixth person in the world is Chinese. Even my flatmate is Chinese! 😉
I speak Nepali (my mother tongue) which has more than 50 million speakers the world over. I also speak Hindi, which is also one of the most spoken language not just in India with a population of 1.2 billion but also elsewhere where Indians have settled. I also speak English, the most spoken language on Earth.
One of my primary aims to learn a new language is to earn better. I have often thought about learning French because I want to work as a tourist guide. I have an online store and I am thinking to procure goods from China, therefore, I am thinking to learn Mandarin. The must lucrative language is the language that will help you earn more. And this varies person to person.
You are right. It varies person to person. I think German would be a lucrative language for people living in Europe because Germans, Swiss and Austrian people speak it as their native language. Being able to speak German opens many doors. Now I am just wondering why haven’t I studied it more. 😉 I am able to have conversations in German but I’m still far from the native level.
I completely agree with your points! I think there are still so many more insights to be made when it comes to learning a new language. Another reason I feel many people want to learn a new language is to keep our brain function operating as highly as it can.
It has been proven that when we keep our brain engaged especially as we get older it can get a bit “rusty” with things such as forgetting things we normally wouldn’t forget. Therefore, learning a new language for that matter can be one of the most beneficial things we can do for ourselves and our future.
Yes. You can read also more reasons for learning a new language on this article that I wrote: Why Should You Learn a Foreign Language? – 7 Reasons That Will Give You Motivation
Your post is very informative and I appreciate it. I would like to learn French just to have a good appearance on my CV and to also be able to travel and communicate with other French speaking candidates.
I want to learn Arabic so I can be able to read the Quran. Just to learn some Muslim beliefs will be satisfying to me.
I like Indian songs and learning how to speak will be a bonus. I always mimick how they sing and it makes me feel I know how to speak Hindi. 😀
Thank you. I’m happy that you enjoyed the content.
Well, I am personally a Christian and I think Quran isn’t the best book for life. 😉 Have you also read the Bible, by the way?