Your reasons for learning a new language can be simple, complicated or everything in between. You may have always had a passion for everything Francophone or Lusophone, a need to communicate with certain family members, or you're moving abroad to better your job prospects or educational opportunities.
No matter the reason, a recent survey notes that language-learning is a top priority for many students when deciding where to study abroad. Of the 33,000 students surveyed, 31% revealed that language learning was a key factor in their considerations. Of those who prioritized language, one-fifth were going abroad specifically to take a language-based course.
Learning a language is the best way for students and professionals alike to gain valuable insights into a language and culture. So you’re ready to take the first step, but not sure what language to choose? Here are some top choices.
Japanese is spoken by about 128 million people in two countries. English might not be enough when communicating with locals, as most Japanese people rank themselves as poor in English. If you’re an English speaker looking to travel or work in Japan, the powerful Japanese business market that has until recently been relatively isolated from the rest of the world. English speakers are also highly valued by Japanese employers, so having skills in both languages may give you a competitive edge in the Japanese job market.
French is an official language in 29 countries worldwide, the second-most spoken language in the EU, and one of the official languages at the U.N. Learning to speak like a native may take some time, but being such a widely-spoken language there is a vast selection of French-language media from France to Canada to the Seychelles for practicing.
There are 63 million native Italian speakers, and a further 3 million speak Italian as their second language. One of five romance languages descending from Latin, Italian is a natural stepping stone in becoming multilingual for Spanish, French, and English speakers alike. Italy is well-known for its rich food culture, and learning Italian can make your time in Italy a treat for the eyes and the stomach.
Germany is the largest trading partner with the U.S., and with tens of millions of speakers spread over 28 countries, learning German is a surefire way to make your resume pop for any EU-based or international German companies.Al though German has some tricky grammar, it has close ties to English’s germanic roots meaning you’ll pick up some basic German in no time.
Spoken in over 40 countries worldwide by more than 460 million people, Spanish can open your doors to North, South, and Central America, as well as Europe, for both travel and trade. There are more Spanish speakers in the U.S. than in Spain, and Spanish is continuously reported as one of the most in-demand languages by North American employers.
Chinese Mandarin has become the world’s most spoken language. China’s already booming economy is showing no signs of slowing down and Chinese business intersects with most regions of the world. Mandarin is not an easy language for English speakers, but if you can get a handle on its infamously tricky pronunciation and calligraphy, you’ll be able to speak to 1 in 5 people in the world!