What are the most popular languages? Should you consider studying them?
"He who does not know foreign languages knows nothing of his own," said the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. And how can we blame him?
Language is the mirror of the culture to which it belongs. An example? Let us take into consideration the fact that in the English language the names of things have no male or female gender as opposed to the Romance languages, in which every object has a gender. How can this characteristic be interpreted? One could say that it reflects the concreteness of the British, who do not waste time categorising objects that do not actually enjoy sexual characterisation.
Consequently, it could be said that each language is a different view of life. A different language gives you a soul that you would never have had. It characterizes you; it allows you to identify with someone different from yourself. It enriches you; it allows you to communicate and confront the different. Maybe even truer than the usual dialogues you have with people of your own language, often “lazier” and less "active". Precisely for this reason, language exchanges are not only functional to the learning of a foreign language but allow a full immersion in the culture and mentality of a people.
It is hard to imagine a young person nowadays who does not speak or study at least one language besides their mother tongue. Globalization forces so many people to communicate and cooperate more in a variety of businesses.
From academic collaboration and professional networking, to transport and traveling—the modern world simply requires us to use different languages. But there are more than 7,000 languages worldwide and it seems difficult to pick the most important languages.
How could you ever possibly choose which ones to focus on? It is a dilemma… but a pretty fun and exciting one to have. Every single continent has a huge diversity of languages for aspiring polyglots to explore and it is actually not really that confusing, as only 23 languages account for more than half of the world’s population. And, of those, the following 5 could be considered the most popular languages.
English is the most influential in the world by far, making one of the most important languages. Being essentially the mother tongue of the internet and computer technology, English is omnipresent globally. It is also important to add that it’s the official language in the U.S., Great Britain and Canada, which are all on the list of the world’s 10 biggest economies.
There is not a single language in the world with more native speakers than Chinese. Namely, approximately 1 billion people are native speakers. Though the vast majority of people use it in China, the country is so powerful globally that this language certainly deserves a place among the most important languages as it seems like China will become the world’s leading economy in the not-too-distant future, which also means that it will become even more influential worldwide.
Spanish is also one of the most widespread languages. It is the primary language in more than 20 countries, the majority of which are situated in Latin America. However, it is especially important in the U.S. as well, since they have the second largest Spanish-speaking population in the world after Mexico
In addition, Spanish is one of the easiest and most beautiful sounding languages to learn out of the most useful languages to learn for English speakers.
Germany has been Europe’s most dominant economy for decades and its language is the most spoken in the European continent and there are also millions of people around the globe who use it as their second language.
This language sounds rather serious and authoritative, which perfectly mirrors the country’s determination to keep the position of one of the global powers, but its grammar is quite easy, and many words resemble English.
Russian is the native language of some of the world’s best novelists, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy, which is more than good reason to start learning it. It might seem difficult to learn but it is good to know that Russian has a smaller vocabulary than some other common Asian languages—as well as English and many European languages. In addition, Russian is extremely influential among all Euro-Asian countries and has the status of the official language in 38 territories.
Moreover, Russia has the largest Internet audience in Europe, making it a huge market for online shopping and advertising.
At first glance, French may appear to be spoken by only those living in France. But it happens to be the second most widely learned language after English. France is the fifth biggest economy in the world and from a business perspective, knowing how to speak French opens the doors to French companies in France, and other French-speaking countries such as Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, and North and sub-Saharan Africa. For students looking to pursue their master’s or MBA degrees, knowing French can act as a big advantage. Renown French universities are ranked as some of the top institutions in Europe and the world. Students who can speak French are eligible for additional scholarship opportunities, which can save you tens of thousands of dollars.
French used to be the primary language of diplomatic discourse for centuries. Today, French is widely considered to be the language of love, which means, it must be one of the most important languages!
If I had one comment to make, I would daresay that European languages have the upper hand. When it comes down to it, culture is probably one of the main motivators for this. True understanding a country’s culture happens through learning its language and reading its most famous authors (or even their most popular cookbooks). Another reason is that many Asian languages are notoriously difficult to learn. However, they are becoming increasingly important in today’s business world.
The five above-mentioned languages are also the ones that Europeans study most. Unlike Americans, most Europeans study at least two foreign languages during their education and foreign language education in the EU begins incredibly early. Many elementary students learn at least one foreign language and schools specialising in foreign language teaching for kindergarten children continue to increase.
And what are the most taught languages in America?
When it comes to the United States, Americans are not known for their strong language learning skills. However, their schools offer plenty of opportunities (and even requirements in some states) for students to learn another language.
Although most elementary school students learn Spanish before anything else, middle, high school and university students can choose which language they learn. So, what do they choose to learn?
It probably comes as no surprise that Spanish is by far the most studied language is the United States, both in high school and college, with 50% of college students choosing to learn Spanish. Even though the United States has no official language, most Americans speak English and there are million native Spanish speakers living in the country.
The other 3 most studied languages in United States colleges and universities are French, German and Chinese. Arabic and Russian are less popular but steadily growing.
Finally, what are the most popular languages in Asia?
The most widely spoken languages in Asia are Arabic, Mandarin (the most spoken dialect in China), Japanese and Korean.
Arabic is the official language in 13 Middle Eastern nations and if you are thinking about learning Arabic, you may already have a head start. It is interesting to know that due to the influence of Arabic culture on Europe during the Middle Ages, there are a lot of Arabic words that made their way into European languages like Spanish, Portuguese, French and English.
Mandarin, Japanese and Korean are structurally alike, have many similarities in the grammatical system and have many words and characters in common.
Japanese and Korean are not too popular outside Asia, but they are not too much more demanding than many European counterparts and chances are you’ll need to learn it if you are planning to deal with information technologies and other modern industries.
I would like to conclude with some advice. When you think about the languages you would like to learn, consider your future plans and think about how you see yourself in the coming years. Language learning depends on personal preferences and practical reasons to master a language. So, you should decide the most important languages for you according to your passions and aspirations.
There are just so many wonderful languages out there, all beautiful and challenging in their own way.
Written by Martina Sassi, Staff Writer
- 29 Apr, 2020
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