There are around 7,000 languages in the world, and becoming fluent in even just 1% of these is something that exceeds the capabilities of humans.
The holder of the world record, Powell Alexander Janulus, was fluent in merely 42 languages.
However, just because there are plenty of languages to choose from and despite your best efforts you will only be able to become good at several of them at most, it doesn’t mean that learning a new language is a fruitless pursuit.
Although it would certainly be useful, and something to brag about, you don’t need to learn a lot of languages to see a positive difference in your life – one or two will suffice.
If you love travelling, then even if you learn just Spanish or French, you’ll be able to communicate with 543 or 267 million more people respectively, which means that you’ll have an easier time whilst visiting different places in the world.
If, on the other hand, you would like to learn a new language to help boost your career, it is possible to pinpoint just a few languages that will prove most helpful in this regard.
What Are the Factors That Make Some Languages Better Choices to Learn Than Others?
If your goal was simply to learn a language, you could choose Dutch or Norwegian, which are commonly considered to be amongst the easiest languages for native English speakers to learn.
However, whilst a relatively stress-free learning experience may be a consideration, we recommend putting some further thought into your decision-making process. Other languages such as Spanish, which you’ll find on our list, are also relatively easy for English speakers to learn.
You might think that the Norwegian landscape is truly stunning, and you certainly wouldn’t be alone in this view, but obviously there aren’t very many native Norwegian speakers comparatively. However, this is not the only consideration.
Portugal is a country located on the Iberian Peninsula with a population of 10 million inhabitants. Your first thought might therefore be that learning the Portuguese language wouldn’t be worth it. However, the Portuguese language is also the official language of Brazil and several other countries, a result of Portugal’s colonial past.
This means that the number of Portuguese speakers is estimated at 270 million people worldwide, so 27 times the population of Portugal itself. However, just looking at the number of speakers of a particular language isn’t necessarily the best way to assess its importance in the world of business.
There are around 100 million native speakers of German, and around 30 million people know German as their second language. Yet Germany, a country where most of the German speakers are located, is the world’s third-largest exporter and importer. As a result, German is usually considered a more helpful language to learn than Portuguese if your goal is to expand your business or find a better-paying job.
And when considering which language to learn, you should of course take your individual circumstances into account. There are indeed 2 million German speakers in South America, located primarily in Brazil and Argentina, but you would be far better off learning Portuguese or Spanish if your goal is to learn a language that will allow you to communicate with local companies there.
If you would like to move to another country and work in your current business sector, make sure you research this thoroughly beforehand, or you might find out that there are very few job openings in that industry in the foreign country.
At the same time, it’s a mistake to assume that the best languages to learn are the easy ones. Our top pick is a language that has more than 1 billion speakers worldwide, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s easy: it’s not.
Now that we have explained the factors that we have taken into consideration, let’s proceed to our list of the best languages to learn for English speakers from a career-boosting standpoint.
No one should be surprised that Mandarin grabbed the number one spot on our list. It is a language that is spoken by around 1.12 billion speakers, so a little less than the total number of English-speakers.
However, when it comes to the number of people who speak it as their first language, Mandarin dwarfs English with 921 million native speakers, compared to only 370 million for English.
The number of speakers aside, China’s emerging position as the world’s second superpower means that its influence over international matters is considerable, and therefore knowing the Mandarin language can greatly boost your résumé. China is the world’s largest exporter and the second-largest importer, and when we also consider China’s huge internal market, it is no wonder that companies and countries from all around the globe want to trade with China.
Now, a word of warning: learning Mandarin won’t be easy. You’ll need to learn about 2,000 characters to become fluent in Mandarin, and if so far you have been used to learning languages which use the Latin alphabet, you might find this experience unusually challenging. However, the script itself is not the only reason why learning Mandarin might prove difficult for English speakers.
There are four main tones and a single neutral one, which means that pronunciation of the same word with a different pitch results in a change of meaning.
If you pronounce an English word with a different pitch, it will still retain its meaning. In Mandarin, producing the correct tone and understanding others will take time but, considering the potential benefits, it’s a journey that’s undoubtedly worth it.
Whether you are trying to help your company grow by entering the Chinese market or are looking for a job, even in your native country – learning Mandarin will certainly help you in both of these endeavours.
Although it’s the most difficult of the languages on our list, the good news is that due to Mandarin’s popularity, finding quality learning materials online is quite easy.
Even though the United States and China are the world’s largest superpowers, Germany, the most populous member of the European Union, exerts immense influence on the international scene as well.
The land of Goethe, Beethoven, and Nietzsche also has the highest GDP in Europe, with the runner-up, the United Kingdom, recording GDP about 30% below this.
Although the majority of native German speakers can be found in Germany, they also live in Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Namibia, as well as less extensively in countries such as Denmark, France, Poland and Romania.
Let’s not forget that around 50 million Americans claim German ancestry, although nowadays only just over 1 million Americans speak the German language.
Worldwide, there are 130 million German speakers, and although this number might be considerably lower than that for Spanish, Portuguese or even French, we should be aware that those numbers don’t paint the whole picture.
As well as being a global leader when it comes to research and technology, Germany can boast the fifth-largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity, or the fourth-largest in terms of its GDP.
Germany also has a reputation as “the land of poets and thinkers” – the ideas that were born on German soil have had a tremendous impact on the entire world.
Although currently this country might not have the same influence on world affairs as the United States or China, Germany isn’t likely to relinquish its leading position as Europe’s greatest power any time soon.
Because of that, learning the German language can be an excellent idea if you wish to boost your career. There aren’t very many speakers of German as a second language, especially when compared to languages such as French or Spanish. So if your goal is to stand out from the crowd, becoming fluent in German could be a wise choice.
Both English and German are Germanic languages, so the chances are that you’ll find the learning process relatively easy.
Although the reasons why Spanish is a great language to learn are very different from those mentioned for the previous pick on our list, Spanish is widely considered to be amongst the languages that confer many opportunities on those who learn them.
Spain ranks fifth on a list of the largest economies in Europe, but the Spanish language is second only to Mandarin in terms of the number of native speakers.
If we consider total numbers of speakers, adding those who have learnt it as their second language, then its position drops to fourth place, but with estimates of 550 million users worldwide, it’s still considerable.
Outside of Spain, Spanish speakers can be found in South and Central America, where it is the official language of most countries, as well as in the Philippines.
Mexico is the country with the highest number of Spanish speakers, with 121 million, whereas in Spain the number of native speakers is estimated at only 45 million.
The United States is home to 43 million native Spanish speakers and an additional 12 million people who have learnt Spanish as their second language. If we consider demographic and migration trends, the importance of Spanish in the United States will continue to rise, and Spanish speakers already make up a huge part of the US population, especially in the southwestern states and Florida.
Although the Spanish language is not as good a choice as German if you have a science and technology background, there are plenty of places in the world whose official language is Spanish, and if you are an expert in your field you should be able to find a decent job in one of those countries.
With Spanish-speaking regions on almost every continent, you’ll also find that it makes leisure travel much easier, regardless of whether you love mountains, sunny beaches or lush forests.
Though you might have heard that French is the language of love, that’s not the only reason why it is among the most important languages to learn. There are around 77 million native speakers of French, and if we also count those who have learnt it as their second language, this figure jumps to 267 million.
That’s not surprising, given the fact that French is the official language in 29 countries, and it is the language with the second-highest number of native speakers in the European Union. However, it is by no means limited to Europe, with plenty of French-speaking regions in North America and especially Africa, the legacy of France’s colonial past.
The process of learning French won’t be too difficult for native English speakers, as due to the Norman invasion and conquest of England in 1066, for the next couple of centuries upper social classes used primarily French and not English. Because of that, modern English is full of words borrowed from French, especially in areas such as law, medicine and politics.
And of course you’ll have an even easier time learning French if you already have experience with Spanish. That’s because both of them are Romance languages and share many similarities.
France has the seventh-largest economy in the world, and the third-largest in Europe, though it isn’t far behind the United Kingdom. French is also widely used in the institutions of the European Union, and when looking at the potential benefits of learning this language, you should also consider future projections.
According to various estimates, there will be between 650 and 700 million French speakers in the world in 2050, primarily due to fast population growth in African countries. This means that whilst French is already one of the most important languages for business today, its importance is likely to increase further in the near future.
So if you are looking for the easiest languages to learn that will help you kick-start your career, French should be amongst your top picks.
Although English speakers are likely to discover that Arabic is much more difficult to learn than French, it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth the effort, as around 422 million people speak the language. There are quite a few Arabic speakers in Europe, but native speakers are primarily concentrated in North Africa and the Middle East.
Before you embark on a journey around the Arab world, you should know that there are dozens of varieties of Arabic, and knowing one variety doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to communicate with people speaking another version. But neither does it mean that you won’t be able to, as nowadays most Arab speakers know Modern Standard Arabic.
Some of the Arabic-speaking countries have experienced robust economic growth in the past few decades, due to the abundance of oil fields. Because of that, learning Arabic could be an insanely profitable idea for some.
Unfortunately, however, Arabic doesn’t use the Latin alphabet. On top of that, its script is read from right to left and, as if that wasn’t enough, the grammar is also by no means easy. As a result, native English speakers will face many difficulties in learning the Arabic language.
We should, however, also point out that although learning French or Spanish will allow you to find more job offers, there aren’t as many people in English-speaking countries who are fluent in Arabic as in Spanish or French.
It means that although learning Arabic is going to be a pretty difficult process, if you succeed at it you’ll be able to reap a greater reward than if you were to learn any of the previously mentioned languages.
Japanese is the final pick on our list of the best languages to learn. Why? Japan has the third-largest economy in the world, and is a global leader in electronics and the automotive industries. Its culture has an enormous impact on the rest of the world, with Japanese music, TV series and cuisine being adored all around the globe.
Although the Japanese language is unlikely to become much more popular in future, given Japan’s demographic problems, and the fact that not many people learn Japanese as a second language, it doesn’t mean that starting your adventure with this language would be a bad decision.
Quite the contrary, especially if your skills and background are a good fit for Japanese giants such as Mitsubishi, Honda, or Toyota, or if you are interested in working in the high-tech sector.
What about the language itself? It will come as no surprise to learn that Japanese isn’t one of the simplest languages to learn. That’s due to its complex writing system and tricky grammar, plus the fact that even knowledge of other Asian languages won’t make your learning process any easier.
Still, if you like a good challenge, the Japanese language is sure to provide plenty of that, and it could undoubtedly help you find a good job, especially if you would like to boost your chances in high-tech.
Given the multitude of languages spoken on earth, learning a very small proportion of these, not even 1%, but 0.1% , is a task that would be too challenging for the great majority of people.
But just because it is only possible to learn a tiny fraction of the languages spoken on earth, that doesn’t mean we should abandon all efforts to learn one or two new ones.
In this day and age, knowing several languages can provide a great boost to your career. However, do bear in mind that even if you choose one of the easiest languages to learn, it won’t be by any means a short journey.
If you are going to put quite a bit of time into mastering another language, why not choose one that would help you to reap the biggest reward?
In this article we have included the languages that are most beneficial when it comes to improving your career prospects. Some of them are easy to learn, whereas others will be too challenging for some people, but what is true about all of them is that they will help you find a better job.
And if you require professional translation services in the meantime, see how our translations can help you and your business today.