Summary: "What are the top foreign languages to learn?" is probably the most frequent question I get asked by people who just start to learn a foreign language. The assumption behind this question is usually that learning any language is an endlessly tiring task. For many, it's a lot like asking "Which mountain should I climb first? The Everest or the Kilimanjaro?" But what if I told you that you can master any language you set out to learn within 6 to 12 months? Would the choice ...
"What are the top foreign languages to learn?" is probably the most frequent question I get asked by people who just start to learn a foreign language.
The assumption behind this question is usually that learning any language is an endlessly tiring task. For many, it's a lot like asking "Which mountain should I climb first? The Everest or the Kilimanjaro?"
But what if I told you that you can master any language you set out to learn within 6 to 12 months? Would the choice of languages still be a problem?
You may be working on one or even several languages already, then it's good that you know which languages you want to master. But if you don't, you might be tempted to ask questions like "which are the top foreign languages to learn", and "which language is the most useful?", "which one should I start off learning?"
Some people may tell you that "the answer to your question "depends on the goal you want to achieve", but something tells me that it's not the answer you'd like to hear.
If you have ever asked one of those questions, I suppose you don't feel strongly towards a particular language and just want to hear some general language learning tips, or maybe you just want to pick up a foreign language as quickly as you can.
But what if I tell you that the differences among all those "candidate languages" are almost negligible once you apply the right techniques? What if learning one foreign language is just as easy as learning another one? Which language would you choose to learn then?
The fact is, you should never listen to anyone who's had a good or bad experience with a particular foreign language. Just because someone had a horrible time with Chinese doesn't mean you will too. Everyone will feel differently about a specific foreign language according to his or her own education, background and social experience. By the way, did you know that Chinese is one of the simplest languages in terms of complexity?
The very reason that many people find Chinese such a demoralizing language is that Chinese is dramatically different from all alphabet-based languages. Asking a European to switch to a tonal language all at once is just as demanding as asking you to write with your right foot.
However, the same issue is not an issue at all for a new-born baby. Teaching a baby to speak a tonal language with much fewer grammar rules (Yes, day-to-day Chinese has much fewer grammar rules) could actually be more manageable than teaching the same baby a European language with a huge vocabulary and stringent grammar rules such as German.
With all that said, the top foreign languages to learn are:
Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Arabic, Russian
Those include the official languages of the United Nations. Since you are already reading this article, I presume that your English is well beyond "basic", which is why English is not included here. How about German, which is not an official language of UN? Let's see... 25% of the European population speak it and it's the second most popular internet language in the world. The reason German is not listed as a UN Official language is highly political. It should, in fact, be one of the top foreign languages to learn.