Everyone wishes they could speak more languages, possessing the power to do so is not only cool, but extremely useful. Whether that would be when travelling or even perhaps when looking for work opportunities. There are certain roles where having more than one language at your disposal can definitely benefit you. The important question that you have to sit and think about however is, which language should I (attempt) to learn first? Well obviously there are certain factors which we cannot predict that may influence your decision, such as family or cultural ties to a particular country, or the fact you visit somewhere often and having that language would benefit you. The list we have compiled doesn’t take these kinds of things into account, so if you’re purely looking to see which language (other than English) is the most useful to learn around the world, take a look below and find out!
French is an extremely useful language seeing as how it is spoken in 34 separate countries around the world, including France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland and Monaco; to name a few. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has categorized all languages into separate categories (I-V) on level of difficulty and how many hours it usually takes to become Speaking 3: ‘General Professional Proficiency in Speaking (S3)’ and ‘Reading 3: General Professional Proficiency in Reading (R3)’. French sits nicely in category 1 where it is indicated that you only need around 23-24 weeks (around 575-600 hours) of study to reach this level. This is quite doable. If you put your mind to it, you will be able to visit a long list of countries and speak like a local!
Spoken in 25 different countries, Arabic is next up on the list. Arabic is the main language in several prominent countries such as Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Morocco and Saudi Arabia and is an impressive language to master. There are many different dialects of Arabic which all derive from 3 types of Arabic: Classical Arabic, Modern Arabic and Colloquial Arabic (‘Ammiyya). The issue with Arabic is that it is a very difficult language to learn. If you were to look at Arabic writing at first glance, it may look like a load of squiggles all joined together. It is a very detailed and beautiful written (and spoken) language that ranks in category V in FSI’s difficulty scale. This implies that you will need around 88 weeks (2200 hours) of continuous study to get to a competent level here. It may be a tough ask, but it is doable!
Hola! Spanish is a fantastic language to learn and will definitely benefit you around the world. Spanish is the main language of 25 countries including Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Argentina just to name some! The language is in category I on FSI’s difficulty scale, so you will need to put in around 600 hours of study for this one. It will be worth it though! Won’t it be amazing sitting in a café in Madrid ordering a coffee or an empanada while being able to discuss Karim Benzema’s amazing goal for Real Madrid at the weekend? Something to think about.
Spoken in 10 countries, including in Africa, Europe and the Americas; Portuguese is a good language to learn. It is especially easy for Spanish speakers since there are significant overlaps, but still quite easy for a native English speaker too. Portuguese also sits in category I on FSI’s difficulty scale and requires 23-24 weeks of study. Portuguese is the main language of Brazil, a huge prominent country in South America. Whereas it is also the main language of Portugal, right next to Spain. Portuguese speakers often have an easy time understanding Spanish even if they haven’t studied it, too.
Mandarin is a tough language, and that’s an understatement. What makes it tougher is that it is only spoken in 3 countries around the world. So you may be thinking, why would I want to learn Mandarin? Well Mandarin is the main language of China, a country which has a population of over 1 billion people. So even though it isn’t spoken as a main language in other countries, it is still the second most spoken language in the world. China’s presence in the business world cannot be ignored and mastering mandarin can surely help you here. Ranked in category V on FSI’s scale, you will need at least 2200 hours to become competent in Mandarin. This is with continuous study and practice. If you can master mandarin, you will have proven that you can pick up a mega-skill.