You’re entering high school or college, or maybe just want to pick up a new language, but you don’t know which language to start learning. There are thousands of languages and dialects in the world, and even if you narrow this down to the 50 most widely spoken languages – it’s hard to narrow it down to just 1. After all, there’s a lot to consider: applications, difficulty, resources, uses. Here are some tips to choosing a language to learn, either for personal growth or for job and business advancement.
Not to say any language is easy to start, but the Germanic and Romance languages are easier for beginners than a language that does not use our alphabet. Many of our words come from these languages, and you won’t need to learn a new system of writing. Some of the most commonly studied languages in this group are: French, Spanish, and German.
Le Franҫais is the 2nd official language of the United Nations, and has great uses for business. It is useful in travel, spoken in Canada, France, Switzerland, Haiti, and many African nations. French is a highly sought language for translation.
The obvious choice for travel in Central and South America, Spanish is also spoken in most of the U.S. cities near Mexico. Don’t forget Spain! Spanish has broad business application, and is a good 2nd language choice for medical professionals and attorneys in the U.S.
You won’t hear Deutsch spoken much outside of German, Switzerland and Austria, but it’s used often in business and in patents. You’ll find a lot of words shared with English, and you’ll do well to pursue it as a second language.
Italian is only spoken officially in Italy, but it has a rich history of literature. Learning to read Italian is good for art and history buffs.
China isn’t only spoken in China, the world’s new superpower, but you’ll find it in Singapore, Taiwan, and many large neighborhoods in New York, Vancouver and Toronto. Its business applications are obvious, and you can learn a great deal from a new style of language. If you’re going to learn Chinese, definitely learn how to read it too! Many dialects make it hard to speak, but it’s written the same way in all countries (albeit simplified or traditional).
Bahasa Indonesian and Malay
Two very similar languages, easy to learn, they use our own alphabet in the modern version. Combined they are spoken by over 75 million people, and Indonesian is among the FBI’s most sought after foreign languages.
Arabic and Persian (Farsi) are the fastest growing areas of study in the US, and have military and political applications today. They may have new business uses in years to come. Learning a new alphabet is fun and rewarding, but grueling at the same time.
Becoming a Translator
You can seek employment as a translator with almost any language, but you’ll find a lot more work in the main languages: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Russian and Japanese. As a translator, I still get a lot of work in Dutch, even though far more work is floating around in French. Note: I do get paid more for Dutch. I even see jobs posted for the most obscure language, just not as often. There is also a wage premium for skills in “less popular” languages. If you focus on a “less studied” language, you might get less work – but get paid a lot more for it.
Decide first what your reason is for learning a new language. That will help you narrow down the choices. Regardless, any new language will help you understand your mother tongue better. Bilinguals are generally better focused in both languages.
See Also: Easy Steps to Learn a Foreign Language
How to Learn to Read Chinese
Starting Your Own Freelance Translation Business