Many a times, early in our lives, we face a situation where we have to take a decision which might affect us for a lifetime. One such decision many of us face in primary school is the foreign language we must opt for.
Never mind primary school, you might choose any language suggested by your own parents, teachers, friends or (sometimes) your own brains. Whatever language it is, it’s great you got a hang of it, and better if you can remember its nuances in the long term. Chances are good, considering you learnt it in the shaping years of your life.
Now jump to your career years. This is the time you are about to complete high school or you might already be in college or even working somewhere. This is the best time to decide on learning a foreign language considering many parameters that might come into the equation.
Obviously, at this point of time you are thinking business. In short, a very common thought would be-‘is there a language (or two), which I can learn easily and quickly, which would help me in my job prospects and business growth?’ The answer is yes. But the option depends on your current situation and the extent you are willing to go to.
(Commonsense: If you are reading this article without translating it, English is one language you already understand and can improve upon. And English, we know, is one of those languages which people from most countries around the world have a hang of. So we will talk about other foreign languages).
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There are languages that are spoken throughout the world (like English), then there are those spoken by not that many but still used in a fair number of countries (maybe Russian or Italian) and the opposite case where a language is spoken mostly by the huge number of people inhabiting a handful of countries, which have immigrants all around the world (Hindi/Urdu, for example).
A golden tip: If you are thinking of language in terms of business, think in terms of your customers. If your primary (by source of income, sales or the driving force of your business) is end customers, identify their language(s). If it is mostly business clients and mediators, try to identify a common language if there is one. Plus, if you’re looking at places with mixed cultures, try studying the spread of the various communities around.
Though you will come across many lists on the internet, more or less the 10 most spoken languages in the world (other than English) are
The most important thing is to identify your motive behind going for a certain language.
Are you living in a city/area with a specific mix of languages?
Are you looking for a career (or already got a job) in a foreign country?
If English is your first language or one that comes to you most naturally, it would be a tough ask initially to consider or learn languages with different font/script, that is, those languages that do not employ the use of Roman numerals. Such languages (those that don’t use roman numerals) would take a much longer time for you to read and write, and obviously interpret as well. Hence, you can leave out Arabic, Mandarin, Russian and Indian languages for the while.
The most common languages popularly taught (or advertised) in schools and educational institutes are French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. The main reason is that knowing one of these languages very well can survive you anywhere in Europe, and a knowledge of the last three (Spanish, Portuguese and Italian) would help you out in most other Latin countries around the world, especially South America, Central America, Mexico and even the US. A knowhow of languages like Dutch, Flemish, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Swedish or Norwegian is an added bonus.
When we are thinking about living in a country for a substantial amount of time (one year or more), two factors come into the equation-the employer and the inhabitants. For example, work in the US is mostly in English, but knowing a little bit of Spanish or Japanese might help you make friends outside your office. Similarly, UK is not all English-languages like Welsh (from Wales, a major part of UK) and other Celtic languages, French and languages from neighboring countries can be heard all around the UK. In fact, UK has a large South Asian community too. And mind you, countries like France which ruled colonies around the globe ensured that it is never a bad option to learn French-it can come in handy almost anywhere.
And yes, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish are the official languages of the United Nations (UN), which add a lot of weight to their importance as we are very well aware of UN’s influence as well as employment capacity around the globe.
Swahili and Arabic are the languages in demand in African jobs, while French and Portuguese are also welcome because of trade and proximity of their native countries. If you are working or traveling anywhere in South East Asia, knowing Mandarin would almost do the job, and knowing native languages like Korean, Indonesian and Malay are like icing on the cake.
Let us now have a look at language without Latin-Roman script (yes, the one we use in English) and why learning some of them could be a great option as well. However, finding a tutor in every country might get tedious, but it is worth the strain.
If there is a language that is spoken by around a billion people, it has to be taken seriously. Plus, Chinese goods are exported to all parts of the world. Chinese clout has stretched into Africa and beyond, pushing more and more people toward consuming energy and other resources. And China is being noticed by the world as an emerging superpower for quite some time and controls the business world like any other market giant.
Another important factor is that people in most of the South-East Asian countries (Mongolia, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines) speak Mandarin Chinese or a language that is derived-and is pretty close to-Chinese.
Arabic has well over 200 million speakers and is the official language of 27 countries. It is spoken throughout Africa, Western Asia, the Middle East and parts of South Asia right up to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Because this language is very different from English, many of its native speakers don’t know English; hence a lot of the material has to be served in Arabic to these people.
It is common knowledge that the Middle East is the most popular business and retail hub, which means a lot of stuff is imported, and controls the oil export market as well. Most of the predominantly Muslim countries have languages that are quite close to Classical Arabic.
With over 160 million native speakers, Russians travel to many parts of the world mainly due to lack of resources and exceptionally cold conditions back home. Many of these migrants turn to entrepreneurship and that’s one of the reasons Russian (as a language) has spread over the world like wild fire does in the woods. Plus, Russians are known for their art, literature, folklore and a very strong and rooted culture. Russian is also the official language of six countries.
With more than 125 million people speaking Japanese, it would be no surprise if this language rises up the ranks of global languages in the next decade. Japan rules the world of automobiles, robotics and most mass-use technologies that exist. Native Japanese always open their doors to talented human resources, and those who move out of the country almost always find them busy, ruling the roost on most occasions. Need I say more?
If you think there is any language that deserves more attention of students, let us know in the comments with reasons that make your case more valid.