Most people have ambitions to learn a new foreign language, but many get stuck on the question: “Which language should I learn?” If you’re asking yourself that question, it probably means you don’t have a strong interest in learning any language in particular. We recommend picking one of the most useful languages. But which one is the best? And if you want to pick up more than one, which should you learn first? Here are the most important languages to learn for native English speakers or people who have already mastered English.
Last Updated: 04/28/2021
Apart From English, What Are the Most Useful Languages to Learn?
English has been established as a sort of lingua franca, so people all around the world speak it. However, English does not suffice to be able to communicate in all work sectors (particularly tourism and international business). There are countless reasons why you should learn any of these top 7 most useful languages. That being said, for most people, the biggest motivation to learn one of the most useful languages is professional. Being able to speak one or several foreign languages has become one of the most sought-after skills for recruiters.
This video and article are for:
- anyone who wants to learn another foreign language besides English
- and native English speakers who want to master a foreign language, but who don’t know which language to learn.
All languages are useful, and there are plenty of reasons to learn each one, but the key is finding the most valuable languages to learn for you.
It’s Personal: Figure Out the Best and Most Useful Language to Learn for YOU
I identified two main criteria that you can use to determine the most useful languages:
- The number of speakers throughout the world
- Relevance in economic and political contexts
According to Ethnologue, the top 10 most spoken native languages in the world consist of Chinese (or the ensemble of its 12 variants including Mandarin), Spanish, English, Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, and German. (See the complete list.)
For the second criterion, I based my conclusions on official statistics from the U.S. Census that highlight the U.S.’s global business partners. U.K. trade partners are similar to those in the U.S.
Here are the 7 most useful languages to learn after English:
Top 7 Most Useful Languages to Learn for English Speakers
As we said, many people learn a new language to get a new job, to move up the ladder, or to earn more money at their current job. In our opinion, these are the most interesting languages to learn if your language goal is professional in nature.
Spanish is the third most spoken language in the world after Chinese and English. It’s also the native language of more than 400 million people across 44 countries, which makes it one of the most useful languages to know.
For those who want to do business, Spanish skills can be an asset for communicating in Spain and throughout Latin America. The considerable size of the Spanish-speaking population of the United States makes it even more attractive on a resume. Americans who plan on working domestically in law, social services, or business can truly stand out by being proficient in Spanish.
Spanish is often said to be an easy language to learn. For example, Spanish is phonetic (you read words as they are written). However, the tenses and verb irregularities are more complicated in Spanish than in a language like French. It’s also important to realize that as a non-native learning Spanish, you’ll be competing for work with native Spanish speakers.
Why it’s such a useful language: It’s quite obvious why learning Spanish has huge financial benefits for job seekers. In both Europe and the US, Spanish is the most commonly spoken language after English. It is also the officially spoken language of four continents. This makes learning Spanish very beneficial, especially for those in business simply due to the number of people who speak it.
How to learn it: Best Resources to Learn Spanish
With Canada being the number one trade partner of the U.S., learning French can majorly boost anyone’s professional worth. Spoken by more than 290 million people worldwide, French has truly become a global language. It is the official language of 29 countries including France, Canada, Switzerland, Monaco, Luxembourg, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Belgium, Rwanda, Togo, Mali, and more.
France dominates in pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, aeronautics, energy production, and more. In addition, with global initiatives to promote development in areas of Africa, French is key. Many countries throughout West Africa, Central Africa, and East Africa use French as one of the official languages. Being able to communicate in French can land you consultant, non-profit, administration, and tons of other jobs.
French is also an official language of NATO, the United Nations, the Olympics, the Red Cross, and other international organizations. For Americans, since most people learn Spanish in school, speaking French gives you an edge over other jobseekers.
Why it’s such an important language: Due to the wide usage of the French language as the second most learned language after English, learning French is extremely valuable. Knowing how to speak French opens the doors to positions in businesses all over the world, from Belgium to Switzerland to Canada.
How to learn it: Resources for Learning French
3. A Chinese language, such as Mandarin
China has become an unavoidably massive presence in the world (recent statistics show that 36% of the world’s population either lives in China or India). In addition to its growing population, China has a stronghold on exports to the U.S. and the U.K., making it a valuable trade partner. Because of this, Chinese is an incredibly useful language to learn.
If you want to work in international business or banking, learning a Chinese language is one of the most useful languages to know if you want to beef up your resume. The tricky part is that there are 12 different Chinese languages, the most common being Mandarin (845 million people speak Mandarin, out of a total population of roughly 1.4 billion).
Learning Mandarin is an excellent idea because it is such a prized skill set for the business sector and one of the extremely important languages in the world. Diplomatic and military professionals also will find Mandarin helpful. The small percentage of people who manage to master Mandarin has an incredible advantage over their monolingual peers.
Mandarin is known to be difficult to learn how to write since there are multiple moods and registers to conquer. However, its grammar, conjugation, and tenses are infinitely easier.
Why it’s such a valuable language: If you’re in the business industry, learning Chinese will open up a world of opportunities for you due to the more than a billion people who speak it.
How to Learn it: Resources to Learn Chinese
Germany’s economy has been steadily growing, reaching far beyond the Rhine. Such growth has propelled the country into one of the world’s strongest economies. It’s in the top 10 for import and export partners for both the U.S. and the U.K. It’s also an official language of Austria and Switzerland, both of which boast strong economies, too.
German is the most common native language. More than 90 million people in the world speak it.
However, many learners of German claim it is not the easiest to learn. High schoolers, for example, tend to have difficulty communicating in German, even after years of study (as opposed to a language like Spanish). This could be due to a lack of interest and motivation. If you’re going to learn German, it’s best to do so when you have the time and can buckle down with your German lessons several times a week.
Why it’s such a valuable language: German is the language to learn if you want to earn the big bucks! In fact, you can earn up to 125,000 extra euros just in bonuses! You may be surprised by this as most people would assume a more common language such as Spanish or Mandarin would allow them to be more prosperous. However, knowing German as a second language puts you in a special niche and thus is more economically valuable. Additionally, Germany is a European powerhouse and so yields higher financial benefits than other languages.
How to learn it: Resources to Learn German
Although surpassed by China in recent years, Japan’s economy is remarkably strong. 122 million people speak Japanese as their native language, making it one of the most spoken foreign languages in the world.
Japanese is one of the most useful languages to know for those who work in the automotive, communications, and financial sectors. Japan is the 3rd biggest producer of automobiles and makes up one of the biggest producers of mobile technology. According to Forbes, Japan is home to some of the world’s most powerful companies including Mitsubishi, KDDI, Softbank, and NTT.
Japanese people love to travel. So, if you want to work in the tourism industry, Japanese is a great skill to have.
Why it’s such an important language: Due to the increasing global role of the Pacific Rim and Asia, as well as the economic ties between the US and Japan, Japanese is one of the best languages to learn.
How to learn it: Resources to Learn Japanese
The global importance of Arabic is clear: it’s the 3rd most common language, with more than 300 million native speakers spread throughout 57 countries in the world.
Many Arab countries provide the West with vital resources (like oil). It goes without saying that geopolitical events of recent years have also forced the Western world to become more familiar with the Arab world.
As noted in a comment made by Solal, written Arabic follows a standardized system common in the many places where it is spoken. However, the richness of Arabic is apparent in the different dialects or variations of the spoken language. A Moroccan may not necessarily understand a Lebanese person. Egyptian Arabic is a good dialect to learn. Some people say it’s the most universal dialect (due in part to the Egyptian film industry).
Arabic has been classified by the U.S. State Department as one of the hardest languages to learn, along with Korean, Japanese, Mongolian, and Mandarin. In other words, you need to be super motivated!
But knowing how to communicate in Arabic is a plus for U.S. government and military jobs, so it’s one of the best languages for Americans to learn. It’s also great for people who want to work in the journalism and tourism industries.
Why it’s such a useful language: The Middle East, considered one of the wealthiest regions in the world, has a GDP of over $600B. Knowing Arabic allows entry into the Middle Eastern economy, which has grown by 120% in the last five years.
How to learn it: Tips For Quickly Learning Arabic Vocabulary
According to Wikipedia, Portuguese is the 5th most spoken language in the world (although these statistics are always estimates). Portuguese is spoken not only in Portugal but also in the booming economy that is Brazil. People also speak Portuguese in several African countries like Angola, where natural resources abound.
The 8th strongest economy, Brazil has experienced rapid growth and become a major trade partner with the U.S. and Europe. Its strongest exports are minerals, iron, steel, coffee, and grains. While Spanish has become the de facto language to learn for many, Portuguese is rising in importance. Business, logistics, and agriculture professionals are sure to find Brazilian Portuguese a handy language to know.
Why it’s such an important language: Although Portuguese isn’t as in demand as Spanish, it is currently on the rise. That’s because Portuguese is the official language in Brazil, an emerging economy.
How to learn it: Resources to Learn Portuguese
Bonus Video and Infographic About the Most Useful Languages in the World
Here’s a quick recap of the most useful languages and why they’re so beneficial.
If you liked that video, subscribe to our channel for more language facts and tips.
Still Can’t Decide Which Language to Learn? This Infographic of the Most Useful Languages Can Help
The 3 best languages to learn (after English) are: Spanish, French, and Chinese.
Naturally, if you’re going to work in a specific country, you don’t need to think twice about what language to learn next. The decision is already made for you! Learning the language of the country or region where you’ll be living is the most practical solution.
If you do have a choice, the list below can give you an idea of the most common languages spoken. This chart is meant as a general guideline since it’s not easy to estimate. Here are the 10 most spoken languages:
|Language||Countries/Regions Spoken||Number of Speakers (in millions)|
|Mandarin Chinese||China, Singapore, Taiwan||1,080|
|English||United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, several African countries||508|
|Spanish||Spain, Latin American||382|
|French||France, Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, several African countries, Oceania, Antilles, South East Asia||290|
|Russian||Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan||285|
|Indonesian Malay||Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei||260|
|Arabic||North Africa, Middle East||230|
|Portuguese||Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, Guinée Bissau||218|
(Note: These statistics vary according to the criteria used)
Don’t forget that you can also access this content on our MosaLingua Language Lab podcast:
Listen to “#8 – The 7 Most Useful Languages to Learn in 2021 – Apart from English” on Spreaker.
Thanks for taking the time to read our article on the most useful language or languages in the world. If you enjoyed it, feel free to share it with your friends and family!
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Absolutely appalling written article. One very important part of learning a language is being able to read it. Japanese has 3 ways of writing and it takes kids here about 14 years to be able to master. Chinese needs the ability to read more than 10,000 kanji , again taking years to master. So you can say ‘ good morning’ in Japanese? Ok, well 6 months after you have studied it try replying to the question ‘ 明日会議があろので会える？’.
Chinese is even harder.
I was an exchange student in France. On my first day I learnt new words and grammar just by reading signs. Try that in Japan or china.
Badly written and thoroughly under researched.
This article only speaks about how useful a language is, not how difficult it is…
Just because a language is harder to learn than another, it doesn’t mean it’s not useful.
You’ll see the article says the following:
“I identified two main criteria that you can use to determine the most useful languages:
The number of speakers throughout the world
Relevance in economic and political contexts”
I hope this helps!
It kills me when Spanish is sometimes referred to as the most widespread language. How so? Spanish is spoken in Central and South America mainly, like 95%. There are many speakers in the USA, but Spanish is not official there. And some hispanics insist on shading in the Philippines and Morocco as Spanish speaking countries in world language maps. Spanish is dead in the former, and basically the same in the latter. Now USA maps are being shaded in as Spanish speaking as though it were an official language in the USA. 100 years ago everyone thought German was all the craze, but eventually they assimilated. The same with happen with Spanish in the USA. The younger generation already prefer English and are very weak in Spanish. And now with the hardline border immigration quota policies, and the border wall, concerning the Spanish speaking Central Americans and Mexicans, the numbers of illegals are already significantly dwindling. The party is over! In 10, 15 years no one will even be talking about the Spanish language in the US – by then the older Spanish speaking generation will be dead, and the younger generation will be fluent English speakers that won’t need Spanish. The Spanish language simply won’t sustain itself in USA.
Now a language that means business in today’s world is Portuguese as Brazil is already has the 6th strongest world economy. Portuguese speaking Angola and Mozambique are economic motors of Africa, especially the former. And China recognizes the importance of Portuguese that this language is earnestly being taught in their universities. China does a huge amount of trade with Angola, Mozambique and Brazil (oil, natural gas, precious metals, etc.) The same goes for India and Japan. Portuguese language and culture is experiencing a huge revival in Goa (former Portuguese colony) to the extent that they are even considering making Portuguese a 4th co-official language. Hey, Switzerland has 4 official languages so why not in Goa? And there are 300,000 Brazilian Japanese in Japan, and Portuguese is being taught in the system of education – there are even tv shows and radio stations that broadcast in Portuguese exclusively. In Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay Portuguese enjoys an important role as a mandatory language of instruction. Peru, Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela are following suit. Africa is undergoing a Portuguese language explosion i.e., Senegal, Namibia, Congo, South Africa, etc., where it is being taught as a 2nd or 3rd language. In Europe, there are some countries where Portuguese immigrants represent as high as 30% of the total population i.e., Luxembourg, Andorra, etc. There are 1.5 million Portuguese speaking people in France, Paris in particular. Then there is the CPLP community of Portuguese speaking countries which is kind of like the British Commonwealth of nations. There are countless countries in the world that are seeking Associate Membership Status i.e., Australia, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Turkey, Ukraine, Peru, Colombia, etc., and many more. Portuguese is the most spoken language in /South America 51%, most spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere, 3rd most spoken European language, 6th most spoken in the world (260 million), spoken officially in 5 continents (Europe, South America, Africa, Asia, Oceania) – Spanish is not. Portuguese is spoken OFFICIALLY in: Brazil, Portugal, Azores, Madeira, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome & Principe, Macau (China), East Timor (Oceania) – Portuguese is still spoken by 10,000 people in former colony of Goa, India. And Portuguese is 1 of the 2 languages of Mercosur/sul. The CPLP has its own Lusophony Olympic Games of which 13 countries are members. Plus, when you know Portuguese, Spanish is an automatic gift as the 2 languages are so close 89% in vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure (Portuguese & Spanish are the closest pair of Romance languages in the world).
Thanks a lot for your feedback.
Well, we didn’t say it’s the most widespread, although it is more than Portuguese 🙂
To back it up, you can find many authority sites and sources online which confirms that. FOr ex. https://www.ethnologue.com/guides/ethnologue200
All in all, here at MosaLingua we love all languages, and don’t prefer one over the other. Some members of the MosaLingua team is Brazilian, and some are Spanish.
But according to many sources Spanish is spoken my more people worldwide.
All the best,
We want to learn Spanish or French so which should we choose for our carrier
If your career is the only factor, statistically speaking, Spanish is more requested.
Hope this helps 🙂
Oh yeah? Trying telling that to a Chinese or Japanese with business interests in Brazil!
Well, LucaFalguni Naik asked between French and Spanish without giving me extra information. So statistically speaking, Spanish is the best out of the two.
You’ve given me a completely different example. My answer would’ve been different 🙂
you are very patient.
Equatorial Guinea speaks Spanish….Gia is a state in India, Just like California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, New York, Florida, Illinois. Nevada, speak Spanish…Only think is that they are states within a country. Just like Gia is a state in India.I which I could tell Yu how much Spanish is Spoken in America. More people speak Spanish in America than in Spain. Spanish ain’t going away in America anytime soon. Portuguese is useless here in America.
I am confused in this all languages can any body suggest me a better language out of this
Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and
I’m impressed! Extremely useful information particularly thhe
last part 🙂 I care for such information much. I was seeking this particular information for a long time.
Thank yoou and good luck.
Its not my first time to go to see this site, i am visiting this site dailly and
get good data from here daily.
I would like to learn how to speak Arabic any help?
Hello and thank you for your comment!
We have received several requests for Arabic and will keep this in mind. We have more languages coming soon but no date yet for the release of Arabic. Thanks for your interest!
im learning russian i know a good deal of spanish i dont know why im learning russian if its not listed as a major language i mean in the top 7 its not for this website i guess im just drawn to it
Thanks for your message. Don’t worry. Russian is a good language too!
Hi,I’m from south Africa,I was planning to learn Japanese coz i love manga,and it would be so much better to watch nd read anime,although there’s traslated anime I dnt like it that much,u could say the language interests me.
I plan to learn french next coz my friend speaks french,its a fun language and I know the basics for now.hopefully by next year I will be able to speak one of two languages.
Thanks for sharing it with us.
We are not developing Japanese apps but I am sure that you will find resources on the Internet.
I’m 15 , I talk English , French , Hebew , Arabic , (Fluently ) Russian and Spanish and i’m learning Italian and Swedish .. 🙂 languages are the best <3
Is it possible to learn all these languages at a young age?
I’d love to study in several foreign languages. Now I’m studying chinesse, next might be spanish. I also interesting Japanese, korean, Germany and french. I hope I still have a chance and time to learn all of them.
Anyway, thank u for your great post. It’s so informative for me 😉
I’ve been learning Hindi, due in part because I lived in India for a while so it was necessary.
Much as I have been enjoying studying the language and the added richness it provides to my studies of Indian culture, it isn’t a very useful language to learn in terms of your competitive edge in business. This is predominantly because of the huge number of bilingual English-Hindi speakers that exist in the ex-pat community in the USA and UK. While Hindi (and its sister language Urdu) are spoken by vast numbers of people, there are people of Indian/Pakistani descent who will speak it better than you ever will. The same goes for Bengali and Gujarati. That said, I was recently elected by my office to go on a business trip to India despite my relative inexperience at my job (which I’ve been in for two months) and I suspect having the cultural knowledge and language skills made a difference.
I suspect it’s similar for Arabic. There are a lot of bilingual English-Arabic speakers out there because of migration.
My point is that “useful” languages are not just those with lots of speakers or even those we have strong trade links with. Germans, for example, generally have excellent English skills (especially younger folk) so I would question the usefulness of German in a business context. I reckon being able to speak a more unusual language is more useful – nobody ever seems to learn Russian as a second language despite the vast swathe of planet Earth dominated by the old Soviet states, and Russia itself. Nobody seems to bother with Korean or Malay either.
Perhaps even the newer expanding markets of places like the Philippines – would Tagalog be really useful?
People are always going to learn French, Spanish and German. Chinese and Japanese are also popular (often for the challenge of it). You’re always going to have heavy competitors with these languages. A more unusual European, Asian or even African language might give you a whole extra level of uniqueness.
Anyway, I’ve waffled, sorry. Hope I made a point somewhere in there!
Thank you very much for sharing your opinion and your experience learning languages!
Actually Malay (that is including Indonesian) is more widely spoken than Tagalog. Malay speakers has a total of 260 million speakers while Tagalog with 70+ million speakers can’t compete with that. Now, taking that into account, my question is why should Tagalog be more useful than Malay? Even Filipinos themselves use English a lot at work.
I’m 17 years old and I speak English, Norwegian, Swedish, French and Spanish fluently. I plan to be able to speak Italian, Russian, Arabic and possibly Portugese fluently by the time I’m 25. Then hopefully Mandarin and/or Japanese by 30.
Thanks for sharing your next plans!
We wish you the best!
Russian is actually more simple than you might think after learning the alphabet. Although it took me 4 months of 2 hours a week learning for the alphabet, three years later i can speak Russian fluent enough that I stayed in Russia for 3 weeks with no English spoken to locals!
Thanks for sharing your experience learning Russian!
quite a achievement….gr8.
i am crazy language learner……in one day (just one day only) ,i learnt so much of wriien n spoken japanese that i would hold myself well in japan without much help from english…speak french,spanish,german,mandarin n few others….but i found russian very tough…i know the alphabets..fluently i can read….know lot of vocab…but still i m not able to speak it well(forget fluently)…any suggestions for me….wud love to help u in your learning..
Thanks for your experience Jimmy!
Yes, Russian is tough due to grammar. Reading it fluently is wonderful. But, to speak it fluently you must have feedback. Be among those who speak Russian as their first language and speak only Russian with them. They can help iron out the kinks for you!!
Jessica, congratulations on learning Russian!! I learned the alphabet in one week. The second week I was reading a little Russian. I made good progress for a while, but I let it go over the years and I will try again. However, Spanish and Arabic are common where I live! Finding people to speak Russian here is limited.
Hey, holy cow that’s impressive!!
What was your learning technique? I would love to be fluent in multiple languages, I am close to fluent in Spanish and have a base of French.
Can someone help me choose? I am already fluent in Chinese and English, and I have some degree of knowledge in French (I know all the basic tenses, basic vocabulary etc). I am learning Spanish and German too. What language should I learn? Which one is the most useful?
Thanks for you comment.
In my opinion the most useful is Spanish.
i am a native german speaker. first of all i am teaching my friend how to speak german. he has NO problem with it. Also german speakers fill 75% of switzerland. French only takes up 19% of the population.
Thanks for your comment.
I’m so glad to see French and Spanish in this list, since I’m learning both of them. Hooray!
French is not a difficult language for an Italian speaker, but its pronunciation is tricky!
I’d love to study Japanese one day, so it’s great to see it among the 7 most useful languages! 🙂
Thanks for sharing your opinion!
i love english language because its very popular language & easy.
but i want to learn spanish. its not difficult for indian people.
Thanks for your comment.
Molto bene di apprendere la lingua italiana. Io comenso una settimana Ed io posso appena Dire qualche frase. Io sono arabo io parlato Arab francese englese spagnola e un poco di Portuguese