Top 10 Languages to Learn in 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When I was very little and living in Belgium, I was bilingual, speaking both English and Flemish.  Sadly, my family moved to South Africa when I was ten years old and without the use of the language, I have forgotten Flemish.  In my new home, I found myself learning Afrikaans.  Advantageously, Afrikaans and Flemish are both of Dutch decent so the language switch was not too difficult.  Now I don't speak either Flemish or Afrikaans fluently, but I do still find myself able to understand a considerable amount when I hear them.  With my husband being Taiwanese (brought up in Paraguay) I have found myself actively learning Chinese Mandarin and picking some Spanish too.

There are many benefits to being multilingual and I believe that in our world today it may even be necessary for significant success.  Dr. Viorica Marian and Anthony Shook have written a very interesting article on the cognitive benefits of being bilingual.  Some benefits include improved cognitive control mechanisms and sensory processes, ability to  perform better on tasks that require conflict management, increased attention to detail, improved ability to learn, and much more.  

You may already know all this, or perhaps you don't really care, you are just interested in learning a new language.  If you don't have a specific language that you need to (or already want to) learn, I have outlined the top 10 languages to consider.  My list comes from the top ten languages used on the internet, which I find a good indication of the more widely used languages of our modern world.  

1. English
Not surprisingly, English is the most widely used second language in the world (and the most used on the internet).  English is the official language in over 54 countries, a common international language for business, and the most popular language choice for non-English speakers to learn.  Even if you are wanting to learn another language, I strongly encourage you to continue to grow your English vocabulary as well (you never know when your broad vocabulary may come to use).

2. Chinese (Mandarin)
Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world, spoken by more than 1 billion people.  In recent years the trend to learn Mandarin has increased considerably.  With the business partnerships flourishing in China and other Chinese speaking countries, it makes since to learn their language.  If you are more interested in Hong Kong (or really south east China in general), perhaps Cantonese would be the better choice for you.

3. Spanish
Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world.  If traveling the world is one of your ambitions, the ability to speak Spanish is a great tool to have under your belt.  The importance of Spanish continues to grow in the United States and is often a preferred skill that employers are looking for.

4. Japanese
Japan may be a small island, but its influence over business and technology should not be underestimated.  If technology is your life and your career is centered around it, learning Japanese may help you on your way to success.

5. Portuguese
Portuguese is the world's sixth most spoken language and is the official language in nine countries.  With Brazil's growing economy and the upcoming FIFA World Cup, it is no surprise that this language is quickly growing in popularity. 

6. German
The German language dominates Europe's economy.  It is widely used in the business world and has the largest number of native speakers in Europe.  If business is your reason for learning a language or you are just wanting to travel through Europe, German is a great language for you to learn.

7. Arabic
Arabic is the official language of over 25 countries throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa.  If your interests lie in this region of the world, learning Arabic will be your key to unlocking many of their wonders.

8. French
French is spoken in over 39 countries around the world.  Although its not a 'must learn' language for business, it is still one of the most desirable languages to learn.  French is viewed by many as a sophisticated language and with France as one of the top tourist destinations, it makes sense that its on our list.

9. Russian
Russian is the fifth most widely spoken language and is the most widely spread language of Eurasia.  It is one of the UN's official languages and is the most popular Slavic language to learn.  

10. Korean
South Korea has recently made a huge splash in western entertainment, both with Kpop and Korean dramas.  Add the world's increasing interest in Korean pop culture with the country's participation in the business world, Korean is quickly becoming a popular choice for language learners.

There you have it, the top ten languages to learn.  I am a strong believer in learning new languages, even if you aren't looking to travel in your near future.  You may find yourself surprised with how often you will get to put your new language to use. 


  1. I'm taking up french, my brother has dabbed in just about all of these languages. Do you think for living in France (possibly in the future) I should attempt a third language, if so is German a good third or should I consider Spanish/Italian to overall increase my opportunities in Europe?

    1. Hi Nireon, For a third language, I think the choice is up to you and what you want to achieve. If you want to dabble into business, German might be the better choice and you can easily get around Europe speaking it. Think about where you would travel more. If you go north more, German is the way to go because Belgium and Germany are to the north (as are other Germanic language countries). If you end up going towards the south, then you may be interested in either Spanish or Italian (though I would Spanish would be more useful in general terms than Italian since it is more widely spoken around the world). Lastly, think about the language roots. French is a romance language, as are Spanish and Italian, making them more similar and easier to learn. German is a Germanic language, so your knowledge of the English language can help you there. Its really up to you and what you want to do and which language root you are more comfortable with. Hope that helps. :)

    2. Thank you very much. I'm interested in science, mostly physics so perhaps I will study german in my spare time. You're right, it would really help with Belgium also. This is great insight!