** This article is updated regularly. The last update was in April 2023. **
Every year brings changes and new opportunities to all. The grind never stops, whether that be your career, family, or personal growth—there’s always something to do, to start on, to finish, or to improve.
If learning a language is on your extensive to-do list, there’s a whole world of linguistic possibilities spread out before you. In the current landscape, learning a foreign language can be beneficial to you, some in more ways than others.
But how will you decide which language to choose? Which are the most useful languages to learn? And which are the most fun?
Read on to discover the 15 best languages to learn, whether you’re planning a new career with a fabulous translation company – like ours! – or simply looking to expand your mind.
Some of these may seem obvious choices, but others less so. After all, how do you define which are the most useful languages? If you’re off on holiday to France, then French would probably be most useful to you. If your company is opening a new office in Germany, it might be time to start practicing your Deutsche. It all depends on your personal and professional objectives.
To kick things off, we’ve looked at languages by their number of speakers. If you’re really on a journey of linguistic discovery this year, we highly recommend checking out the article below on the differences between languages and dialects. In the meantime, let’s move on to our list of the most important languages to learn.
Beware of potential spoilers!
Ah, English. The so-called “global language” of the world. It has more speakers than any other language when you combine native speakers (375 million) with those who speak it as a second language, producing a total of 1.5 billion speakers and continuously counting. English is recognised as an official language in 67 countries, including the U.S.A and Canada in the North Hemisphere, the United Kingdom in Europe, South Africa and Ghana in Africa, India and the Philippines in Asia, and Australia and New Zealand at the Southern Hemisphere, giving you plenty of scope to put your learning to the test as you traverse the world.
It’s also the main language of the internet. As of January 2023, around 59% of all websites were in English. If you’re looking to learn the world’s lingua franca (excuse my French), programs are in abundance both offline and online, from more formal, academic schooling to self-study apps such as Duolingo.
你好! If we’re talking about native speakers, China has more than any other language, at 982 million and rising still, with total speakers numbering around 1.1 billion. China is also the fastest-growing major economy in the world, with an average growth rate of 6% over the past three decades. It’s on track to become the world’s largest economy by 2050. It’s spoken in multiple locations throughout Asia, such as China (naturally), Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore. If you want to learn a language that has the potential to lead to economic gain, Mandarin Chinese would be a sensible choice. For online courses, RocketLanguages offers a comprehensive, structured program taking you from beginner to native-level comprehension.
¡Ole! One of the Romance languages, Spanish is spoken far and wide, from Spain itself to the breadth of Latin America, including Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, and Cuba. In total, 20 countries have Spanish as an official language, with an estimated 420 million people speaking it worldwide, roughly 320 million of them natively. It’s one of the top languages to learn for both business and leisure purposes, as well as being fairly easy for English speakers to pick up. It’s also one of the most in demand languages for translators – our Spanish to English translation service is always busy! It’s popular enough that we have our own comprehensive guide to learning Spanish, though take care to remember that the Spanish spoken in Spain (known as Castillan) might have some significant differences compared to the Spanish spoken in Latin American countries.
こんにちは。The home of technological innovation, anime, and Hello Kitty, Japan could well be the best language to learn if you’re planning to take the world by storm with your new tech (or cute mascot) empire. It’s almost exclusively only found in its native country, so it’s not the easiest language to learn if you’re starting with English as your base, not least because its writing system is so different from the Latin alphabet. But if you’re a fan of Japanese entertainment, getting over the hurdle of reading translated subtitles might be worth the effort. Online programs such as Pimsleur and JapaneseUncovered are ripe for the taking.
Many consider Norwegian to be the easiest language in the world to learn, as we explore in detail below. But what is it that makes a language easy to learn? For English speakers, similarity to the language is key. That includes similar vocabularies, similar sentence structures and a script based on the Latin alphabet. Do you like to work hard at learning languages, or would you prefer to learn something that’s easy to pick up? If it’s the latter, one of the options we’ve detailed below should suit you down to the ground.
The Norwegian language is blessed with simple grammar (just one form of each verb in each tense!) and has a whole load of vocabulary that mirrors that of English. That’s because both languages are from the Germanic family, which means they also have a similar word order. Despite only being mostly used in Norway, if you’re asking yourself, “Which language should I learn?” and looking for something simple and enjoyable, Norwegian is a decent bet! You can discover more about the Norwegian language by clicking the link below.
Read more: The Languages of Norway
Swedish is also blessed with simple grammar and a host of words that will be familiar to English speakers, thanks to both languages being Germanic. The word orders are fairly closely aligned too, making this one of the best languages to learn for those starting from a base of speaking only English. Used in Sweden, Finland, and the Åland Islands, Swedish can set you up for a trip near the Arctic Circle, and Babbel can give you a leg up at the start of the journey.
Italian is considered by many to be the language of love (although the French might have something to say on that front). It’s certainly the language of culture thanks to opera’s popularity around the world – it can move even those who don’t speak a word of it to tears with its beauty. Thankfully, due to its sharing of many cognates (i.e. words derived from the same root) with English, learning Italian shouldn’t leave you in tears. Spoken mainly in Italy and San Marino, you’ll be speaking of amore soon enough through the help of Ouino Languages.
The other contender for the title of language of l'amour, French is the language of poetry, art, and gourmet cuisine. Its Latin origins mean that many French words are easily recognisable to English speakers, and the close proximity of France to the UK, and Canada to the US, mean that there are plenty of opportunities to practice by chatting to native speakers without having to travel too far. Frantastique offers short, fun lessons to help you learn the language, because who told you that learning languages has to be boring?
Tired of reading? No worries, here's a quick video summary so you can watch instead.
Are you looking for the most useful languages to learn for business purposes? If so, it’s worth looking at some of those that are in most demand. We’ve ranked these according to Tomedes’ own experience, combined with a range of global economic factors.
As well as being the official language of Portugal, where it has 10 million speakers, Portuguese is the mother tongue of some 194 million native speakers in Brazil. The ninth largest free-market economy largest in the world by nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the eight largest by purchasing power parity, Brazil provides plenty of opportunities for those looking to do business in Portuguese.
To find out more about the Portuguese spoken in Brazil – along with the other languages spoken there – you can click the link below.
Read more: Which Languages Are Spoken in Brazil?
However, if you’re also interested in learning Portugal Portuguese, we have a helpful article to get you started as well:
German is one of the most important languages in Europe, coming second only to Russian in terms of the number of native speakers within the continent (German has around 95 million native speakers, compared to Russia’s 120 million). It’s spoken in a number of European countries, such as Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein, and is one of the three procedural languages of the European Commission (alongside English and French). If you want to lay some business foundations in Europe, learning German might be a good step into that door. DeutschAkademie and Lingoda are some good options to begin with for the best combination of quality and price.
The sixth official language of the United Nations, 25 countries list Arabic as an official or a co-official language. If you’re seeking the most useful language to learn to do business in the Middle East and North Africa, particularly in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia , and the United Arab Emirates, you’re found it. Around 420 million people across the world speak Arabic, making it the sixth most spoken language on the planet, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to put your learning into practice. TalkInArabic.com gives learners a holistic approach to learning Arabic, including the numerous dialects found within the language.
For the final section of our list of the best languages to learn, we’ve taken a look at some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. According to the IMF, the world’s fastest-growing economy is Guyana thanks to its new oil exploitation projects, with a projected GDP growth of over 52% as of October 2022. The official language in Guyana is English, which we’ve already covered above. However, there’s an unexpected country that’s at the top running for future growth and development:
This country in Oceania is extremely dependent on foreign visitors—particularly those from Australia and New Zealand. As such, the economy suffered an over 15% GDP contraction in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with the waves of the coronavirus receding, Fiji is back in business, likely to attract more business meetings, travel promotions and incentives, international conferences, and exhibitions in the coming months. It’s not a commonly spoken language abroad, but there are still resources that can help you out, with Langcorrect and Forvo as a nice stepping stone into the island language.
In terms of GDP, India is the world’s seventh largest economy and the third largest by purchasing power parity. Modern Standard Hindi has some 322 million native speakers. Also spoken in Fiji, Hindi is not the easiest language for English speakers to learn, given the use of the Devanagari script, but can be well worth it for those looking to be part of the rise of one of the world’s largest economies. Duolingo can be a good buddy for some stress-free Hindi learning.
Korean is one of the most useful languages to learn and particularly one of the best languages to learn for business. In just a few generations, South Korea has rocketed from one of the poorest economies in the world to the 12th largest. It has some 75 million speakers in total, 48 million of whom live in South Korea. Interestingly, Korean is a language isolate, although it technically has two standard varieties: South Korea’s Seoul dialect and North Korea’s Phyong'yang dialect. 안녕하세요 your way into the peninsula through 90 Day Korean’s programs.
After the breakdown of several of the above languages, then there are plenty of ways you can speed up the process. After all, why spend longer learning than you need to?
First of all, surround yourself with the language at every opportunity. From radio stations to TV shows, the more ways you can hear and experience the language, the better. Accumulate your ear to the sounds and cadence of the tongue in order to accelerate your learning. Add books and magazines into the mix so that you can learn on the go, as well as at home. Flashcards can also be highly effective. Even sticking post-it notes around the house with the name of things they’re on can help you to absorb vocabulary at a faster pace.
Next, prioritize the order of the words that you learn. Go for cognates and commonly used words first and you should surprise yourself with the speed at which you can learn.
It’s also important to speak the language you’re learning at every opportunity. Whether you sing to yourself in the shower, join a local conversation class or chat with a language tutor online, the more you can practice, the better your spoken skills will become. You’ll also find that regular conversation boosts your confidence.
Finally, be sure to keep your language learning varied. Grammar books are all well and good, but they’re only one aspect of learning. The more ways you can find to learn, the more fun the process will be. From children’s nursery rhymes to formal classes, mix things up to keep the excitement alive.
So, that’s it! Which of these languages will be your choice for the years ahead? Leave a comment below to share your plans! And the very best to you in your language-learning endeavors!