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What Is The Most Useful Second Language?


“I’m enrolling for classes and I have to take a foreign language. Which one shall I choose?” This dilemma is familiar to most. One challenge is that at the time we decide – usually in high school – we have no clue over where, ten years in the future, we will live or with whom we’ll associate, and therefore, what language skills for us will be most empowering.


A glance at the world of languages provides some inspiring orientation. Some 6,500 spoken languages exist in the world today, though 2,000 of these have fewer than 1,000 speakers. The most used language by far is Mandarin Chinese, with 1.2 billion speakers, followed by Spanish is 440 million, and English in a close third place. Other numerically leading languages are Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese – though Bengali, Hindi, and Japanese speakers are rather confined to particular geographies.


What is the most useful second language? In the absence of prior commitment to a particular country or culture, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, or Russian are safe choices. Add to this some individual experience with such speakers, and the commitment to new language learning can become both an intelligent and a personable choice.


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