Although the world’s two billion English speakers span an estimated 57 countries, in our “global” society, the importance of being able to speak a second (or third or fourth) foreign language is more valuable than ever before.
With plenty of opportunities to start learning right away, it’s time to decide which language you want to start learning. There are a lot of factors that can influence this decision.
Some languages are easier to learn than others, some are more widely used, and you may have a vested interest in one language over another based on where you live, your background or any other personal preferences.
If you’re on the fence about which language to learn, here are a few ways to help you decide.
Are You Looking for a New Hobby?
Becoming adept in a foreign language offers numerous personal benefits including enhanced memory and cognitive function, more confidence in your capabilities and intellect, or even just “bragging rights” to impress friends and family.
If your motivation for learning another language stems from the desire to acquire a new skill or explore a new hobby, consider studying French or Spanish. Both of these languages are widely spoken throughout the world, with French spoken in 32 countries and Spanish in 21.
Given the appropriate time investment—five days per week—you could gain conversational proficiency in six months.
Are You Heading Back to School?
Not only does learning a language make you a better student, various scholarships are available to bilingual speakers, especially for graduate program expenses.
If you want to learn another language for educational purposes, consider studying German, which is esteemed in academia.
Also, keep your degree program and major in mind when you select a language. If your degree would benefit from learning one language or another, consider that as well.
You may want to talk to your academic advisor and see what he or she recommends. Having languages skills on your resume can help you land your dream job.
Are You Preparing for a Trip Abroad?
Knowing how to speak the native tongue when traveling allows you to have a more authentic and memorable experience.
It also makes you a more self-assured traveler, being able to communicate with locals, read traffic signs, and order from a restaurant menu without mispronouncing the entree.
You will have a much more fulfilling trip and be able to experience more than you would if there was a language barrier or lack of understanding of the local language.
If your motivation for learning another language stems from wanderlust, study whichever language correlates with the region you’re visiting.
Are You Investing in Career Goals?
Knowing a foreign language can make you a sought-after—perhaps even indispensable—asset on the job market because companies recognize the advantage of global business relations in our modern economy.
Bilingual employees can network with international clients, remain abreast of overseas corporate trends, or even compete for higher-paid positions abroad.
If your motivation for learning another language stems from professional development, consider studying Mandarin Chinese, which is spoken by 1.3 billion people, more than any other language.
Are You Connecting a Foreign Language to Your Roots?
Learning a foreign language promotes awareness of other cultures, how ethnic heritage shapes family dynamics and rituals, cultural perceptions and beliefs, or even your own life and ancestry.
If your motivation for learning foreign languages stems from an appreciation for where your family originates from, consider studying whichever language reflects that ancestry.
Caucasians often find German or French beneficial, while Hispanics gravitate toward Spanish or Portuguese. Asians might choose Malay or Chinese, while those of Middle Eastern descent likely connect with Arabic.
This is a great way to learn about the history and native language of your spouse’s family as well. You can learn the language together and then plan a trip to visit their family’s home country.
Once you gain proficiency in one language and, therefore, understand how the learning process works, learning more languages over time becomes less intimidating, challenging and time consuming. Decide which language you want to learn, start studying and see where it takes you—who knows, you could end up moving abroad or landing your dream job.
Maile Proctor is a professional blogger and content editor. She writes articles on lifestyle and family, health and fitness, education, how-to and more. Maile earned her Bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism from Chapman University. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking in San Diego, California.
Disclosure: Gamesforlanguage has no business relationship with Couponbox and Maile Proctor other than publishing Maile's article.