Picking a Language to Learn in 2020
Though the internet and phone applications have given us access to translation services at a moment’s notice, there is still a lot to be gained both personally and financially from learning a new language. In fact, with new regions going online in greater numbers every day, the benefits of learning and utilizing multiple languages is actually growing.
Major advantages of learning a new language:
- Speaking the primary language of a region that you plan to work or sell a product in will give you a distinct business advantage.
- On a related note, language skills make you generally more competitive for jobs in the business world.
- A deeper understanding of language can better help you to socialize and appreciate the history and culture of an area you travel to. Many may have a family history or a personal affinity with a culture they wish to learn more about first-hand.
- Learning new languages helps one to become more fluent in their own language. It also may help to boost your problem-solving skills.
- You open up whole new groups of people to meet.
With so many unique benefits, it is no wonder so many people desire to learn multiple languages. But which are the most useful languages today? What are the best languages to learn for business? For travel? What are the most important languages to learn in general? The answer to most of the questions will be personal or situational.
Some people learn Gaelic because they have a family history with the language but understand it has little commercial viability. Others will learn Mandarin, with little interest in the related culture, but understanding it is helpful to them on a business level. Then again, maybe you have clients in Ireland or are very interested in Chinese culture —ultimately, the reasons for learning a language will be your own.
With all that said, we can take a subjective look at the most useful languages in 2020 from the point of view of travelers and business people.
Hopefully, this list will help you better decide which language you should consider learning and why.
The Most Useful Languages to Learn in 2020
Spoken in Mainland China, Mandarin is a fantastic language to learn for those conducting international business and travel. Over 1 billion people speak Mandarin, and it is the second most common language on the globe.
Most understand that China is an ever-growing player on the world business stage, and their vast population means that their buying power is immense. Companies are always looking to hire savvy people who can speak Mandarin.
The number of people who spoke openly about teaching their kids Mandarin include Prince William and Kate Middleton, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan. The rich and wealthy seem to understand the benefits learning Mandarin will confer on their kids.
In addition to the financial benefits, there are social and cultural upsides as well. China itself is a dense and beautiful place you could spend a lifetime exploring.
Chinese tourists have appeared across the globe in immense numbers in the last decades, meaning that like English, there is typically going to be a person or signage in Chinese to help guide you.
English fluency remains the best skill to have for international business and travel. English is the most common language in the world, and almost everywhere on the globe caters to it in some way.
English is being used in surprising ways. For example, the ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries contain amongst themselves over 1000 dialects. Rather than pick from amongst the more obscure options, they chose to conduct most of their business in English. English, as it turns out, is the only language they all have in common in large numbers.
If you want to conduct international business, travel the world, or converse with someone from another continent, English is still the most likely language to be of use. For example, say your native language is Russian, and you want to travel through South-East Asia, China and India. You could either try and learn 7 different languages for each region you go to, or learn English and roughly get by everywhere.
Portuguese is spoken by roughly 5% of the world’s population (9th most popular) and is the only language, besides English, to exist officially on every continent. Like the Portuguese Empire of old, the language exists in small concentrated pockets in some of the most surprising places. This versatility means that learning Portuguese gives you unique opportunities and insights when traveling or working in destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America.
Brazil is also a big reason to learn Portuguese. The country of Brazil is in the top ten of world economies as is slated to be growing ever larger on the world scale.
Much like Portuguese, learning Spanish provides a myriad of business and travel opportunities. Spanish is the 4th most common language worldwide and is second only to Mandarin in current growth rate. Spain is also rich in history and culture that is best appreciated and understood in Spanish.
Spanish is one of the best languages for those business people planning to focus on the western world. If you live in the United States, learning Spanish gives you access to another large segment of the population.
India has 23 official languages with Hindi being the most common and the 3rd most common globally. With the huge population of India, their growing economic and technological base, and the incredibly rich culture it contains —Hindi is a powerful addition to the top language of 2020.
While the financial benefits are apparent, the cultural and social opportunities of learning Hindi are also fantastic. The literary, religious, and archaeological history of the region is some of the most marvelous on the planet.
Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia are also immense players in global financial markets. Much like Mandarin, there is no shortage of job opportunities for someone who speaks Arabic. Telecommunications, real estate, and even hospitality industries all have huge sections dedicated to the unique needs of the Arabic world.
Speaking Arabic will also allow you to enjoy a variety of famous texts and stories in their intended fashion.
So What Language Should I Learn?
There is no single answer for one asking, “What Language Should I Learn?”
Speaking any of the “most useful languages,” we listed will give you a huge boost when it comes to the value you bring to a business. All of these languages will also allow you to speak and communicate with a considerable number of people you otherwise might not have been able to ever interact with.
What are the best languages to learn for business?
Depending on the region and industry, English, Mandarin, and Spanish are going to be your best languages to learn for business. Hindi and Arabic are healthy second choices and can be just as, if not more, viable in specific contexts.
Learning a language opens hundreds of new doors to you. It is up to you which door you walk through.