Top 5 Languages You Should Learn in 2014August 1st, 2013 by Dexter Findley
Congratulations! If you're reading (and understanding) this then you know English, the one language in the world that will get you somewhere everywhere. An official language of a prodigious percentage of countries, it may not be a local tongue but its basics are known almost universally. But say you want to learn another language, one that will be useful, rather than one that just gets you bonus points while on holiday? Which one should you aim for? Here are the Top Five.
Honourable Mention: French.
French could have been the world's English, if you get what I mean. It came so close. But alas the world was dominated by the British Empire from the mid 1850s onwards, not the French one. Still, French is spoken in much of Central Africa, parts of the Caribbean and in parts of Canada, so it makes an Honourable Mention as an almost-global language, had history been different.
Together with Japan, South Korea is one of the two true superpowers in East Asia. Sure, it may not have China's incredible population statistics or its heavy industry output, but its electronics, software and high tech industries are booming. It's also the language of the world's pariah, North Korea, which (inevitably) will start developing rapidly once it's opened up to the world. The language itself can act as a gateway to Japanese, and from an Indo-European perspective is one of the easiest East Asian languages to get to grips with due to its logically-structured script.
French and Italian's sister language, and English's relative by marriage, Spanish will be easier for Europeans to learn compared to all other languages on this list. As a dialect of Latin, you will find many of its words familiar. It's spoken universally - with the exception of Brazil, parts of Yucutan, and some very remote areas - in Central and South America, and even in those places it's widely understood and will get you quite far. In the US it is rapidly becoming the country's second language, making it the dominant tongue of the Americas as a whole. If you're heading West, be sure to know your llevar from your llegar.
It had to be on the list somewhere, didn't it? Often heralded as 'The Next World Language' (very unlikely, as we previously discussed), it's the official tongue of the People's Republic of China, the world's manufacturing giant. If you want to communicate fully with the vast majority of Chinese people, learning it is an absolute must: knowledge of English (or any other foreign language) is incredibly thin on the ground in the PRC. The same goes with doing (successful) business with Chinese organisations - Mandarin is all but compulsory. However the idea that it will spread beyond the borders and dominate world politics, trade and ascend to the status of an international lingua franca is a common myth of our times. The easiest way to see this is how it's failed to achieve that level in its own backyard (Ever see Hong Kong-ese, Japanese, Korean, Thai or Indian people speaking Mandarin?)
Really a collective of dialects rather than a single language, Hindustani (dominated by Hindi) is the main language-group of India. While English is widely spoken among the middle and upper classes, and acts as the lingua franca for those who speak radically different mother tongues, Hindi and its variations are the language of the people... near 500 million people. With a population that is predicted to eclipse China, India is a behemoth waiting to happen. Outside of India the Indian diaspora is everywhere, from Africa, the UK, the US and even China itself.
The lingua franca for the entire Middle East, Gulf and North Africa, Arabic is rapidly increasing in importance. The region is in collective turmoil, undergoing intense change and re-formations, out of which will emerge... something. It's hard to say what exactly, but given the way the Middle East has been the focal point of world politics ever since the dying days of the Cold War, whatever phoenix emerges from the ashes of its perpetual brushfire wars and regime changes will be an incredibly important world player. Add to this the region's huge population and diaspora and you've got a recipe for a true international language brewing, easily on par with English.
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