If you want to acquire another language and haven’t chosen it yet you’re probably facing a tough decision. There are over 7,000 languages in the world today! However, languages of the future won’t be the same as today. Another language might take the place of English or Arabic. Luckily for you, we can predict the future! No, there are no crystal balls involved. Just some analysis of trends in the present. Should you learn Spanish if you want to increase your employability? Let’s find out!
NUMBER OF SPEAKERS
An important factor regarding benefits of foreign languages is its popularity. The more people speak it, the better for us. It’s just natural! As of today, the most commonly used languages are these (the numbers are an approximation including multilingual speakers):
- Chinese (1,39B)
- Hindi (588M)
- English (527M)
- Arabic (467M)
- Spanish (389M)
- Russian (254M)
- Bengali (250M)
- Portuguese (193M)
BUSINESS LANGUAGES OF THE FUTURE
The number of speakers doesn’t mean everything. In the world of business, languages have different values. Demographic and economic predictions conclude that by the middle of the century the most popular languages within economic centres of the world will differ from today. So if you are seeking new languages for future profit, heed this information (the numbers indicate speakers by 2050 in the countries with greatest economies of the time):
- Chinese and Hindi (1,3B speakers each)
- Bengali (around three-quarters of a billion)
- Urdu, Indonesian (over 300M)
- Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic (over 200M)
- Russian, Vietnamese, Turkish (over 100M)
- Farsi, Thai, Korean (over 50M)
Alternatively, if you are an aspiring academic, English remains lingua franca of the sciences. In fact, its usage is increasing over time. This is especially true in the natural sciences, while publications in humanities are released in local languages more often.
English is also the most popular language when it comes to non-academic books, journals and magazines. It is the most popular target language of translators, while Russian, Spanish, French, German and Dutch are not very far behind.
DISTRIBUTION OF LANGUAGES
Chinese is spoken by more people than English. However, English is the most widespread language in the world! In many situations, the spread of a language matters more than anything. For example, if you are a travelling type these languages will make your life abroad much easier:
- English (spoken in over 100 countries)
- Arabic (around 60 countries)
- French (around 50 countries)
- Chinese, Spanish, Persian (around 30 countries each)
- German (18 countries)
- Russian (16 countries)
Obviously, languages are not evenly distributed in different regions. Asia is home to almost one-third of all the languages of the world. Africa is not far behind. Europe, meanwhile, contains less than 5% of all the languages. It’s by far the least diverse continent in this respect (but, hey, it’s still awesome).
Speaking about distinct countries, Papua New Guinea has the most native languages in its territory. India, Indonesia, South Africa and region of Central Africa also have extremely diversely speaking populations. On the other side, you might face some problems in countries like Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, Iceland, Colombia and Hungary. There are only one or two native languages there!
Each language has its own social, geographic and economic context which should be kept in mind when choosing a language to invest the time and endeavour in. Some of them bring greater profit statistically, but unusual choices will always open unique, though not as many opportunities. The great part is that we offer many not-so-popular languages to learn. Including the languages of the future. You won’t find online courses for them anywhere else!
So choose wisely. Ensure that your effort is paying off and not going down the drain.