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Which Language Should You Learn?

jason-oxenham-ceo January 20, 2017, 1:31 am
Are you thinking about learning a new language? If so, congratulations! You're about to embark on a fascinating and rewarding journey that is filled with countless benefits.

Do you know which language you would like to learn? If not, you're not alone. Believe it or not, many people who consider learning a new language are often unsure which language to learn or must decide between several different options.

That's where we can help.

Today, we'll look at some of these different criteria to help determine which language is best for you. We'll provide you with a helpful, easy-to-use guide for choosing your next language based on several questions.

Let's start with one of the most important questions:

Why do you want to learn a new language?

Your personal motivation is crucial for your language learning success. Staying motivated is the number one reason why many have language learning success, and is also the number one reason why some fail. There is no understating the importance of motivation at every step of the learning process, whether you're considering learning a new language or becoming proficient in one you already know.

That's why it's highly recommended to study a language that you are motivated to learn, whether it be for personal or professional reasons.

Here are some recommendations based on the five most common reasons to learn a new language:

1. Communication

If you would like to be able to communicate with friends or local immigrants, then consider learning one of the world's most spoken languages. These include:
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Spanish
  • Hindi
  • Arabic
  • Portuguese

2. Travel

If you would like to learn a language that will help you to travel the world, then consider learning one of the most practical languages for traveling. They include some of the most commonly spoken languages by populated continent:
  • North America, Central America and the Caribbean: English, Spanish and French
  • South America: Spanish and Portuguese
  • Europe: German, English, Italian, French, Spanish and Polish
  • Africa:  Arabic, French, Hausa, Yoruba, Swahili and Ahmaric
  • Asia: Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Javanese and English
  • Oceania: English, Malay and Tagalog

3.  Business

If you're looking for a leg-up in the business world and help your future career, then consider learning one of the most practical business languages. They include:
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • French
  • Arabic
  • Spanish
  • German
  • Russian
  • Portuguese
  • Japanese

4. Most used languages on the net

If you hope to watch shows and programs in your foreign language without needing to rely on subtitles, then learning one of the top 10 most used languages on the internet should be your goal. These languages include:
  • Chinese
  • Spanish
  • Arabic
  • Portuguese
  • Japanese
  • Russian
  • Malay
  • French
  • German

5. Literature

Finally, if your goal is to read literature that hasn't been translated into English or to be able to read religious texts in their original language, then perhaps learning a dead language is the choice for you. Some of the most practical dead languages to learn are:
  • Latin
  • Sanskrit
  • Old and Middle English
  • Ancient Greek
  • Biblical Hebrew
Discovering why you want to learn a new language and which language is the most realistic for your goals is a great way to determine which language you should learn.

Are you up for a  challenge?

Let's face it: learning any new language isn't easy. From vocabulary to pronunciation and all those tricky verbs, language learning is a time-consuming, difficult, and often frustrating process. Luckily for language learners, however, not all languages are equally difficult to learn.

As a general rule of thumb, a language is easier to learn when it's more linguistically similar to your native language, and more difficult when it's very different. So what does this mean for native English speakers?

Some languages are naturally easier--or more difficult--for English speakers to learn than others. As we saw in a previous post,  there are five basic language categories based on language's degree of similarity to English. Their characteristics determine the minimum length of training it takes reach general professional proficiency and, essentially, how easy or difficult they are to learn.

Group I:    Languages closely related to English

  • Afrikaans, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, French, Haitian Creole, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish    
  • Minimum length of training for proficiency: 23-24 Weeks (575-600 Hours)

Group II: Languages similar to English    

  • German    
  • Minimum length of training for proficiency: 30 weeks (750 hours)

Group III: Languages with linguistic and/or cultural differences from English    

  • Indonesian, Malaysian, Swahili    
  • Minimum length of training for proficiency: 36 Weeks (900 Hours)

Group IV: Languages with significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English

  • Amharic, Bengali, Burmese, Croation, Czech, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian, Mongolian, Nepali, Pashto, Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik), Pilipino, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Thai, Tamil, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese
  • Minimum length of training for proficiency: 44 Weeks (1,100 Hours)

Group V: Exceptionally difficult languages for native English speakers    

  • Arabic, Cantonese Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean    
  • Minimum length of training for proficiency: 88 Weeks (2,200 Hours)
You can use this chart to help determine which language will be easier or more difficult for you to learn.

If you're looking for a challenge and willing to learn a completely new alphabet and sounds, then consider learning a Category IV or V language. If, however, you'd prefer to stick to the Latin alphabet and sounds, then I'd recommend sticking with a Category I or II language.

Would you like your chosen language to be a good base for learning others?

Due to a mixture of geography, history, politics, and time, some languages evolved so that their alphabet, vocabulary and grammar are very similar.

When your friend tells you that Portuguese is easy because some words are "just like Spanish," she's not lying; there are some very similar words thanks to Latin's influence on both languages. Learning one of these languages can make understanding and learning the other much easier in the future. Some languages are even mutually intelligible, which means if you learn one, you can understand most of the other.

Here are some of the world's most spoken mutually intelligible languages:
  • Romance (Latin-based) languages: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Catalan, Galician
  • Germanic languages: German, Dutch, Afrikaans, West Frisian, Yiddish (spoken)
  • North Germanic languages: Danish, Norwegian, Swedish
  • Finno-Ugrian languages: Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian and Karelian
  • Uguz languages: Turkish, Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Crimean Tatar, Gaguaz, Urum
  • East Slavic languages: Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, spoken Polish
  • Southern Slavic languages: Bulgarian, Slovenian, Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, Serbo-Croatian, Montenegrin, Macedonian
  • Western Iranian languages: Persian, Farsi, spoken Dari, spoken Tajik
  • Hindustani languages: Hindi, Urdu
Learning any one of these languages can facilitate understanding and learning the other languages within the same group. It's a great way to get more bang for your buck when learning a language!

Is there anything else I should keep in mind when choosing a language?

There are two final, important aspects to keep in mind when deciding which language you would like to learn.

First of all, it's important to choose a language that you know can improve your life. The more a language can  help to improve your life, the more motivated you will be to learn it. The more motivated you are to learn it, the easier, more fun, and faster it will be to learn the language. Choose a language that will bring you personal fulfillment.

Finally, know which resources are available to you. Some languages are easier to study than others     simply because of the resources available to you in your neighborhood, city, country, or online. Studying a language with easily accessible resources can save you time and  money and help you to make your studies more varied, interactive and practical.  Keep this in mind when choosing your language.

Happy learning!

While learning a language can sometimes be a challenge, choosing which language to learn shouldn't be.
Just use these practical, easy-to-follow criteria as your personal language selection guide, and you'll be on the right track to language learning success.

What about you? How did you decide which language to learn?

By Andrea Reisenauer, guest blogger. Andrea Reisenauer is a language lover, ESL teacher Rocket Languages fan with a Master's degree in Translation. She speaks Spanish, Catalan, and Italian and is currently studying French.
Which Language Should You Learn?
Meages January 20, 2017, 3:31 am
So much good information here.  It is much easier today to learn a language today, so if you make it your hobby, like gardening or photography, it can be very rewarding.  Also it must always be fun, not a chore!
Which Language Should You Learn?
jparik January 20, 2017, 9:24 am
We Czechs use to say: i would like to have your doubts and Rotschild's money.....

This situation is much more simple for us,  it is not the subject of difficult consideration,  the second language that we have to study is the international communication tool - English (in form of bad English).  In past, during Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia we had been forced to study Russian for many years. There is only one situation, where this knowledge is useful - we can tell to them in their mother's tongue - "stay at home with your tanks you bloody bastards".
Than, because of location of our small country in the middle of Continent is very useful to be able to speak and understand German.

Well, once you are able to speak basic English and basic German, you can travel, mostly everywhere in Europe...Read More
We Czechs use to say: i would like to have your doubts and Rotschild's money.....

This situation is much more simple for us,  it is not the subject of difficult consideration,  the second language that we have to study is the international communication tool - English (in form of bad English).  In past, during Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia we had been forced to study Russian for many years. There is only one situation, where this knowledge is useful - we can tell to them in their mother's tongue - "stay at home with your tanks you bloody bastards".
Than, because of location of our small country in the middle of Continent is very useful to be able to speak and understand German.

Well, once you are able to speak basic English and basic German, you can travel, mostly everywhere in Europe.
With two exceptions: Spain and France.
Spanish are mostly not able, French are able but they simply do not want.

So what to study next, when you are able communicate in Czech and Russian (it means you are able to understand all Slavonic languages), you can use English with some limits, German and Spanish as well?

For sure:  French.
It is the real challenge !
 
Which Language Should You Learn?
loudoniii January 20, 2017, 10:03 am
Great article, Jason.

I must be a glutton for punishment, because - as a native English speaker - I am learning one Group I language: Spanish, which is not too difficult for me, but also one Group IV language: Russian, where the Cyrillic script and unusual pronunciation make it quite  a bit harder to learn, but a lot of fun!

Having lived and worked in the Middle East for many years, I already speak some Arabic - a Group V language - but never did master the written script with its 100+ letters.  My daughter and son-in-law are off next month to live in the Middle East, so maybe I need to brush up my Arabic too ...  My son-in-law and his family are Spanish speakers, hence the incentive to me to learn Spanish, as I have native speakers at hand with whom to practice...Read More
Great article, Jason.

I must be a glutton for punishment, because - as a native English speaker - I am learning one Group I language: Spanish, which is not too difficult for me, but also one Group IV language: Russian, where the Cyrillic script and unusual pronunciation make it quite  a bit harder to learn, but a lot of fun!

Having lived and worked in the Middle East for many years, I already speak some Arabic - a Group V language - but never did master the written script with its 100+ letters.  My daughter and son-in-law are off next month to live in the Middle East, so maybe I need to brush up my Arabic too ...  My son-in-law and his family are Spanish speakers, hence the incentive to me to learn Spanish, as I have native speakers at hand with whom to practice.

I must say the Rocket Languages platform is a great way to learn a new language.  I like to make sure I can learn to read and write each new word and phrase, as well as say it, so Rocket Languages makes that a more thorough process, which cements the learning that much better, I find. 

I do think there is more Rocket could do to facilitate a learning network for language learners, and any progress on this would be very useful, so we native English speakers, say, could help Spanish learners, and vice versa - same idea applies to all languages.  Even a simple pen-pal system for learners would be very helpful, and should be easy to add to the platform.

Thanks again for providing with such a great learning experience.

¡Gracias!   Сиасибо!
Which Language Should You Learn?
Diana-S1 January 20, 2017, 6:30 pm
A very interesting and informative article.

Based on where I live near Vancouver, Canada, if I were to learn a language widely spoken in the area, it would be Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, or Punjabi, in that order.  On the streets and in the stores of my home town, I hear a lot of Punjabi.  Our country's other official language (French) is rarely heard in our area.

I liked Andrea's notes  on languages similar to, or closely related to English, including French.  Because of the two languages' close relationship, it's amazing what I've learned about English by studying French.  Hence, to gain a better understand of one's own language could be another reason for choosing a particular language.

I'm not sure what jparik meant by the French are able but they simply do not want...Read More
A very interesting and informative article.

Based on where I live near Vancouver, Canada, if I were to learn a language widely spoken in the area, it would be Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, or Punjabi, in that order.  On the streets and in the stores of my home town, I hear a lot of Punjabi.  Our country's other official language (French) is rarely heard in our area.

I liked Andrea's notes  on languages similar to, or closely related to English, including French.  Because of the two languages' close relationship, it's amazing what I've learned about English by studying French.  Hence, to gain a better understand of one's own language could be another reason for choosing a particular language.

I'm not sure what jparik meant by the French are able but they simply do not want.  In 2013 and again this past summer, I spent a total of one month in France, in widely diverse geographic areas.  My experience was that if the person with whom I was talking guessed I was fluent with English, we didn't speak French; he/she saw me as a good opportunity to practice English.  On the other hand, many French are also fluent in English and readily used it.  Either way, it was handy for me because the other person was better with English than I was with French; on the other hand, I missed the opportunity to practice French.

Finally, Jason, I like your informative articles and read them with interest.  Thank you.
Which Language Should You Learn?
jason-oxenham-ceo January 21, 2017, 9:32 pm
Hi Meages - I agree! making it fun and interesting is key.

Hi Jparik - That's really interesting. I did not know that about Czechoslovakia.

Hi Loudonii - Some form of chatroom is on the cards. With regards pairing, say, English speakers and Spanish speakers, we do have a limitation as most of our courses are for people who have English as their mother tongue. So, finding (enough) native Spanish speakers for instance will be tough.

Hi Diana - Thanks for the feedback. And I totally agree with your French experience
Which Language Should You Learn?
BengalCatLady January 22, 2017, 7:12 am
I am another of the masochists - despite struggling with languages through school and having great difficulty every time I've tried to learn them, I am studying Japanese.  Plus trying to brush up my school level Spanish a little on the side.

If I ever master Japanese - an unlikely scenario as I desperately try and remember not even all the hiragana, without even starting on katakana - the next language I would like to do seriously is Arabic.  I really must be crazy. 
Which Language Should You Learn?
drewster January 23, 2017, 10:47 am
Andrea, wow! Japanese & Arabic?! I'm just doing one of the easy ones and finding it hard enough!

I started with Italian because I was going there, but I continue really only because I love it. I've always wanted to speak another language and I'm not there, but I finally feel like I'm getting somewhere. Another year maybe ....
Which Language Should You Learn?
BengalCatLady January 23, 2017, 11:24 am
I haven't actually started Arabic!  I would just like to one day.  I have a very long way to go on Japanese first.

Italian sounds fun and a great excuse to take another holiday  
Which Language Should You Learn?
drewster January 23, 2017, 12:05 pm
Japanese looks really interesting but I'd worry (for me) about never getting to conversational fluency. How are you going with it?

I've been going at Italian now for nearly 12 months and I'd say I'm somewhere between a high beginner and a low intermediate. 
Which Language Should You Learn?
jvezina January 23, 2017, 1:51 pm
I decided to finally forge ahead with learning a new language(Spanish) for business and also travel.   Got off to a good start with Duolingo, but wanted to ramp up my efforts so did a lot of research on paid options.  I settled on Rocket Spanish and this article is just one reason why I am so glad I did!  I am only on day 4 but the clarity of the lessons and activities combined with the wealth of resources has made me very confident that I made the right choice.  ¡Muchos Gracias! Rocket Languages!
Which Language Should You Learn?
BengalCatLady January 23, 2017, 1:55 pm
Conversation is not the biggest problem - that's reading.  Because who needs one writing system when you can have three.  Kanji  *shudders*

Conversation was challenging when I was in Japan, big cities there is normally someone who speaks English but not small places.  But miming and trying to communicate was half the fun (although it didn't feel that way when half way up a hill and someone stopped to offer me a lift, with great challenge to direct them where when I didn't really know either!!)

Started on here and I'm doing evening classes once a week as well (although only on term two so not very far along at al)l.
Which Language Should You Learn?
drewster January 23, 2017, 8:11 pm
That's really interesting. I've always thought that a language in non-English script would be very difficult for just that reason. In Italian, like most others I'd imagine, it's reading, writing, listening, speaking in that order, and speaking is very much harder than the other 3.

I use italki with a tutor once a week and that has been absolutely brilliant for listening and speaking. I start a face-to-face class next week for the first time.
Which Language Should You Learn?
BengalCatLady January 23, 2017, 8:39 pm
The order is the tests in Japanese, but writing is by far the hardest.  We also have interactive audio, language and culture and writing lessons (the third of which seems to be missing in Spanish at least) so you actually get more lessons for your money out of a Japanese course

If you ever want to check it out you can trial different languages even if you have a paid subscription to another language.  You probably already know that  but I didn't until recently when I thought I'd check out Spanish before deciding two languages at once was too hard for me.  It's a bit confusing as you need to be signed out of your account to sign up for the trial, but as long as you do so from the same email your account is registered from you can give other languages a go to see if they are really as difficult as you imagine...Read More
The order is the tests in Japanese, but writing is by far the hardest.  We also have interactive audio, language and culture and writing lessons (the third of which seems to be missing in Spanish at least) so you actually get more lessons for your money out of a Japanese course

If you ever want to check it out you can trial different languages even if you have a paid subscription to another language.  You probably already know that  but I didn't until recently when I thought I'd check out Spanish before deciding two languages at once was too hard for me.  It's a bit confusing as you need to be signed out of your account to sign up for the trial, but as long as you do so from the same email your account is registered from you can give other languages a go to see if they are really as difficult as you imagine.
 
Which Language Should You Learn?
drewster January 24, 2017, 6:30 am
I'll get there one day, but for the moment I want to get to a point where I feel I can really speak Italian. I'm nowhere near that yet, but I believe that it's feasible now where I once didn't. I'm really interested in how Mandarin works so maybe that's next. In 10 years or so.
Which Language Should You Learn?
michelesarti February 1, 2017, 11:30 am
I decided to learn Spanish because there are a lot of Spanish people at my job. Also one of my friends is from El Salvador, he has a lot of Salvadorian friends and when I go places with him, it's around others who for the most part only speak Spanish. My goal is to be able to understand what is being said and to respond intelligently. Sometimes I get frustrated because learning a new language is taking longer than I thought it would, but I am determined and will not give up.
Which Language Should You Learn?
KelllaurBailar February 1, 2017, 5:57 pm
I'm studying Spanish too, michelsarti, for some of the same reasons. Great to see that there's another learner with such resolve! It's well worth it once you pass the plateaus. 
Which Language Should You Learn?
jdk2100 February 6, 2017, 11:07 pm
Don't forget music! I started learning German originally through rap music  
Which Language Should You Learn?
KelllaurBailar February 7, 2017, 8:52 pm
Good of you to mention, @jdk2100, it's definitely a help in language-learning! 
Laura
Which Language Should You Learn?

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