There are a lot of languages out there and choosing the right one to learn is a big question. If you’re reading this right now, then you already know English which is undeniably the most important language to learn in the 21st century. What about after that? Of course, pursuing your personal interests is always one of the best options. But what if you want to study a language that will prove to be notably important and useful in our increasingly globalized world? What are the most useful languages to learn in the 21st century?
Portuguese is the 6th most spoken language in the world with 220 million native speakers. Most notably known as the language of Brazil, Portuguese is also spoken by notable populations in Portugal, Angola, and Mozambique. Brazil is one of the world’s greatest recent economic success stories, with an enormous and growing middle class. The country’s image, and in turn business prospects, is sure to only improve with the coming 2014 Brazil World Cup and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Angola as has also been booming recently, with one of the highest economic growth rates in the world. Given the current positioning of Portuguese vis-a-vis Brazil in particular, there is no question that the language will become ever-more-important this century.
Keep an eye out for OpenLanguage Portugese coming soon!
Russian is the 8th most spoken language in the world with 155 million native speakers and is an official language of the United Nations.. These speakers are stretched out over a huge swath of land from a number of former USSR republics in Eastern Europe through to Russia which extends all the way to East Asia. In recent years, Russia and other Russian-Speaking former-USSR republics have played host to surging economies, in part due to large populations now participating in the global economy and the significant reserves of natural resources, all of which will give those with a knowledge of Russian great advantages in the business realm this century. Recent international disputes involving Russia and the Ukraine also highlight the continued strategic importance of this language in the post-Cold War era.
Arabic is the 5th most spoken language in the world with 295 million native speakers. Arabic is spoken across the Middle East, North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula and is an official language of the United Nations. The Arabic-speaking world is home to extremely disparate countries and populations, some economically vibrant and playing an increasingly important role in globe such as Qatar and Dubai and others, like Syria, embroiled in intractable warfare and the focus of international security and welfare efforts. With nations and populations in all positions between those two ends of the spectrum, it’s undeniable that a knowledge of Arabic will help you engage with what is one of the most dynamic regions of the world.
Spanish is the 2nd most spoken language in the world with 405 million native speakers and is an official language of the United Nations. Spanish is the official language of Spain and the majority of countries in Latin America from Central America down to the bottom tip of South America, in addition to being widely spoken in the United States and Canada. Despite the global economic downturn in 2008, Latin American economies have continued to post strong and stable growth rates in recent years. In countries like Mexico, Colombia, and Chile, strong middle classes are emerging that are tech-savvy, educated, and ready to engage the world. The huge potential of the populations of Spanish-speaking Latin America is only now starting to show itself, and a knowledge of Spanish will ensure that you’ll be able to explore this world as it blossoms.
Chinese (Mandarin) is the most spoken language in the world with 955 million native speakers and is one of the official languages of the United Nations. Spoken predominantly in mainland China, Mandarin is also spoken in Taiwan, Singapore, and throughout the Chinese diapsora. Everyone everywhere as of late has been talking about China’s economic rise of the last few decades, with the country looking to become the largest economy in the world very soon. With hundreds of millions of Chinese now looking to do business and travel in the rest of the world, a knowledge of Chinese will open up enormous opportunities in the 21st century.