Best languages to study

According to an article I came across in the Daily Telegraph today, the best / most useful languages to study, for those in the UK, are:

1. German
2. French
3. Spanish
4. Mandarin
5. Polish
6. Arabic
7. Cantonese
8. Russian
9. Japanese
10. Portuguese

The reasons why each language is useful vary quite a bit. For example Brazil is the sixth largest economy in the world and will be hosting the next (football) World Cup and Summer Olympics; apparently Russia is the UK’s fastest-growing major export market; and Poland is the largest consumer market in the EU. Languages valued by UK employers includes German, French, Spanish, Polish and Mandarin.

If a language is useful or in demand by employers, that’s quite a good reason to study it, but if you that’s your only reason for choosing a particular language, studying it might seem like hard work. If you also have an interest in the language itself, the culture of those who speak and/or the places where it’s spoken, you’re more likely to enjoy your studies and became proficient in the language.

Have you studied any languages solely because you thought they might be useful?

One of the comments on the article suggest that it is better to study a vocational subject such as science, medicine or law and to study a language as a secondary subject, rather than just focusing on a langauge. Another comment states that a university in a language or languages isn’t particular useful if you don’t have other skills.

6 thoughts on “Best languages to study

  1. and Poland is the largest consumer market in the EU
    In the new EU countries, perhaps, but certainly not in the EU as a whole.

    it is better to study a vocational subject such as science, medicine or law and to study a language as a secondary subject, rather than just focusing on a langauge
    This. Also, yes. And not to forget, oh my God yes. Focusing solely on languages will get you nowhere (in terms of employability) and I can attest to that based on copious amounts of personal experience. More specifically, if you focus on languages, you can become a translator / interpreter and that’s it. Even in NLP and any related area, you can’t rely on language skills alone, but with some programming skills, it’s a whole another story.

  2. Useful – that’s subjective. I am going to study Swedish after summer because in a few years I want to move to Sweden, so it’s going to be very useful to me! 😉

  3. I have always studied languages just because it’s fun. Languages and words and names are something very important to me. The downside of being so interested in them all is that I don’t get fluent in any of them, because I only scratch the surface before rushing towards the next language.

    In university I studied Latin, Classical Greek, Sanskrit, Ancient Egyptian, Old Irish, Skolt Sami – and Spanish. Not very useful, I might say. Even Spanish I only took because I like the sound of it. Of Old Irish I only remember one verse of a poem: “Messe ocus Pangur Bán”. I like cats as well.

    So in my case, the most useful languages are the ones that bring me the greatest joy. Typical of me is the fact that after writing the sentence with the word “rush” in it, I went to Wiktionary to check the word out, and found out it shares a common origin with the words “hurry” and “horse”. Fascinating, languages are.

  4. I study languages based on where I’d like to travel in the world, that’s pretty much my only criteria (occasionally other things figure into it, but they’re never as important as that).

    I study languages because I want to be able to talk to the people who speak them.


  5. Learning a new language can be very difficult with new grammar rules and hard to pronounce words.Some questions you may want to ask yourself before learning a language are how confident you are in learning that language?Another might be does the language really appeal to you?With anything we do in life to improve ourselves,we should really be motivated.One such language method that helps us get started with gaining knowledge of a new language is the Pimsleur method.This method has a long list of benefits!

  6. as Brazilian and based (more or less) in the economic reasons pointed by BBC, I would say that the language list here would be
    1-English (still number 1)
    2-Mandarin (increasing interest very fast)
    3-Spanish (great number of country neighbours and Mercosul)
    4-Japanese (we had in past a high level of immigrants who are now in 4th/5th generation going and coming back from/to Japan)
    5- Italian (investiments and immigrants from past
    6- French (it was lingua franca in past, nowadays more for culture)

    from 7 to 10 we don’t have but we could consider Russian and Arabic for commercial purposes, they aren’t rule

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