Top 5 most useful languages to know

This is one of those “just for fun” posts.  I came across this table at the how to learn any language forum.  Very interesting stuff.  I don’t know how to fact check any of it, but it started to make me think about which one would be the most useful language to learn.  Assuming that all the data in the table is accurate and up to date(and you know what happens when you assume) I decided to rank the languages based on what I think would be the most useful.

What criteria do you use?

(For those who don’t like to hear long-winded answers on how or why I ranked them should just skip down to the rankings now before you fall asleep)

This is how I ranked them.  I gave 5 points to the language the had the highest amount of countries and 4 to the second and so on.  To clarify this could be countries that officially recognize it, or that have a significant community who speak it(USA would be a Spanish-speaking country as well as an english speaking country by this definition).  I then proceeded to follow the same procedure to those languages that had the highest amount of speakers.  This means 15 points for the languages with the highest amount of countries and 15 for those languages that have the highest amount of people.  My logic is to weigh those two criteria equally, because if you base it solely on the number of speakers you may not be able to use it in more than 4 places.

Once I added all the points up I still had a few tie breakers.  First I gave the one with the higher “popularity” score preference.  The reason is that if its more popular, I am more likely to meet someone who is learning it and, therefore, “use” it.  If that was equal I then gave the language that represented the highest economy preference.  Logic was that if all else was equal, the largest economy would probably give more reason to use it and therefore make it more useful.

So how did they rank?

We will do this back wards starting with number five and ending with number one, but I do want to mention that there were two honorable mentions.  The first one will be mentioned in a moment, but the second is Russian.  Russian scored one point for having the 5th highest total speakers.  To be honest I didn’t know they spoke Russian outside of Russia(shows how dumb I am).  For that Russian gets mentioned, but not listed.  Now for the list you have all been waiting for:

5.  French. 

French and Hindi were tied for 5th place.  French was 3rd highest for countries that speak that language and Hindi was in 3rd place for number of people who speak the language.  neither of them scored points in the opposite categories.  This means that I had to go to a tie-breaker.  This is where French won.  It received 4 out of 5 hearts on the popularity scale and Hindi only received 2.  So French wins the 5th spot, but Hindi does get 1st honorable mention for coming in at a close 6th place.

4.  Arabic

Arabic got 4 points for being the second highest amount of countries that speak the language.  It only received one point for the highest number of speakers due to it being the 5th highest number of native speakers.  Arabic ended up being tied with the number three most useful language on my list, but it ultimately lost to a tie breaker.  When I went to the first tie breaker, it tied the 3rd in popularity with 3 hearts each.  Arabic finally lost  in economic influence and you will see why in the next section.

3.  Mandarin

Mandarin has the highest amount of speakers and scored all 5 points for that.  Unfortunately, there are only 4 countries that have Mandarin as a significant community or official status.  This means it didn’t even come close to scoring on the number of countries category.  Despite only having 4 countries that use Mandarin, it does represent a significant economic influence.  Those 4 countries(mainly due to China) represent about $1127 billion US dollars in economic influence.  The Arabic nations represented $694 billion US dollars.  So Mandarin beats out Arabic due to its economic influence in the world.

2.  English

My birth language lost by one point to get the number two spot.  It got 2 points for its 4th place spot in the number of countries that speak it, but it received 4 points for being the 2nd highest number of speakers in the world. I know everyone will say that English is the defacto universal language of the world.  And to you I say: Make your own list.  Being 2nd on a list of 5 very powerful languages is no small thing.


Wait for it…….Spanish!  Spanish received 5 points for having the highest number countries (over 20!).  It only received 2 points for highest number of speakers.  Despite all that, it inched out English as the most useful language in the world to learn.

So what does this prove?

This proves absolutely nothing!  This was a “just for the fun of it” post.  First of all, I don’t have anyway to verify any of the date in the table and therefore can’t even tell you if my very unscientific analysis is worth the time to read it (I am guessing not).  Secondly, the most useful language for anyone to learn is the one they want to learn.  Maybe you have Japanese family or in-laws.  Maybe your company does business in the Philippines and Tagalog is more useful to you.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.  Everything is always relative.

But it does make you think, if you could speak those 5 languages, you could go to many places and talk to many people!  If you take into consideration the languages with common families, you could go very far in the world with just those 5 under your belt.

Agree?  Disagree?  Got your own list?  Just comment down below.  It would be very interesting conversation.



Filed under Motivation, Opinions, spanish

2 responses to “Top 5 most useful languages to know

  1. Sarah (WannabeBallerina)

    It’s interesting to try to put the “value” of languages in some order. I recently wanted to take on a new language and couldn’t pick between Mandarin, Arabic and Russian. I think Mandarin is probably the most useful in reality but I chose Russian because it was the one that interested me the most. Sometimes the heart overrules the head. Best of luck with the Spanish!

    • Thats exactly what the final comment was about. I made the list for the fun of it and so it would make people think, but the most useful language for any given person will be different. Plus useful does not make the language desirable. As of this moment in time I am not really someone wou would want to learn arabic. This could change, but its kinda like playdoh ice cream to me. Do I do not hate it and would gladley eat it if that was what was available, but when given the choice I would rather eat other ice cream flavors. Honestly I have considered learning Japanese next, so definately learn the language you want to learn. Good luck on Russian and enjoy the journey to fluency.

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