10 best languages to learn in 2019 (and why they’re useful)

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Wondering what the best languages to learn are?

Well, you may be drawn to a foreign language because you’re in love with a culture. Or perhaps you simply like the way it sounds.

But maybe you’re a bit more pragmatic.

Maybe it’s about maximising your opportunities – for business and work, or for travel.

If so, we’re here to give you a bit of inspiration. If you already know which language you’d like to learn, try Busuu today and start learning for free.

Read on for some of the best foreign languages to learn in 2019, and why they’re useful.

The best foreign language to learn in 2019

1. Arabic

The Arabic language is quickly becoming a seriously worthwhile investment for those hoping to reach the growing economies in the Middle East and Africa.

According to the World Economic Forum, it’s the 5th most powerful language in the world, and it will probably continue to climb ranks as trade continues to expand to and from Arab nations.

2. French

So, French turns out to be a slightly controversial one.

A 2014 New Republic article, for instance, claims that it’s time to stop pretending French is an important language for the world stage.

Others claim that Africa’s growth will help it become a must-know, where it remains the sole official language in 11 countries.  

So whether you want to travel to France, Quebec, or Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s still worth thinking about learning this lingua franca (pun intended) that could open some serious doors for your future.

3. German

While German is only really officially spoken in six countries (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein), it is spoken as a native language by around 100 million people.

Germany is the largest economy in Europe, making German an important language for international business and diplomacy.

4. Hindi

A bit of a surprise, as Hindi isn’t always at the top of everyone’s mind when it comes to foreign languages.

But if you remember our post about the most spoken languages in the world, it’s standing at an impressive #4 on the list, with 310 million native speakers.

Based on popularity alone, it would be a shame to miss out on the growing number of opportunities you’ll get to speak Hindi – not to mention the access it will give you to rich and fascinating cultures.

5. Mandarin Chinese

When Mark Zuckerberg publicly showed off his Mandarin skills, some were wowed, others amused, and others cynical.

Let’s face it:

Learning Mandarin is one of the smartest moves you can make for business. At the current rate, China’s GDP is set to overtake the US by 2029, and it’s already the world’s largest trading nation.

Of course, there’s a lot more to Mandarin than a good business opportunity.

It’s the most spoken language in the world – and the second most used online. So you’ll get plenty of opportunities to practise.

6. Portuguese

While you’ll be able to practise your Portuguese with more than 10 million people in Portugal, Brazil seems to be the next frontier for South American business.

Brazil is still the largest economy in Latin America, and it isn’t too hard to learn for native English speakers.

In fact, the British Council added Portuguese in the top 10 most important languages for the UK future, a clear indication that it offers a world of opportunities for education, diplomacy and of course foreign investment.

7. Spanish

The Spanish language can take you far.

Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Peru, Venezuela, Spain…just a few of the countries where you’ll be able to practice with more than 480 million native speakers across the globe.

Chances are if you’re reading this post, you already have a pretty clear idea as to what foreign language you’d like to learn.

But who knows, maybe you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket and add a third or fourth language to your skillset?

The good news is that with Busuu Premium, you don’t have to focus on one language only. You can learn up to 12 languages at once and at your own pace, ensuring you really put all the linguistic odds in your favour.

Feeling inspired yet?

13 COMMENTS

  1. 6000 languages (the 90% of all languages in the world) are dying during the XXIst century, and you’re still talking about useful, powerful, economic and most spoken languages?

    Language is a biological fact in human species, so this is racism to all those almost 7000 languages that (according to you) are not useful, powerful, economic and most spoken languages.

    • Well from a global perspective they aren’t as useful, economic or as widely spoken as the above. Yes they will be of value to people that speak them but a great many languages are only useful if you want to visit or do business with very small geographical areas. To the people who speak them, it is part of their identity but I’m guessing even they wouldn’t expect outsiders to want to learn them, unless that person specifically wanted to do business with that people group. With that in mind, the majority of those languages you are referring to are found in Africa. It’s a fact that Africa is less developed than the Western World (target audience) therefore they less economic and less widely spoken (and therefore less useful) again with the target audience in mind. I’ve been learning several African languages because I want to work there but I don’t see any particular economic value in anyone else over here learning them. To me the biggest benefit of learning more obscure languages is that it opens your mind to a different way of seeing the world.

      I’m also curious where you got your statistic that so many languages are dying out from?

      • First of all, my statistic is nothing new, I thought it was something well known on a site about language learning, but I think you can find it in any book about sociolinguistics or anthropolinguistics. Even ethnolog published and warned several times about the gravity of the situation, so maybe you can find it there. “The estimate was that only 10% of languages seem safe in the long term” this is in ethnolog.

        After this, I can explain tones of examples of people who studied chinese, russian, arabic, german, or god knows how many languages just “to get rich”, and they ended up working or getting paid the same amount as a person with a “local” language. Even less.

        No, the country is not Africa. The country is the world. There are endangered languages in my country, and I’m far of living in Africa. Also, I understand your point of view, because we (me and you and everyone) lived with it, but they ARE NOT less developed. Several languages in Africa, as you put the example, explain about things in the earth, like the sun, rain, rocks, trees and animals, and thousand different things that are necessary to survive in the world, things that someone wanting to make business with China doesn’t know about, therefore, developement is something rather subjective.

        As it comes to business with Africa, the Western World already did business with Africa, and they stole everything from it. And I’d say that the same thing happened to most of the endangered languages that are not worth learning, but on that, I don’t have any statistic.

        Last but not least, I ask please, please to understand, that at least in my country, it is illegal to compare products to sell one more than the other, and those products are human invented, but languages are not. They are not songs, they are not milk brands, they are, as I said, biological. So if comparing brands is illegal, I don’t know what should it be talking about the best tool human being has (languages) as “best, useful, powerful, economic” and a large etcetera. Because the worst thing is not to convince someone that speaks spanish that hindi is powerful (which it also is), but to convince someone that speaks galician, for example, that his language is useless, powerless, worse, less economic, and that’s what causes the extinction of languages.

        I happen to speak most of the languages in the list, but the most important for me is my first language, which is not even in the app, and I can assure you I have a lot of friends that a lot of people would love to make business or have a conversation with.

    • Tommy, it is not racism to say that today it is more important for economic reasons to learn spanish or portuguese than navajo or tongan. It is not that thèse language are not interesting but if you want to travel or doing business, they are not essential

      • “Racism is the belief in the superiority of one race over another, which often results in discrimination and prejudice towards people based on their race or ethnicity.” This comes on wikipedia but also in many dictionaries.

        Let me explain something. In Nicaragua in the 90s, they tried to teach to a group of deaf kids to talk, which is impossible, and never works out really good. Instead, when they left them in the room, they started communicating with each other and in ten years they developped, naturally, a sign language, as complex as yours and mine, that is, they could say ANYTHING you can say with your language. So, as I am telling you, it’s something that if we have the chance to develope, we do it, and for geographic matters, contact, etc etc, language changes, and creates what we understand by “languages”. Very similar as the skin color, hair, eyes. It reacts to your nature and that of your environment. As one of my colleagues in linguistics used to say, no french kid had throat ache when he learned to pronounce their “r”, or a khoisan when he started to make their “clicks”. So it’s as natural for them as any sound in your language is for you. Then, to see languages as an instrument to make money is somehow twisted, but this is not where I’m going.

        I’ll reach to something more personal. Not so long ago, a friend of mine told me that my language is useless because everyone that speaks it, speaks another major one. That friend also put the example of swedish, saying swedish is useless, since every swedish speaks english. I work as a linguist as profession, so I don’t get offended because I get this everyday, but many other people do get offended, and many other forget their language because they start to believe this sort of bull-youknowwhat. As a linguist I know all of the different steps of language extinction, and I’m seeing mine dying in front of my eyes (mine, and 6 more in my country, so in this sense is nothing that personal).

        Why is it racism? Language, as I said, is biological, somehow genetical, and evolves with us. Saying one language is better than the other, or useful, or even more musical, is talking about superiority. For 60000 thousand years, I’d say that most of the human conflicts are not because they spoke different languages, but because of bad intentions from a group of people towards the other. Yes, spanish is a very expanded language, but why? How many cultures (and I don’t want to come in with actual lives) did they kill? A real statistic is that since Colombus got to America, the number of languages is reduced to one half of them. They brought western world to america.
        It’s on the news how Bolsonaro in Brasil is pushing out the tribes Aruak, Baniwa and others to expand “business”, western culture, or portuguese (up there, on the list). So nothing comes on its own and everything is connected. The more people speak a language, the more twisted they become.

        And this is just the beginning. In my country I see three major languages in contact with each other. It’s funny how they fight and smile as if nothing happened, and then they make strong linguistic politics to protect their “rights”. It’s just like seeing another world war coming, but like a few decades in advance. Because let’s face it, major languages don’t want to share their piece of cake, but talking about wars that still not happened, it’s speculating too much.

        It’s on our hands, and the first step is to condemn this sort of “statements” like “10 best languages”, “useful”, “powerful”… Honestly, I see a lot of this, but this was worth interrupting. And it was not even me that saw it, but a colleague trying to keep this diversity going on…

        • For a person who is able to converse in a number of languages, and is so passionate on the subject; you supprise me. I would have thought, that the top priority in learning any language is to be understood by the people who speak it. So please allow me to give you a tip, it is a known fact that when a person is bored with a subject they’re thought process automatically tries to switch to something more interesting.
          You, sir are one of the most long winded, boring linguistic I have ever come across.
          I do though, hope you have enjoyed my post, as I have tried extremely hard to keep with what you know, by making this post as long winded and boring as possible.
          Having said that, I do so hope that I haven’t been too presumptuous in thinking that you like to read, in the same manner as you write 📝.
          If I have been too presumptuous, all is not lost, as the best way to learn by you’re mistakes made to others, is to experience how it feels. So in light of what I have just said, I will leave you with this parting statement: I hope you are now thoroughly bored and brain dead! 🤣

          • I’ll try to ignore the personal stuff adressed to me.
            Learning a language NOT ONLY allows you to talk, but also to understand a different culture with a different point of view, so technically you can do this from your sofa. Anyway I discovered this living among 40 people in the north of Siberia, that the gift was their culture, and people was the living culture.
            Yes, we do get bored with a subject and then switch it, but those “less developped” cultures and languages don’t do it, they keep working with the same all their lives, what makes them pretty good with what they do. Getting bored is something particular of the “best developped” western world people, we use, get bored and throw it to the trash, just like fast food.
            I do understand it is boring to read empiric facts not like facebook stuff “if you sleep more you will be a better person” (which I also read sometimes, I’m not a god, but you have to know it is just this, facebook stuff), and this real empiric facts are that 6000 languages are dying over the 21st century, that language is a special biological process from human species, and that talking about languages such as “best”, “worst”, “useful”, “useless”, is talking about the superiority and inferiority of a group of people.
            Many years ago it was quite boring to say that women should be able to work and get equally paid as men, but now we sort of crossed that line (sort of, not that we actually crossed it). But in these many years and in this precise moment, hundreds of women are being raped, murdered and thrown to swamps, so it’s late for crossing that line so far.
            I guess it will be a fashion to safe endangered languages, as it is to save the see, save the animals, the earth and even women (it hurts me real bad to see that in some cases it looks like a fashion and not a real problem), but it’s always too late. It is already too late, and it will be when it gets on fashion, so stop criticising each other, and stick to the point.

    • Tommy, That’s all lovely and spot on, from a linguists point of view.

      However, this article title does end with “and why they’re useful”. I get the feeling you’re an academic, as in, you haven’t been laid off suddenly, walked out of a building with a box of your stuff because the company’s stock didn’t do so well this year, receiving (no matter how many years you worked with that company) no severance, perhaps your 401k slashed due to whatever economic hellstorm lead to your lay-off to begin with, and unemployment benefit checks that won’t even cover your health insurance much less your rent, and for a maximum of 6 months at best. You feel in tone, to be in lofty union land of teaching.

      Or, perhaps you have been laid off, and are working 3 part time jobs to cobble your footing back after a layoff, and somehow also have the time to learn a dying language. Maybe you even have a job, in some academic culture, where you get weeks and weeks of vacation, certainly more than 15 days vacation per year.Perhaps you have delightful amounts of free time to learn dying languages, explore cultures, and fight the good fight against linguistic racism.

      For most of us, when we’re comparing the usefulness of languages to learn, it follows logically that they are considering business opportunities. I am, for instance, trying to figure out if it will do me more good to learn Hindustani or German, based on my career. Having experienced more than a few lay-offs, and now as a 50+ worker who has finally broken into IT, but also works heavily in EU marketing, I found this article very helpful.

  2. I can’t believe I have to say this but languages are not in our genes. The ability to use them is.

    Languages evolve memetically not genetically.

    • Not languages, language (the ability) and I said somehow. There’s not a sure knowledge about this. But even skin color is not in our genes, that’s why it’s not right to talk about races. We’re not dogs.

      But that doesn’t make right to say “The 10 best skin colors to wear this year”, does it?

  3. I think it is important to balance the value versus the difficulty. Assuming you are speaking to USAmericans, I would say the ease would be:

    1. Any language where you have some family background (parent, grandparent, etc.). Often 2nd generation does not retain their language, just “kinder Deutsh”. Go ahead and master that tongue, though (whatever it is). You will have a big advantage with partial knowledge. In addition, your pronunciation and just your willingness to chat, will be much higher.

    2. French/Spanish/German. English has strong Latin roots derived from French (not from Romans). This makes many words similar, especially more complicated ones. Spanish is similar. Doesn’t have the direct connect but is very logical (so is French but Spanish is even more regular). German has little trickier grammar but the basic words are very similar to Anglo Saxon English words: milk/Milch for example. All three of these are important world languages. And I would argue that even with the ascension of Asia, US and Europe remain extremely tied. In addition all 3 have much more similar cultures, which makes some aspects of language learning easier.

    4. After this I would put other Romance or Germanic languages as next easy.

    5. I am not an expert on the ease of different non-Aryan languages (Semetic, etc.) Probably most are difficult in that almost everything is new/different. The one thing to potentially watch out for is the need for learning different script, especially if non alphabetic (Chinese/Japanese).

    6. For European languages, Russian and Latin itself have reputations for being more difficult than normal in terms of grammar.

    7. Obviously you need to lay on top of that the importance metric. I agree with the importance of Arabic, Mandarin, etc. Just make sure not to ONLY look at importance, but also to look at effort required.

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