7 Best Foreign Languages to Learn in 2016

Whether you’re seeking employment in a new country or you’re looking for an adventure abroad, it’s in your best interest to learn at least one different language. The world we live in today doesn’t feel as large and distant as it once did thanks to technology. And if you’re looking to break into the very difficult job market today, you’ll have a major leg-up if you know a language other than your native one. Learning a foreign language can also have great effects on the brain, says The Washington Post. It can boost your cognitive abilities and make you a quicker, better thinker. Here are the top seven foreign languages that you should be learning in 2016.

1. Spanish

language immersion

An online language immersion tool for Spanish | Source: iStock

For native English speakers, Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn, and it’s one of the most useful as well. Vista Wide explains that about 350 million people around the world speak Spanish. If you’re planning on vacationing anywhere from Mexico to Chile to Panama, having some Spanish under your belt will serve you well. Knowing Spanish also looks great on a resume — with the Hispanic population rapidly increasing and more employers looking to diversify their staff, speaking Spanish may be vital in landing your dream job.

2. French


France | Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Spanish is notoriously the easiest foreign language for English-speakers to learn, but if you’re looking for a language that translates even closer to English’s roots, then French is the winner. Business Insider explains that knowing French is key to being able to communicate anywhere in Europe and Africa. Yes, Africa. Half of the continent is French-speaking, and many Chinese corporations are moving into Africa because resources are cheap and plentiful. Africa is up-and-coming when it comes to global trade and growth, and five of these fastest growing countries speak mostly french.

From a business prospective, The Washington Post points to research that suggests that people who can speak French earn about $77,000 extra throughout their careers compared to those who don’t speak any foreign language. Learning French might be the moneymaking career move you’ve been waiting for.

3. Mandarin

One-fifth of the planet speaks Chinese and, according to Boston University, this means over 873 million people. China is the most populated country in the world while also being the second largest economy — and it’s America’s largest trading partner. If you’re thinking of going into business as a career path, then learning Mandarin is sure to put you way ahead of your competition.

If you’re not the business type, then don’t discount Mandarin just yet — there are many institutions in China that seek English-speaking natives to come and teach their langauge to Chinese students. This is a fantastic career opportunity that is only expanding, and the more Mandarin you know, the more fit for the position you’ll be.

4. Hindi

cycle rickshaw in Jaipur, India on a sunny day

Cycle rickshaw in India|Source: iStock

If you’re looking to get into the information technology, science, or digital media field, then Hindi should be your go-to foreign language to learn. Miami University explains that India has a growing economy, and many corporations that are looking to drive their sales in South Asia often look for Hindi speakers to hire. If you want to work for the government, then Hindi is a great language to learn. American consulates or foreign service officers that are positioned in India increase their rank and status by learning Hindi.

It’s also not so far removed from English anymore, as Indian culture is being brought more and more to the West. “Bollywood” films originated in India, and a lot of mainstream music has Indian roots. Not only will Hindi allow you to better understand and appreciate these growing trends, but if you’re the creative type, it could give you a leg-up on a job in the movie or music industry.

5. Arabic

Arabic may strike you as an uncommon foreign language to learn, but maybe that’s why it’s becoming more and more important for businesses to have employees who do. American Councils for International Education says that less than 1% of college students study Arabic. At the same time, U.S. government agencies are seeking out those who are fluent in Arabic. Because of the current affairs between the U.S. and the Middle East, it’s becoming increasingly important to know Arabic.

If you’re not looking to go into government business, that’s fine. Arabic will serve you well from a small business perspective, too. Many nonprofit and private businesses seek Arabic speakers to help negotiate international agreements, talk to overseas business partners, and teach the youth in Arabic-speaking countries.

6. Portuguese

Man traveling and learning while reading

Man traveling and learning while reading | Source: iStock

Not only is Portuguese a beautiful foreign language that’s closely related to other romantic languages, it’s also one of the most widely spoken in the world. Learning Portuguese is in high-demand for both English and Spanish speakers alike, and the demand is only growing. Student Travel Planning Guide says Portuguese speakers are highly sought for conducting business and international relations with Brazil. This South American country’s economy is rapidly on the rise, especially following this year’s Olympics and the 2014 World Cup. If you’re looking to travel to a beautiful destination and talk to the locals, then learning Brazilian Portuguese or European Portuguese can help you feel more connected to your chosen abroad destination.

7. Russian

Though you may not think Russian is a top foreign language to learn, it’s excellent for those who are a fan of the arts. Master Russian tells us some of the most notable writers in the world, such as Chekhov, Bunin, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky were all Russian, and being able to read their works in the original language would be a real treat. Russia is also known for its beautiful dancers and excellent musicians. To fully appreciate their arts, learning the language is a must.

Russia is also great for conducting business. Many Russian entrepreneurs are eager to conduct business abroad, but this means you should know their language, too. Many U.S. business leaders see that Russia’s size and resources make them an ideal country to do business with, so don’t be too surprised when learning Russian becomes a desired skill in your trade.

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