Have you been planning a cultural trip abroad, where you can get an authentic experience by interacting with the locals? Are you waiting to begin a popular series because you want to be able to understand what the characters are saying? Do you need to learn a new tongue to get into your dream university? If you have answered in the affirmative to any of these questions, it is time to broaden your horizons by learning a new language.
Factors while deciding the best language to learn
Although there are more than 5000 languages in the world, around 20 languages account for more than half of the world’s population1. Choosing a language to study can be tough. But once you have decided to learn a new one, here are some factors that can help you make the right choice.
Selecting from a particular language family
Languages belong to different language families (languages that have a common language parent). There are about 6 to 10 major and more than 100 minor language families in the world. Each language family has a multitude of daughter languages in it. The Indo-European language family is considered the largest, with over 400 daughter languages. 2.9 billion speakers in the world speak languages that are a part of the Indo-European language family.
If you have been multilingual since a young age or are gifted for languages, you shouldn’t have a problem learning any language you like. But choosing languages from the same family can make your job a little easier. Suppose you already speak a Germanic language, say English. In that case, German, Swedish or Norwegian could be the best language to learn and less daunting, as sister languages share many common characteristics (vocabulary, syntax, and morphology).
One of the most common reasons to learn a new language is for job requirements or studies abroad. Many recruiters or companies look for bilingual or multilingual employees to facilitate communication with clients and understand the target audience. Chinese, Korean, German, and Japanese are currently some of the best languages to learn if you look at job prospects.
If you wish to study abroad, it is crucial to be able to speak the local language, even if your course is not in the native tongue. This will help you get through daily life and social events without any hassles and make your stay more comfortable. Student exchange programs are a rich source of gaining knowledge, experience, and exposure to different cultures. They are also one of the best ways to learn a new language. You have a better chance to get selected for these if you have learned the country’s language with which your school or university has an exchange program. If you have decided on which country you are heading to for your higher learning, the decision of language is much easier. E.g., If you choose to study in Germany due to the attractive fee structure in universities, it is very straightforward that your next language should be German!
Travel and exploring places
Knowing the local language can improve your travel experience and give you a chance to bond with the natives. This will give you a deeper insight into their culture, lifestyle and you may get some important travel tips too. Additionally, it helps to know the language and understand public transport routes, announcements at the station, or the dishes on a menu card, so you don’t end up going in the wrong direction or ordering something fishy. Safety is a priority while traveling, and if you know the local language, there is less chance that anyone with bad intentions will be able to fool you.
Migrating to a new place is a time-consuming process. But suppose you are learning or have already learnt the language of the country you wish to relocate to. In that case, you can easily take the language examinations and submit all your scores that are required for the application of visas, stay permits, or citizenship.
With more and more OTT platforms opening up, world entertainment is in the palm of our hands. If you are a movie buff or love to binge-watch on weekends, studying your favorite language will ensure that you don’t miss out on your preferred series because you can’t understand the accent or speed of the dialogues. If you want to watch a Spanish, Italian, Korean or Turkish drama, knowing the language will help you enjoy it and improve your language further. Watching shows in your target language is one of the best ways to learn a language. So, this is undoubtedly a double advantage.
If you are an arts, literature, fashion, or hotel management student, you are likely to have a keen interest in prose, poetry, trending fashion, history, and world cuisine. Knowing the language of your work domain or interests drastically improves your aesthetic experience and offers you a richer platter to consume from. Many history, archeology, or culture studies teachers and students take up learning dead or dying languages like Latin to better understand past events or significance of the languages on current trends.
Learning your native language
When we speak of learning a language, most people automatically think about the language of another country or continent. But it is just as important to be close to your roots. And knowing your mother tongue or the language of your ancestors is a good way to build that bridge into the past. Languages are often the biggest divider of generations in families. Kids growing up in the Internet age are not able to communicate well with their grandparents. Learning your native language can certainly lower this barrier and help everyone communicate with each other easily.
Availability of time and learning resources
It is imperative that you choose a language to learn, keeping in mind the resources you have at hand. This majorly includes time and money. Certain languages are easy enough to learn on your own too, and you will find tons of study material online. Many popular languages have no dearth of teachers. But if you decide to study languages that are dead or less popular, you might find it tough to find native speakers and good teachers. Finally, you must think about using that particular language in your life in the future to help you learn further.
Apart from being the cool person around the block who can speak many languages; or travel, study, shop, eat and work comfortably in different countries, language learning has many cognitive benefits. More than half of the world’s population speaks more than one language. In addition to the social and cultural advantages that knowing more than one language can bring to you, studies have shown many health benefits. Bilingualism is said to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease2. The language or code-switching happening in your brain, if you are multilingual, highly contributes to efficient multi-tasking 3.
As a language enthusiast, you have many choices. Carefully thinking about the above factors will help you choose a language according to your objectives to invest your resources and energy wisely. Which language one must learn is a subjective choice. There is no perfect option for every individual.