When it comes to learning a foreign language, statistics show that only 25% of high school students in the United States take foreign language classes. On the other hand, a survey from 2019 has shown that 96% of secondary education students in the EU were learning English as a foreign language.
The point here is that if you’ve already learned one foreign language, you’ll be more likely to try to learn another. And it will be easier for you because you already understand how it works.
But, whether you’ve learned a foreign language before or this is your first time, you can definitely become fluent in a new language even if you pursue it as an adult. It’s simply a matter of motivation and time invested.
There are a few things you should think about before deciding which language to learn first. To help you choose well, we’ve put together a list of factors to consider.
How Difficult Is the Language?
Although there is no simple language, some are among the simplest to learn. Others, on the other hand, require a significant amount of time to reach a higher level of fluency and become significantly more difficult.
Language learning is a difficult process that requires serious dedication. Fortunately, there are various techniques that can be used to make the process smoother and help you succeed, but at the end of the day, some languages are simply harder to master than others.
How difficult a language will be for you to learn depends on a number of both individual and general factors, including:
how different it is compared to your mother tongue
your interest and motivation to learn
related languages that you have already learned
the accessibility of learning resources
For instance, if you don’t plan to invest more than two years, it’s pointless to choose linguistically complex languages like Turkish, Farsi, Arabic, Polish, Cantonese, Finnish, or Hungarian.
Instead, consider one of the simpler languages, such as Portuguese, Spanish, or Italian, that you can master within a comparatively shorter time frame.
Also, not that some languages have a close relationship because they share a common root.
If you are a Spanish speaker, for example, learning Portuguese as a foreign language would be a piece of cake. Similarly, as a person who speaks German, you will probably find Dutch easy.
Accessibility of Appropriate Learning Materials
To learn a foreign language, you’ll need plenty of useful resources, such as phrasebooks, pronunciation guides, various apps, and video lectures. There will be plenty of courses and books available for the most popular languages, but there may not be as many for less popular languages.
If you’re learning a foreign language for the very first time, it’s generally a good idea to pick one with a large number of learning materials. That way, you can test out various learning resources to see which ones work best for you.
The Internet is a great source of resources for the language you plan to learn. You don’t have to live near its country of origin or even near a bookstore that sells all the materials you need.
The overall idea is to focus on finding content that is written in the foreign language you are trying to learn. You’ll make the most of the process and absorb new knowledge faster by exposing yourself to this language as much as possible.
Preferably, you should try practicing your speaking ability with native speakers on a regular basis. Of course, it will be easier to organize if you already have relatives or friends who can assist you. However, if there aren’t any native speakers that you know, the Internet is a fantastic place for finding them.
Job and Career Opportunities
Communication skills are a major asset to have on your CV and a big plus if you want to work in a company with international clients. Depending on your industry, recruiters might be especially looking for Spanish, French, German, Chinese, or Japanese.
Choose a region where your industry or company is doing a lot of business. You can never predict where your career or life will take you. If you speak another language, you will be in a better position to take advantage of global job opportunities.
International relations, travel, and hospitality are just a few of the huge industry sectors looking for multilingual employees. Speaking more than one language fluently may even be a requirement for some roles.
You can also work as a translator, teacher, interpreter, or tour guide if you know a foreign language. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US, interpreters and translators are among the top five fastest-growing occupations, with opportunities expected to grow by 46% between 2012 and 2022.
Content marketing and copywriting are extremely popular freelancing careers where language also plays a central role. If you’re writing in English, you’ll have the advantage of a vast audience and many free tools, such as plagiarism checkers and grammar checkers, at your disposal. But with another language under your belt, you can expand your possibilities even beyond the English-speaking world.
Increasing Your Income
According to The Guardian, learning a language can increase your earnings by 10–15%. This demonstrates that learning a language is a smart investment for everyone, whether you’re looking to join a certain industry or broaden your opportunities in your current field.
Furthermore, salary bonuses differ depending on the languages employees are fluent in. According to The Economist, if you speak Spanish, you can get a 1.5% bonus, for speaking French 2.3% and 3.8% for German. This means that knowing how to speak a foreign language can earn you an extra $50,000 to $125,000.
Members of the United States military, for example, can earn up to $1,000 more per month if they are fluent in multiple languages.
Highest-Paid Foreign Languages
Learning Mandarin is one of the wisest business decisions you can make. At the current rate, China’s GDP will surpass that of the United States by 2029, and it is already the leading trading nation.
German is the language to learn if you want to further your studies, do business in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland, or improve your job opportunities in industries such as automobile, engineering, management, power and utility, and healthcare.
Spanish is widely spoken across the world, and it’s a great choice not only because it’s considered one of the simplest languages to learn. If you are interested in a career as a diplomat, teacher, translator, and travel field, this is your foreign language.
According to the World Economic Forum, Arabic is the fifth most powerful language in the world, and it is likely to rise further as trade with Arab countries expands. After all, this is the language of the world’s largest oil-rich country, so it can definitely be a lucrative choice.
Knowing how to speak French allows you to work with companies not only in France but also in other French-speaking countries such as Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, and North and Sub-Saharan Africa. France is an important economic partner because it has the world’s sixth-largest economy and the third most popular destination for foreign investment.
Consider all of the factors and determine which foreign language will be most beneficial to you. While you’re learning, stay persistent and don’t give up when things get difficult. With this and a lot of motivation, you’ll be fluent in no time.