Every Friday, we’ll be answering your questions about language learning, entrepreneurship, productivity and more.
Today’s question is: What Language Should I Learn?
Every once in awhile, we have students asking us what language they should learn.
In fact, a lot.
I’ve struggled with this myself when I started to become more interested in expanding my language base.
The top languages I wanted to learn were: Spanish, French, and Mandarin.
It wasn’t until I booked a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina that I forced myself to pick up Spanish. Throughout this quest of figuring out what language I should learn, I’ve had some time to research what the experts have to say about this, and I want to share my two cents with you today.
While we can’t tell you which language you should learn, we’re going to share with you some criteria to consider in order to help make the decision easier for you.
Most number of speakers shouldn’t be your only criteria
Sure, you’ll probably want to pick a popular language like Spanish, French, or Mandarin that a good portion of the world speaks. But once you’ve hit a benchmark, it should be more than just number of speakers you can reach.
There are twice as many Mandarin speakers than Spanish speakers, but does that make Mandarin a more important language to learn? Not at all.
“Looking at “most speakers” in terms of making a decision sometimes comes down to nothing more than ego. You get more “points” for the bigger number.
Even if you go live in the country, you’ll be unlikely to visit more than a handful of towns and come across the same number of speakers as you would in any other country.”
-Benny Lewis, Fluentin3months.com
Already speak a similar language?
This can be a strategic criteria to consider if your sole goal is to learn another language as fast as possible.
For example, learning how to speak Spanish is a lot easier if you already know how to speak English.
Versus, learning Mandarin can be slightly tricky because of how different the sentence structure, syntax, grammar, and many other components of the language are.
As we mentioned in our article, How to Learn Any Language in 90 Days, you should try to leverage all of your pre-existing knowledge to your favor before you set out on your language learning journey.
“Consider a new language like a new sport.
There are certain physical prerequisites (height is an advantage in basketball), rules (a runner must touch the bases in baseball), and so on that determine if you can become proficient at all, and—if so—how long it will take.
Languages are no different. What are your tools, and how do they fit with the rules of your target?”
-Tim Ferriss, Bestselling author of The Four-Hour Workweek
Best for your resume?
Knowing how to speak a foreign language is certainly an asset in the eyes of any employer.
But it’s become more of a pre-requisite today, since so many other people speak a foreign language.
What’s more important in our opinion is the context.
Knowing how to speak Spanish can be a great asset if you’re living in Europe, but it may be completely useless if you’re looking to work opportunities in Asia. You may also be in a job that doesn’t require you to know a second language right now (although it’s always good to be prepared).
How will you actually use the language?
So… the answer to your question: “What language should I learn?” It depends.
Instead of asking “What language should I learn”, we encourage you to ask yourself: “How will I actually use the language?”
Are you planning to travel to Europe this summer? Are you looking for a new job opportunity that may require you to work with foreign people? Or do you just love languages and want to discover a brand new culture?
Taking the necessary time to ask yourself this question will save you a boat load of time, energy, and money, as the last thing you want to do is purchase books or CD’s, if your end goal is to be able to speak the language.
Learning a new language is one of the most exciting journeys you can go on. But it’s no easy task. Having a deeply rooted purpose of why you’re learning the language, and how you plan to use it will help you go miles further than learning for the sake of learning.
I hope this helped clarify your thinking process when it comes to answering your own question of “what language should I learn?” You’re about to embark on an eventful journey, no matter what language you decide to learn, and I look forward to hearing how it goes!
Your Turn: Ask Rype Anything
I’d love for this new weekly segment to be successful, and provide a valuable repository of answers from our entire community for language learners, professionals, and entrepreneurs everywhere.
To do that, I need your help.
Here’s what you can do to get involved:
- Ask questions. Post them in the comments of this post, or Tweet them to us at @rype_app
- Answer questions. Every Friday, we’ll post a new Q&A segment. If you have anything to add or share regarding any of the questions asked, jump in! Many of you are far more qualified than I to speak on some of the topics that people ask me about.
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