Here's a riddle for 2020: What do languages and wealthy people have in common?
Only a small percentage of them dominate the world.
As of today, there are over 7,000 living languages in existence, but just 23 of them account for more than half the world's speakers. While English has been named the world's "most influential language," mostly due to its historical role as the lingua franca of various cultures (thanks to colonialism), languages like Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Hindi have been quickly growing as advancements in technology continue to make the world smaller.
While all languages have rich cultural history and not one has more intrinsic value than another, some languages will be more useful to you than others based on factors such as 1) number of speakers 2) your purposes (professional business? leisure?) and 3) geography.
As of 2020, there are over 1 billion English-speakers on the planet, including both native and non-native speakers. This West Germanic language is commonly spoken in about 20% of the world's countries.
Mandarin Chinese has long been a top choice as a secondary language thanks to China hosting the second largest economy in the world. Mandarin Chinese is notoriously challenging to learn, especially for native speakers of Romance languages (such as English, French, and Spanish), but with more than 1 billion speakers all over the world, you'll never want for a speaking partner–especially if you live in one of these countries with large Mandarin-speaking populations.
Over 400 million people speak Hindi as a first language (and an additional 120 million speak it as a second language). The Hindi language gets its name from the Persian word "hind," which translates to "land of the Indus River." Hindi is commonly spoken in India, Mauritius, Suriname, Nepal, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and South Africa.
Spanish has been one of the fastest growing languages since 1980.
Today, the Americas are home to the largest population of Spanish speakers in the world. Specifically (according to Rosetta Stone:
- Mexico has the most speakers with 110 million
- Colombia is second in line
- The USA is tied with Argentina at about 41 million
- Next, comes Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala and Cuba
- The Americas are home to around 470 million Spanish speakers.
French is the official language of 29 countries, with 275 million speakers on the planet. But surprisingly (or not so surprisingly, considering colonialism), the largest population of French speakers is in theDemocratic Republic of Congo (89,561,403). In second place is France (65,273,511), then Canada (37,742,154), and then Madagascar (27,691,018).
Arabic is the sixth most popular and useful language for 2020, as it's spoken in 22 countries.
With 199 million speakers, Indonesian is actually a standardized variation of Malay. Outside of Indonesia, it's spoken in large communities in the Netherlands, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the U.S.