Looking to learn a new language but don’t know where to start? Many English speakers choose to keep it simple and dust off a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish or conversational French. This seems like a good idea, but if it’s been some time since you last sat in a language class, you might be better off pursuing a new language entirely. If you’re pursuing linguistic study for career reasons, some languages are more rewarding for mothers. Before you start looking for a Portuguese tutor or scheduling a Spanish class, read on for our roundup of the top foreign languages you should consider.

1. German

German is the official language of no less than six countries, including Germany, Belgium, and Austria. Other countries like Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Switzerland are home to significant German-speaking populations. Worldwide, more than 130 million people speak German fluently. This makes it one of the most widespread European languages on the planet. Germany has long been Europe’s premier economy, making it an important destination for international business. If you’re considering a career in the automotive, pharmaceutical, or engineering sectors, German language skills are a must.

2. Arabic

With more than 300 million speakers worldwide, Arabic is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. However, when it comes to foreign language study, it’s been largely overlooked until recently. However, as more Middle Eastern territories become economic powerhouses, international businesses are putting a premium on employees who can speak Arabic fluently. Middle Eastern economies are experiencing rapid growth at the minute, making Arabic a vital language for international trade. Admittedly, it’s tricky for English speakers to master, but it’s well worth the time investment.

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3. French

Many people pick up a basic fluency in French during high school. However, few of us continue studying it in college and beyond. After English, French is the most widely spoken language in Europe. Since the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, member states are abandoning English as the language standard and looking to French as a replacement. Currently, there are more than 274 million French speakers scattered across the world. It’s particularly widespread, with French speakers located on almost every continent. In a few decades, it’s estimated there will be more than 700 million French speakers globally.

4. Portuguese

With a population of little more than 10 million, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Portuguese is a fairly rare language on the global stage. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Internationally, there are more than 226 million speakers. You’ll find Portuguese-speaking communities throughout Europe, South America, and Africa. Although Portuguese shares some similarities with Spanish, it’s widely considered a more accessible language for English speakers.

5. Mandarin Chinese

With more than 1.1 billion speakers, there are fewer better languages to learn than Mandarin Chinese if you’re looking to broaden your horizons. China’s economy has been on the rise for many years now and is set to outpace the United States in just a few years. As such, Mandarin Chinese plays a key role in international trade and business. International enterprises are actively looking for new talent that can speak Mandarin. If your chosen career path looks like it may intersect with the Asian markets, this is one language you’ll want to seriously consider learning.

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