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10 Languages To Learn Now

One thing that I find the most rewarding while travelling is conversing in the local language. Miming and writing "I am vegetarian" on a scrap of paper can get you through day-to-day, but learning a few key phrases can take you from just another tourist to someone worth bothering with. Having considered various factors, including number of speakers, countries spoken in, ease of learning and status as a second language, here are my ten most useful languages to learn.

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1. English

First language speakers 4.67%

Number of first language speakers 339 million

Continents spoken on all

Countries spoken in 106

Used by UN yes

Although English has less first language speakers than Mandarin and Spanish, it is the most widely spoken of all second languages.

English is spoken as a first language by more than 330 million people, as well as a second language by more than 600 million. It is the official language for more than 20 countries in Africa; most of Oceania and the Caribbean; North America, Belize in Central America, and Guyana in South America, as well as countries across Asia and Europe.

2. Mandarin

First language speakers 11.82%

Number of first language speakers 897 million (1st)

Continents spoken on one

Countries spoken in 14

Used by UN yes

Number of weeks to gain basic proficiency 88 weeks

On Duolingo/Memrise no/yes

I've got my ticket 我有我的票

With China's population exceeding 1.3 billion, it's hardly surprising that standard Chinese or Mandarin has the largest number of speakers. More than 900 million people speak Mandarin across China, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.

3. Spanish

First language speakers 5.77%

Number of first language speakers 427 million (2nd)

Continents spoken on three

Countries spoken in 31

Used by UN yes

Number of weeks to gain basic proficiency 24 weeks

On Duolingo/Memrise yes/yes

I've got my ticket tengo mi boleto

Spanish is the official language for every country in South America (with the exception of Brazil and Guyana), most of the Central American countries, Equatorial Guinea in Africa, and of course Spain. The US also sees 12.9% of its population speaking Spanish as their first language.

4. French

First language speakers <1.09%

Number of first language speakers 75.9 million (14th)

Continents spoken on four

Countries spoken in 53

Used by UN yes

Number of weeks to gain basic proficiency 30 weeks

On Duolingo/Memrise yes/yes

I've got my ticket je dois mon billet

French remains the official language for more than 20 countries in Africa, it is also spoken in Canada, Haiti and Vanuatu as well as in parts of seven European countries.

5. Arabic

First language speakers 3.3%

Number of first language speakers 267 million (4th)

Continents spoken on two

Countries spoken in 58

Used by UN yes

Number of weeks to gain basic proficiency 88 weeks

On Duolingo/Memrise no/yes

I've got my ticket لدي تذكرتي

Arabic is widely spoken in Africa and the middle east, including Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Sudan; as well as Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. An approximate additional 300 million people speak Arabic as their second language.

6. Hindi

First language speakers 3.62%

Number of first language speakers 260 million (5th)

Continents spoken on one

Countries spoken in four

Used by UN no

Number of weeks to gain basic proficiency 44 weeks

On Duolingo/Memrise no/yes

I've got my ticket मैं अपने टिकट है

Hindi is India's official language with English and is also spoke in a similar form in Fiji. Much of Hindi's vocabulary is derived from Sanskrit.

7. Russian

First language speakers 2.33%

Number of first language speakers 171 million (8th)

Continents spoken on two

Countries spoken in 17

Used by UN yes

Number of weeks to gain basic proficiency 44 weeks

On Duolingo/Memrise yes/yes

I've got my ticket У меня есть мой билет

Russian is spoken by the Russian Federation's population of 144 million, as well as in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

8. Portuguese

First language speakers 2.83%

Number of first language speakers 202 million (6th)

Continents spoken on four

Countries spoken in 12

Used by UN no

Number of weeks to gain basic proficiency 24 weeks

On Duolingo/Memrise yes/yes

I've got my ticket eu tenho o meu bilhete

The majority of Portuguese's speakers live in Brazil. However, it also has speakers in Africa, Macau (with Cantonese) as well as its namesake Portugal, in Europe.

9. Bengali

First language speakers 2.69%

Number of first language speakers 189 million (7th)

Continents spoken on one

Countries spoken in four

Used by UN no

Number of weeks to gain basic proficiency 44 weeks

On Duolingo/Memrise no/yes

I've got my ticket আমি আমার টিকেট আছে

Bengali aka Bangla is the main language in Bangladesh and the second most spoken in India. An additional 19 million speak Bengali as their second language in Bangladesh.

10. Malay

First language speakers <1.09%

Number of first language speakers 60.6 million (23rd)

Continents spoken on one

Countries spoken in 16

Used by UN no

Number of weeks to gain basic proficiency 36 weeks

On Duolingo/Memrise no/yes

I've got my ticket i mempunyai tiket saya

Versions of the Malay language can be found in Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia. Depending on the region, Malay is also referred to as Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Melayu.

Resources

First language speakers  The World Factbook

Number of first language speakers  Ethnologue 

Continents spoken on  The World Factbook

Countries spoken in  Ethnologue

Used by UN  The World Factbook [The UN uses six languages amounting to more than 50% of the population's first or second language]

Number of weeks to gain basic proficiency Foreign Service Institute – U.S. Department of State [for a native English-speaker]

On Duolingo/Memrise

I've got my ticket  Google Translate

First published on www.ivegotmyticket.com

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