Language learning has many benefits. At the socio-cultural level, a new language means being introduced to a new culture, new traditions and new ways of conceptualizing the world. When you learn a second or third tongue you do not simply learn its linguistic system but you also learn its underlying cultural codes. Languages are not empty vessels and certainly are not culturally neutral.
At the cognitive level, the scientific literature abounds with research studies boasting the cognitive benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism. For instance, kids who speak two languages can “more easily solve problems that involve misleading cues”. Another study published in Psychological Science and cited by Melinda Wenner reveals that “after learning a second language, people never look at words the same way again.”
There are several reasons why people learn new languages. There are personal considerations (e.g., individual interests, travel, etc), career or professional considerations (e.g., seeking professional benefits, job promotions, etc). For instance, here in Canada, federal jobs require applicants to be bilingual speaking both French and English. There are also research considerations, political considerations, and even religious considerations for learning new languages.
Regardless of the reason why you want to learn a new language, there are certain factors to take into consideration before you embark on this learning journey. First, keep in mind that Language learning requires a prolonged commitment and dedication. Second, learning a language is not only about learning its grammar and syntax but also learning how to use it in culturally relevant ways. In order words, learning a new language goes hand in hand with developing cultural competencies in the selected language.
Third, learning a new language will forever change your perspective on many things, least of which is the way you see the world. It is no surprise then that a project with this importance requires that you make mindful decisions as to which new language is really deserving of your time and effort.
While there are no right or wrong languages to learn, languages are certainly not equal. Factors such as geo-politics, number of speakers, economy, among others, make certain languages more influential and popular than others. The list below features the 10 most spoken languages of the world in 2022. If you are globally minded or are interested in learning languages that could probably give you a competitive edge in a global market, these languages are definitely the best languages to learn.
What are the most spoken languages in the world ?
According to Ethnologue (language reference publication) and Fact Book, the most spoken languages are:
1. English: 1, 452,000,000 (Dominant language in countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, among others).
2. Mandarin Chinese: 1,118,000,000 speakers (Spoken primarily in China)
3. Hindi: 602,000,000 speakers (Spoken in India as well as in communities across South Africa, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Yemen, and Uganda)
4. Spanish: 548,000,000 speakers (Spoken in Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Argentina, the United States, and other parts of the world including former Spanish colonies).
5. French: 274,000,000 speakers (Spoken in France and Parts of Canada as well as in other former French colonies in Africa)
6. Arabic: 273,900,000 speakers (Spoken in countries of the middle East and North Africa)
7. Bengali: 272,000,000 speakers (Spoken primarily in Bangladesh and India, and other parts of the world)
8. Russian: 258,000,000 speakers (Primary language in Russia and is also spoken as second language in other countries of the former Soviet Union)
9. Portuguese: 257,600,000 speakers (Spoken in Portugal and Brazil, and other parts of the world)
10. Urdu: 231,000,000 speakers (Urdu is ‘the official state language of Pakistan and is also recognized in the constitution of India’. Large Urdu communities also exist in countries such as the United States).
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