What Language to Learn?

Which language is the most useful to know, globally? That’s the question on the Economist’s Intelligent Life article, “Which is the Best Language to Learn?” by Robert Lane Green (h/t: Rod Dreher). A fascinating question, especially since, living in Mexico, we’re partial to Spanish. And since there are about 450 million Spanish speakers world-wide, it seems to be a pretty useful language. Plus, they’ll understand you in Brazil & Portugal (and a few other places), so tack on another 200 million people you can speak to.

But the argument isn’t “number of people” but “generally useful” and Green argues for…French:

But if I was asked what foreign language is the most useful, and given no more parameters (where? for what purpose?), my answer would be French. Whatever you think of France, the language is much less limited than many people realise.

He makes a pretty decent case. Many, many places in Africa, much of Europe, Canada (!), and Vietnam, well, maybe not there.

Green also makes an interesting argument against the future of Chinese. Read the article. It’s interesting. Learning languages is cool. I’m happy I speak Spanish over French, but my list of languages I’d like to learn would probably be: German, Mandarin, Arabic, Russian and Hebrew. Some of those are for usefulness, some for curiosity.

I see that Intelligent Life has another article: “Arabic is the Best Language“. Hmmm.


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