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Old 06-05-2010, 12:07 PM
373 posts, read 822,193 times
Reputation: 380


At this point in time, English is the only truly useful language in the global context. Most educated people in countries across the world learn English as their second (or maybe third) language. If you are a native speaker of English, congratulations, you don't have to learn anything else.

However, speaking a foreign language is a requirement for being considered truly educated, sophisticated, and worldly, so you feel obligated to learn one. Congratulations, learning another language is a great way to keep your brain healthy, open access to cultural opportunities, and make you an all around better person.

But it is impossible to choose a language based on a ranking. You ALREADY speak the world's most useful language. What is the point of learning the one that has the most native speakers (Mandarin) if you'll never go to China or will never be around native Mandarin speakers enough to put that hard work to use? What is the point of learning one of the most widely-spoken (across multiple countries, like French or Spanish) if you're not really interested in them, and the people you'll meet who speak French or Spanish will most likely speak English as well? What is the point of learning a resume-boosting language like Arabic if the Arabic you'll learn (MSA) isn't actually spoken colloquially, and any business that is looking for people with those language skills have their pick among native and near-native speakers?

Basically, you have to choose a language that has personal meaning to you. Learning the language of the country you live or travel frequently is the most obvious choice. If you rarely find yourself outside America, you have to consider when/how you'll actually get to use the language. You can't learn solely from a textbook, and you'll quickly lose motivation if you're not getting positive feedback. Do your parents or grandparents speak a heritage language? What about close friends? I tend to study languages that whomever I'm dating happens to speak, because that is the easiest way for me to practice and also strengthen the relationship. Mostly these are "useless" languages spoken only in one country, by people who are generally also fluent in English, but that's okay because for me, that's not the point. It's the human connection I can make. I would never again put a lot of hard work into learning a language that isn't applicable to my daily life.
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Old 06-05-2010, 12:07 PM
8,522 posts, read 14,559,144 times
Reputation: 7941
If you're getting into some global business or international finance/business, learn mandarin Chinese. It wouldn't hurt to learn some Cantonese too, but that is another entire ballgame. Chinese is useful in many Asian countries as those countries have smaller communities and business entities there.
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Old 06-06-2010, 06:44 AM
241 posts, read 743,278 times
Reputation: 195
Number of native speakers within the borders of a country is not a strong reason for learning a language. 40 years ago, China dominated in population size as well, but who would have made that argument then? It simply depends on what type of work you are doing/plan to do and where you live or want to live. International Business, yes, it makes sense now to learn Mandarin, at least a bit. Want to move to China? Of course. Plan on working in Europe say as a civil engineer or teacher, learning Mandarin would be rather pointless. You'd have to go out of your way to practice using it just to not forget it.
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Old 06-06-2010, 03:25 PM
1,264 posts, read 3,864,837 times
Reputation: 798
I read that China is restricting employment visas to foreigners now because of the large number currently in China. If I can find the article in English I shall post it here later. So it may be too late to get in the game now. Also I would suggest to stick to only Japanese or Mandarin and not both, because it can be confusing. I was watching CCTV and the newscaster referred to Japan's new PM Naoto Kan 直人 as PM Guan

and are both read as 'kan' in Japanese

is 'jiān​' in Mandarin ... as in grass
is 'guan' in Mandarin ... as in bamboo
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Old 06-08-2010, 12:20 AM
Location: Chicago
14 posts, read 49,914 times
Reputation: 12
French, Spanish, or Mandarin
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Old 06-08-2010, 12:27 AM
Location: southern california
61,286 posts, read 87,521,965 times
Reputation: 55564
top 4 languages of the world in order
i would pick spanish any day from that list.
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Old 06-08-2010, 12:46 AM
Location: NH
232 posts, read 543,005 times
Reputation: 168
Spanish has been very very good to me!

There was a comment earlier in the thread about how Spanish is not spoken widely in Europe -- its true, it is not. However it is an important European language to know because there is less English fluency in Spain than there is France and Germany, at least among the business people. My counterparts in Germany speak unaccented American English so well, if you didn't know they were German, you'd swear you were speaking to an American expat.

Arabic - I can see this being very valuable! I would wager that there are a good number of business people in the Middle East that do not speak English very well.

Russian - very difficult to do business in Russia, but it is a large market, and growing.

Hindi - I only see a big call for Hindi if one is doing very specialized work. All higher education in India is taught in English, so many Indian business people speak English, albeit they have their own variant that has diverted away from British English, in my opinion.

Korean and Japanese - smaller, but very creative and ambitious countries.

Mandarin - for work, this could be a case of "be careful what you wish for." Taiwanese folks are great to work with, so are many folks in Hong Kong. Mainland China is very very tough. Great people, ambitious desires...but fierce and nasty business climate. Speaking Mandarin may mean you get an opportunity that others don't have, it may also also mean you get a lot of headaches that other people don't have.
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Old 06-11-2010, 05:36 PM
Location: Fairfax
2,904 posts, read 6,923,026 times
Reputation: 1282
Originally Posted by Huckleberry3911948 View Post
top 4 languages of the world in order
i would pick spanish any day from that list.
On what basis is this?
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Old 06-12-2010, 07:42 AM
7 posts, read 15,888 times
Reputation: 11
for many chinese intellectuals, english is their second language. if you stay in metropolis cities in china, there is on need to learn chinese, english is enough for you to work and live comfortablely.you can easily find someone understanding english in your work as well as everyday life.
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Old 01-12-2011, 03:50 AM
212 posts, read 400,521 times
Reputation: 101
Originally Posted by dougie86 View Post
Also I would suggest to stick to only Japanese or Mandarin and not both, because it can be confusing.
Confusing but interesting, isn't it

A: Japan
B: Mainland China
C: Taiwan, Hongkong and Macau (actually Korea as well)

国 in A and B
國 in C

遊 in A
游 in B and C

热 in B
熱 in A and C

総 in A
总 in B
總 in C

中 in A, B and C

畑 only in A

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