The 11 Best Languages to Learn to Reach Any Life Goal in 2022

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So you want to learn a second language. Where do you start? 

Before you read any further, we recommend starting with the “why” behind it all. To get to the root of all this soul-searching: Why do you want to learn a language? Are you forging a more competitive career path or looking to travel the globe? 

When it comes to ranking the best languages to learn, no single list can fit every learner. But with the right information, you can determine which second language is best for you. In this post, you’ll find the 11 most popular languages people are learning in 2022 and the data you’ll need to choose which one is best for you. 

Ready to dive in? Keep reading to learn more about which language is right for you! 

Chinese Mandarin

You’ll find Chinese Mandarin at the top of nearly every list of languages to learn—and with good reason. As the second most spoken language, Mandarin allows its speakers to connect with vast communities of speakers in every corner of the globe. China is both an international economic powerhouse and a popular tourist destination, with sights like the Yangtze River and Shanghai’s waterfront promenade, The Bund. 

The one catch—Mandarin is considered one of the more difficult languages for English speakers to learn. Our advice? Don’t let that stop you. Mandarin is a complex language to learn up front, but it’s easier than you think to get comfortable with conversation. The wealth of opportunities that comes with knowing even basic Mandarin far outweighs the initial struggle. And embracing and overcoming the challenges of learning a language is half the fun! 

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#2 (1.120 billion speakers) 
Number of countries that list Mandarin as an official language5
Ease of learning Category V (88 weeks or 2200 hours)* 
Best language to know for travel#4
Best language to know for working abroad#4 (China)

*This is based on reaching a “general professional proficiency in speaking and reading.” Most learners will feel comfortable with conversational Mandarin sooner than this time period suggests. 

Hindi

A flower market in Bangalore, India.

Hindi, like Mandarin, is most closely associated with a single country of speakers. While Hindi is primarily spoken in India, you’ll find large Hindi-speaking communities across Europe, the United States, and South Africa. 

Because of this migration, Hindi is an incredibly useful language to know for career builders, with opportunities to connect with Hindi-speaking communities across industries, from healthcare to textiles. For travel-oriented learners, Hindi can help you navigate India’s bustling cities and equally beautiful country sides. 

The learning curve for Hindi lies solely on its unique alphabet, and it helps that reading and writing in Hindi’s ornate and illustrative script is far more fun than Latin’s stripped-down alphabet. Once you’ve mastered its 13 vowels and 36 consonants, grammar rules are easy to remember. You’ll be on your way to holding meaningful conversations in no time. 

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#3 (600 million speakers) 
Number of countries that list Hindi as an official language1
Ease of learning Category IV (44 weeks or 1100 hours) 
Best language to know for travelN/A
Best language to know for working abroad#46 (India)

Spanish

Spanish is a popular language to learn for English speakers, especially for those living in the US, as 13.5% of people living in the US speak Spanish at home. That’s nearly 42 million people! In many places in the US, practicing your Spanish—and making friends out of strangers—is as easy as stepping out your front door. 

It’s not just the wealth of practice opportunities that makes Spanish easy to learn. Spanish and English are both closely related to Latin, and have many similarities. Cognate words are a prime example of this: “capital” in English and “capital” in Spanish look and sound nearly identical in both languages, making it easy to pick up vocabulary quickly! 

Because so many countries across Latin America and Europe have Spanish-speaking communities, Spanish easily opens doors across industries and travel sites. With just one language, globe trotters can engage more meaningfully with local cultures in over 18 different countries! 

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#4 (543 million speakers)
Number of countries that list Spanish as an official language18
Ease of learning Category I (23-24 weeks or 575-600 hours)
Best language to know for travel#2
Best language to know for working abroad#22 (Mexico)

Arabic

Arabic is the official language of 23 countries, and spoken in communities across Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. For its sheer geographic spread, Arabic remains one of the best languages to learn. 

Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are global centers of business, making Arabic increasingly valuable for career-oriented learners. And for world travelers, Arabic can help you navigate anything from Egypt’s infamous pyramids to Morocco’s labyrinthian neighborhoods.  

Like Mandarin, Arabic lays claim as one of the most difficult languages to learn, especially for English speakers. But—with determination and the help of Dynamic Immersion—conversational Arabic is easy enough to master. 

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#5 (274 million)
Number of countries that list Arabic as an official language23
Ease of learning Category V (88 weeks or 2200 hours)
Best language to know for travelN/A, but over 61 million international tourists visited Arabic-speaking countries in 2019!
Best language to know for working abroad#19 (Qatar)

French

Château Frontenac in the French-speaking Québec City.

If you hear French and picture the Eiffel Tower, there’s no time like the present to expand your horizons. While the language originated in France, it is now an official language of 29 countries around the world, and spoken in many more. 

Explore Sweden, Quebec, Senegal, and Cameroon: there’s a vast variety of history, culture, and commerce tied to the French language, and with the help of the imparfait (a French verb tense), you’ll soon be able to unlock it.  

Already familiar with Spanish? How about Italian, Portuguese, or Romanian? Basic knowledge of any Romance language can help you learn French even faster. With similar grammar rules (adjectives follow nouns) and shared vocabulary, you’ll be on your way to speaking like a local in no time—all that’s left is nailing that accent. 

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language267 million
Number of countries that list French as an official language29
Ease of learning Category I (23-24 weeks or 575-600 hours)
Best language to know for travel#1
Best language to know for working abroad#12 (Canada) and #21 (France)

Russian

If the cold of Russia’s long winters speaks to you like a siren call, then a trip to Moscow and the Russian alphabet are no doubt up your alley. Russian continues to be one of the most popular languages to learn due to its influence throughout Europe and beyond. 

Its 258 million speakers primarily reside in Russia, but you’ll find communities of speakers around the world, including Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. 

The Russian alphabet is particularly fun to master, and has surprising similarities to the Latin alphabet. Take a look at how A, M, E, and T, mirror their Latin counterparts

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language258 million
Number of countries that list Russian as an official language4
Ease of learning Category IV (44 weeks or 1100 hours)
Best language to know for travelN/A
Best language to know for working abroad#52 (Russia)

Portuguese

Portuguese may seem to be more geographically confined than many of the languages above, but it has its surprises. On a continent dominated by Spanish speakers, Portuguese breaks through as the mother tongue and official language of Brazil. And like French and Arabic, it’s spoken in several countries across Africa. It is, of course, also spoken in Portugal, and in communities across Europe. 

Portuguese culture and Brazilian culture are starkly different. Portugal is dominated by old-world architecture, and Brazil has a distinct South-American flair. If you choose to dive into the language, you’ll quickly uncover the cultural nuances for yourself. 

Want to rise to the status of polyglot as fast as possible? Portuguese is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to master, and is especially simple for those who already know a Romance language

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language258 million
Number of countries that list Portuguese as an official language9
Ease of learning Category I  (23-24 weeks or 575-600 hours)
Best language to know for travelN/A
Best language to know for working abroad#36 (Portugal) and #43 (Brazil)

German

Germany is the home of bratwurst and the one-of-a-kind Rhine Valley. It’s also home to a language that’s notorious for its difficult-to-master accent, but you may be surprised to learn that German is actually fairly easy to grasp for English speakers

There are quite a few similarities hiding behind its difficult-sounding pronunciation. Along with Dutch, German and English belong to the same West Germanic language family. That means they share common roots and much of the same grammar rules. Like many Romance languages, nailing the accent is the hardest part! 

Beyond its popular tourist destinations, Germany continues to be a hub for business, and German is a particularly useful language for career-minded learners. 

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#12 (135 million)
Number of countries that list German as an official language6
Ease of learning Category II (30 weeks or 750 hours)
Best language to know for travel#9
Best language to know for working abroad#6 (Germany) and #7 (Austria)

Japanese 

The cherry blossom trees of Chidorigafuchi Park in Tokyo, Japan.

With all that Japan has to offer, it’s difficult to comprehend it’s geographic scale. In this small string of islands in southeast Asia, you’ll find conflicting cultures (the colorful excess of Anime vs. a highly-work driven population) and conflicting landscapes (the crowded streets of Tokyo and quiet temples outside Kyoto). 

It provides a world of culture and experiences that only language can unlock, and there’s no need to travel to experience them. Japanese culture has taken the world by storm, and language learners will find an even deeper appreciation once they’ve mastered Japan’s tricky language. 

Tricky, but not impossible—Japan’s alphabet has three writing systems that work together. It takes time to understand, but as with many languages, if your goal is to converse in Japanese (rather than read or write), you’ll feel comfortable in a much shorter amount of time. 

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#13 (126 million)
Number of countries that list Japanese as an official language2
Ease of learning Category V (88 weeks or 2200 hours)
Best language to know for travelN/A
Best language to know for working abroad#50 (Japan)

Korean

With its rise in popularity among language learners last year, Korean has emerged as one of the top languages to know. While Korean is primarily spoken in Korea and throughout pockets of Europe and North America, the undercurrent of art and culture is loved on a global scale. In recent years, Korean films and television (Parasite and Squid Game are notable examples) have dominated screens and global media chatter. 

Pop culture provides a small window into the wider world of Korean culture and local hot spots. There’s a lot for any new language learner to explore, whether you’re setting your sights on learning Korean for business or to uncover more hidden travel destinations. 

Unlike Japanese and Chinese writing systems, the Korean alphabet, Hangul, is much easier to master! 

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#20 (82 million)
Number of countries that list Korean as an official language2
Ease of learning Category V: 88 weeks or 2200 hours
Best language to know for travelN/A
Best language to know for working abroad#40 (Korea)

Choosing a language

Now that you’ve made your way through the list, you have everything you need to make that decision. Here’s a look at how you can leverage the rankings under each language to determine if it fits your life goals: 

CategoryGoal
Most spoken languagesMaximize connections with others. 
Number of countries that list a language as an official languageMaximize the number of destinations to check off your bucket list. 
Ease of learningGet fluent fast. 
Best languages to know for travelGet the most out of your visits to the world’s most popular tourist destinations. 
Best languages to know for working abroadFind the world’s best countries to live for foreign workers. 

So which language will you choose to learn first? When you’re ready to dive into that journey, Rosetta Stone is here to help. With lessons that help you learn quickly and intuitively and TruAccent to help you perfect your pronunciation, Rosetta Stone continues to be one of the leading language learning platforms in the world. 

Rosetta Stone has 24 languages to choose from, including every language on the list above! Start learning today at www.rosettastone.com

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