Best Foreign language to learn – Top 10 Second Language

Learning a new Foreign language or second language is always a fun experience. Everyone has their own reasons to learn a foreign language, but there are only a few best languages or we can say top 10 foreign languages to learn these days. Some languages are better than others if you look at it in terms of job prospects, career prosperity and earning money. 

People today have more ways/mediums to learn foreign languages than they did before. But at the same time, some languages are becoming more competitive than before. And as I said, there are some foreign languages with low competition and high earning potential. In the midst of all this, it becomes important to know which are the actual best second languages to learn.

To help you with the same, I’ve created a guide for The Best Foreign Languages to learn today.

Table of Contents

Top 10 Foreign Languages to learn – Some statistics

Here are some relevant statistics about the top foreign languages to give you some context:

  • English is the Top language on the internet, with a total of 1,105,919,154 Internet users, followed by Chinese (863,230,794) and Spanish (344,448,932).
  • Together, English (25.2%), Chinese (19.3%), and Spanish (7.9%) alone make up for 52.4% of the global internet users’ primary language for using the web. Read more about this here.
  • Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken foreign language in the world (on the basis of people using it as a primary language) with over 848 million people using it in their day-to-day lives. It is followed by Spanish (406 Million), English (335 Million) and Hindi (260 Million). Source: Ethnologue.

So now with that out of the way, let’s put our focus on the best foreign languages to learn in the present day:

So here goes:

1. French – Top Foreign language

French is one of the best foreign languages to learn today. It is only second to English in terms of practicality as a foreign language. Because of this reason, French is commonly used as a second language with English in many foreign and Indian institutions.

Number of Speakers

There are more than 30 French-speaking countries across the world. The overall French-speaking population is of more than 300 million people, including both native and non-native speakers.

Payscale & Career Prospects

The average salary for jobs requiring expertise in the french language is around ₹4,35,000 per annum in India. The top career options in the french language include jobs of french language translators, french language interpreters, foreign services (consul, diplomat, ambassador) and french voice artists.

Where to learn? (Online vs. Offline)

Luckily, France operates the largest global network of institutes for french language courses. These courses teach french to over a million learners each year. The fee isn’t cheap, of course. But you can also try to get past the beginner levels by exploring some of the top online courses for learning the french language. However, I’ll recommend that you join an offline course with any french-teaching institute at later stages to gain complete expertise.

Fun Fact

The letter “w” is completely absent in the french language! Similarly, the letter “e” is the most common word in the language. Think of words like au revoir (goodbye), Elle (she), les (the), Je (I) and merci (thank you).

Difficulty level for learning French: MEDIUM

2. Chinese (Mandarin) – 2nd Best Foreign language

Poster on a wall of Beijing Language and Cultural University

China is a country unlike any other in the world. It is not only the most populated but perhaps the most independent nation out of all others. Similarly, the Chinese language itself is one of the best foreign languages to learn, yet hard to master. It also happens to be the most widely spoken language in the world as over 917 million people use the language daily.

Number of speakers

Over 917 million people use Chinese as their native language and an additional 198 million people have Chinese as their second language. Combined, the Chinese language is spoken by over 1.116 billion people worldwide.

Payscale & Career Prospects

The average salary for jobs requiring expertise in the Chinese language is around ₹6,00,000 in India. The top career options in the Chinese language include jobs of Chinese dialect translator, Project coordinator for Chinese language products, country managers and Chinese language experts.

Where to learn?  (Online vs. Offline)

As per my knowledge and experience, the best way to learn Chinese is to learn it from native speakers. Of course, you can’t find native speakers unless you’re in China or somewhere with a high Chinese population. So the best alternative to learn Chinese would be to learn it from a native teacher. You can find plenty of Chinese language institutes where native Chinese teachers actively impart their knowledge to students. 

Apart from that, there are a lot of universities in India that offer training in the Chinese language, so you can go for that as well. Online courses too, will be helpful but won’t make you a master unless you interact with experts in Chinese.

Fun Fact

Some of the top firms in the western world are looking to get into the Chinese market. Reason? China is the world’s most populated nation with a huge market kept almost untouched by western companies except few such as Microsoft and Apple. So there’s a huge potential. But most companies outside of China are unwelcome due to the strict government regulations and anti-competitive practices put in place to keep the nation independent. 

A few years ago, Facebook tried to enter the Chinese market. Its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg even went so far as to learn the Mandarin language itself to impress the Chinese. However, all attempts failed and facebook failed to make its presence felt in China. Another western corporate giant, Google also met the same fate when it had to close its operations in China recently.

Difficulty level for learning Chinese: VERY HARD

3. German – Most recommended foreign language

German is the most widely spoken language in the European Union. It’s easily one of the most useful foreign languages to learn if you’re planning to work in European regions in the future. Additionally, it’s a language considered to be highly artistic. After all, the likes of Mozart, Albert Einstein, and Beethoven were masters of this language, you can’t defy that easily.

Number of speakers

There are over 76 million native german speakers and over 56 million non-native german speakers across the world. When combined, this amounts to over 132 million German speakers worldwide.

Payscale & Career Prospects

The average salary for jobs requiring expertise in the German language is around ₹4,38,000 in India. The top career options in the german language include several jobs in the field of science and literature. 

Some of the top-paying jobs are those of german translators/interpreters and jobs requiring cross-border communication with Germany. Being an expert in the German language can also open job opportunities with renowned German brands like Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, Bsoch, Daimler, Lufthansa, among others.

Where to learn? (Online/Offline)

If you’re only interested in understanding the language and certain aspects of it, then some of the top online courses in german could surely help you get that done within 6 months. However, if you’re serious, then I’d suggest to learn it from any of the reputed german teaching institutes.

Fun Fact

A simple word can have many different meanings in the german language. So it is advisable to use your words wisely when speaking german. There is a heavily misunderstood incident regarding the same. 

When the US President JFK (John Fitzgerald Kennedy) was giving a speech to Germans in 1963, he wanted to show support by saying something in german which meant “Hey! I’m one of you”. When translated in german, it meant “Ich bin ein Berliner”, which is exactly what he said. However, the word “Berliner” was also used to refer to a jelly doughnut (though this interpretation wasn’t used in the region where JFK gave the speech).

This created a huge misconception when the New York Times reported 25 years later that JFK actually said “I am a jelly doughnut” in the iconic speech. Though the late JFK’s words were taken exactly as he meant back in the day, there are people who still say that he was laughed at for what he said in the speech. 

Difficulty level for learning German: HARD

4. Japanese – My personal favorite

best foreign languages to learn- Japanese

Japanese is a beautiful language from a country that’s equally beautiful. It is not one of the first languages that come to mind when thinking of the best foreign languages to learn. But once you understand the benefits of learning Japanese- trust me, you wouldn’t care to learn any other foreign language more than Japanese.

Number of speakers

There are over 128 million native Japanese speakers and barely 1,21,500 non-native Japanese speakers across the world. It is the only top foreign language to have such a low number of non-native speakers.

Payscale & Career Prospects

The average salary for jobs requiring expertise in the Japanese language is around ₹5,81,000 in India. The top career options in the Japanese language are particularly diverse, owing to the rich and artistic Japanese culture. 

Experts in the Japanese language can build successful careers as Japanese voice artists for anime shows, translators/interpreters in the commercial space, translators for Japanese comics (manga), among other options.

However, what makes Japanese one of the best foreign languages to learn from a career standpoint is that you will not find any competition here. You may find over 100 applicants in line for a job requiring expertise in Italian, German or French. But for jobs requiring Japanese language expertise, you will most likely find only 10-20 applicants besides you.

The reason why the Japanese language has such a low competition is that it’s a tough language to master. Most people give up on it after a year or two of practice. I for one, feel proud to share that I was able to master the language. Learning Japanese was one of the best things I did for myself, and it has had a tremendous influence on my lifestyle.

Where to learn? (Online/Offline)

From my experience, I would strictly recommend learning Japanese from one of the reputed Japanese-teaching institutes.

Fun Fact

Japanese, until recently was considered as a language isolate, which means that it’s completely unique among all languages used across the world. It held the honor until linguists recently found common connections between Japanese and Ryukyuan languages spoken in southern Japan.

Difficulty level for learning Japanese: VERY, VERY HARD

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5. Spanish – 5th best foreign language

best foreign languages to learn- Spanish

Apart from being the fourth-most widely spoken language in the world, Spanish is considered one of the easiest and best foreign languages to learn compared to others. It is even easier for a native English speaker due to the common roots of both languages. There are a variety of benefits of learning the Spanish language in terms of career, travel, and for the curiosity of diving into new cultures.

Number of speakers

There are over 460 million native Spanish speakers and over 74 million non-native Spanish speakers across the world. When combined, this amounts to a total of over 534 million Spanish speakers worldwide.

Payscale & career prospects

The average salary for jobs requiring expertise in the Spanish language is around ₹4,63,000 in India. The top career options in the Spanish language include jobs of customer service advisors/associates, translators, interpreters, and Spanish language instructors.

Where to learn? (Online/Offline)

Since Spanish is not as hard to learn as other foreign languages, you can get a lot deeper into it just by going through the top online courses for the Spanish language. (only if you’re a native English speaker or have decent proficiency in English).

As usual, I’d suggest to go to an institute and learn under the guidance of a teacher if you want to be an expert in Spanish. 

Fun Fact

There are actually more Spanish speakers in the United States than there are in Spain! In fact, the US has the highest number of Spanish-speaking citizens after Mexico. This makes Spain the third-largest Spanish speaking nation despite using Spanish as its native language.

However, as far as language proficiency is concerned, the native Spaniards are better skilled with the Spanish language than North Americans.

Difficulty level for learning Spanish: EASY

6. Arabic – One of the top second language

“The best answer will come from the person who is not angry “

Arabic is the fourth-most spoken language in the World. It is unlike all other languages and is a core part of the middle-eastern culture- especially in the UAE regions. It is one of the best foreign languages to learn if you want to explore the middle-eastern culture, or perhaps want to run a business in places such as Dubai.

Number of speakers

Over 315 million people across 58 countries speak Arabic as their first language. 

Payscale & Career Prospects

The average salary for jobs requiring expertise in the Arabic language is around ₹5,19,707 in India. The top career options in the Arabic language include jobs as Arabic translators/interpreters, freelance content contributors, language engineers, content analyst among others.

Learning the Arabic language also opens up huge job opportunities for working in economically rich countries such as Dubai among other places in the UAE. The people over there appreciate a foreigner’s expertise in the Arabic language. This could help make a great impression that can be useful for creating business opportunities or for enhancing career prospects.

Where to learn?  (Online vs. Offline)

Since Arabic is completely different from other foreign languages, it won’t be easy to learn it through just online courses or by pursuing studies at home. There are different types of the Arabic language, so you’ll also have to be sure about the path you will take. I will suggest to learn it through offline classes, at least until you’re able to master the alphabets and word pronunciations.

Fun fact

There are at least 11 words in Arabic to describe the feeling of love. Seems amazing if you want to express love to your partner in a depth unmatched by any other language! Few of the words denoting different stages of love are “Hawa” (initial attraction), “Alaaqa” (to attach oneself), “Ishq” (blind desire), “Shaghaf” (love that consumes entire life), and finally, “Huyum” (complete loss of ego and reason).

Difficulty level for learning Arabic: HARD

7. Korean – Foreign language to watch Korean drama

best foreign languages to learn- Korean

Korean is another language that many people tend to ignore while thinking of the best foreign languages to learn. However, the Korean language is considered to have the most logical and scientific writing system amongst all other languages. There’s a common saying about the Korean writing system that goes- “A wise man can learn it in one morning…and a fool can learn it in the space of ten days”.

Number of speakers

There are over 77 million people using the Korean language natively. There is no significant data available about non-native speakers. But it is said that the number is increasing thanks to the demand for language due to the success of Korean MNCs such as Hyundai, LG, and Samsung.

Payscale & Career Prospects

There is no significant data about average salaries for Korean language jobs in India. However, job prospects requiring expertise in the Korean language are expected to rise with the emergence of Korean companies in the subcontinent. Companies such as Hyundai are expanding into the Indian market at a rapid pace. This could potentially open room for new job opportunities with the Korean language.

Besides that, the demand for Korean language expertise is also expanding globally as South Korea is rising up as one of the most innovative nations globally.

Where to Learn? (Online/Offline)

It is said that the Korean system of alphabets, Hangul, can be learned within a span of two days. I’d say it’s better for a beginner to start learning Korean by themselves or through some top online courses in the Korean language.

But if you’re looking to become an expert, then the best option is to learn Korean through one of the reputed Korean language institutes.

Fun Fact

The Hangul writing system was created under the supervision of King Sejong, a ruler of the Joseon Dynasty. The king wanted to make a language system that anybody can learn so that the common population could participate with the elites in discussions.

The Korean alphabet is written in a way that resembles how our tongue moves while producing sounds.

Difficulty level for learning Korean: MEDIUM

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8. Italian – Most Smooth Foreign language

Should. Would. Could. Did.

Italian is one of the best foreign languages to learn if you have a liking for romantic languages. This romantic language is the closest to Latin-origin languages (which constitute over 30% of English vocabulary). So in a way, you’ll get to know more about the English language when you begin to learn Italian. Aside from these benefits of learning the Italian language- you will also get to know a lot more about what you eat. Because most, if not everyone among us has some Italian dishes, sauces or spices as part of their daily diet.

Number of speakers

There are over 64 million native Italian speakers and 3 million non-native speakers across the world. When combined, this amounts to a total of over 67 million Italian speakers worldwide.

Payscale & Career Prospects

The average salary for jobs requiring expertise in the Italian language is around ₹4,70,000 in India. The top career options in the Italian language include jobs of Italian translators, Language specialists, Italian language trainers, among others.

Where to learn?

Italian is possibly the easiest to learn out of the trio of languages derived from Latin origins (Italian, French, Spanish). The language also shares some of its vocabulary with the English language. So it’s easier to relate to and a beginner could easily advance by going through some top online courses for learning the Italian language.

Honestly, there are limited career prospects for Italian compared to the French and Spanish languages. So only invest in learning through an institute if you have a specific career-plan with the Italian language in mind, or if you simply want to learn just for the sake of it.

Fun Fact

The Italian alphabet only has 21 letters compared to 26 present in English. What’s absent from genuine Italian language are the letters of j, k, w, x, and y. The letters are only used on words taken from the English language

Difficulty level for learning Italian: EASY

9. Portuguese – Not So popular foreign language

“Those who do not risk, do not have a snack.”

Portuguese is one of the most underappreciated romantic languages. It has always been overshadowed by relative languages- Spanish, French & Italian. There are a lot of benefits of learning Portuguese in India as well since a large population in the Goa region use the language natively. It is also one of the best foreign languages to learn if you want to easily grasp nuances of the Spanish, French and Italian languages.

Number of speakers

There are over 220 million native Portuguese speakers and over 13 million non-native Portuguese speakers. This amounts to a total of over 234 million Portuguese speakers worldwide.

Payscale & Career Prospects

There is no significant data for the average salary for jobs requiring expertise in the Portuguese language. To my knowledge, the demand for Portuguese language expertise is gradually declining. 

However, there is hope for better career prospects with the Portuguese language because of its high usage in developing economies such as Brazil. Being Latin-America’s largest country in terms of the economic scale, you could benefit from learning Portuguese if you’re willing to work for companies having trade relations with Brazil.

Where to learn? (Online/Offline)

If you’re residing in India, then there’s no better place to learn Portuguese than Goa. You could find a lot of Portuguese-speaking people there and have a lot to learn from them. Besides, learning Portuguese would also make it easier for you to learn other romantic languages such as French, Spanish and Italian. The same applies vice-versa.

Additionally, you could also do it all by yourself by exploring some of the top online courses for learning the Portuguese language.

Fun Fact

The Portuguese language originated in, you guessed it, Portugal. However, it is not the country with the highest number of Portuguese speakers. In fact, Brazil has more Portuguese speakers than the sum of all Portuguese speakers in other countries, including Portugal!

Difficulty level for learning Portuguese: EASY

10. Russian – 10th Foreign language

best foreign languages to learn- Russian

Russian is not just an official language in Russia (which, by the way, happens to be the biggest country in the world in terms of area covered). Countries such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Israel also use the language. It is one of the best foreign languages to learn if you’re looking to gain insights into the Slavic culture.

Number of speakers

There are over 153 million native Russian speakers and over 104 million non-native Russian speakers across the world. That amounts to a total of over 265 million Russian-speaking people worldwide.

Payscale & Career Prospects

There isn’t any significant data about the exact pay scale for jobs requiring expertise in the Russian language. However, there are various benefits of learning the Russian language in terms of future career prospects. The stereotypes regarding Russia and Russians are gradually fading away due to the recently held FIFA world cup, which entirely changed the perceptions of people about the country.

Russia has had great relations with India for a long time now. The country is now also taking more active participation with other European countries, hence job opportunities requiring Russian language expertise are expected to increase over time. 

Russia has one of the lowest levels of English proficiency amongst all countries in the world. So learning the Russian language would be highly useful in the fields of translation, interpretation and in general- for jobs concerned with diplomatic services.

Where to learn? (Online/Offline)

Learning the Russian language would be difficult for native and fluent English speakers. So it is advised that as a beginner, it is best to learn the language from any of the reputed Russian language institutes out there.

Fun Fact

You cannot become an astronaut if you don’t know Russian! Yes. That’s a fact right there. Since Russia has an active involvement in space technology and has a presence at the International Space Station, it is compulsory for foreign astronauts to have a working knowledge of Russian before going to space.

Difficulty level for learning Russian: HARD

So what’s your choice amongst these best foreign languages to learn?

So these were 10 of the most important, and best foreign languages to learn in the present day. Learning languages isn’t just a fun hobby. It opens up your brain, gets you closer to the history of the world, helps you understand cultures, traditions associated with the languages, and brings you ever-more closer to the diversity of the human thought and its civilization.

So whether you’re learning it just for the sake of it, or are looking for high-paying job opportunities with foreign languages- the above-mentioned 10 foreign languages are the best you could choose right now.

Personally, I would suggest learning any one language out of French, Japanese, Mandarin, German and Spanish- as these are the top languages with the highest scope and potential today. But the other 5 are equally great foreign languages to learn if you’re also considering going abroad for studies or job opportunities.

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Just a moment, please…

I would greatly appreciate if you leave your valuable feedback on the comments section below. And feel free to ask any queries regarding foreign languages, I’m gladly willing to answer them and support you on your respective journeys.

Thanks again! Guys for your Support

Arushi Meena

Arushi is a Digital Marketer by profession, but a writer at heart. Aside from being a hopeless romantic and a quirky personality, she's all about having fun and letting others have a share of the same!

3 thoughts on “Best Foreign language to learn – Top 10 Second Language

  1. It’s interesting to know that Italian is closely related to English so it can be a but easier to grasp if English is your first language. My daughter has high affinity for classical art so I think it would be best for her to learn Italian if she plans to someday go to Italy in order to get some advanced art classes there. It would be quite convenient if we could find Italian classes online so that my daughter could still practice self-quarantining for now.

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