Have you ever thought about learning any other language or “which language should I learn”? Having expert or even native level fluency in a foreign language can prove very vital nowadays.
It opens new vistas for jobs abroad and even within India. In fact, most Indians are bi-lingual or even multi-lingual, because we speak at least one regional language as well as some Hindi and English.
This proves that we’re able to grasp and learn foreign languages or new language with fair ease.
Actually, learning a language easily is an innate skill. There’re some people that can learn languages without much effort. Others require intense studies to learn even the basics of a language. Regardless which category of people you’re in, it is always possible to learn a foreign language.
There’re several distinct advantages of learning a foreign language. Here I will write about some of them.
Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language or other Language
Some people consider learning a foreign language as a sheer waste of time. That’s a myth because learning a foreign language offers you several benefits. Here’re some of these benefits.
- Get amazing job opportunities abroad.
- Work as an online or offline translator.
- Ability to live easily in a foreign land.
- Improves communications skills.
- Opportunities to freelance.
- Understand other cultures more easily
Knowing a foreign language fluently indeed has a lot of benefits. Unfortunately, most students miss out on learning a foreign language because they falsely believe that they have no time. Actually, learning a foreign language doesn’t require much time. You can learn it during your spare time also.
Time Taken to Learn a Foreign Language
This brings us to the question, which are the best foreign languages to learn and how much time it would take to learn them.
The Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) Scale of the US Federal government, the US Foreign Services institute (FSI) as well as the European Language Proficiency Scale (CEFR) state that you can learn some languages within 400 hours of classroom studies of four hours each daily over a five-day week. On the other hand, some languages require 2,200 hours of classroom study spread over five days a week in two years.
If you’re interested in learning a foreign language during your free time, as a student, here’re some of the top useful and important ones that you can learn.
Top Nine Useful Foreign Languages to Learn
The Foreign Services Institute of the American government ranks languages by their ease of learning on a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 standing for the easiest ones and 4 for the most difficult. In this article, I will write about nine languages that students can learn easily during their free time, based on ease of learning of ILR and FSI.
Espanol or Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world. It ranks as 1 on the FSI and ILR scale for ease of learning. That means, you’ll master Spanish in 400 hours of classroom study spread over four hours a day on a five-day week spread over a period of four to eight months.
Spanish is the official language and primary language in as many as 20 countries around the world. Other than Spain, the language is spoken in almost every country of South America. About six percent of the population of the world speaks Espanol or Spanish.
It’s easy to learn Spanish if you already know English. The reason being, Spanish and English both derive from their common root language, Latin. Therefore, lots of words in Spanish are similar to English, though their spellings and pronunciations are slightly different. For example, the word ‘international’ is written in Spanish as ‘internacional’ while the English ‘bank’ is spelt as ‘banque’.
Spanish is also written in the Roman script which makes it easier to learn the language faster. You needn’t study any complex, new scripts to master Spanish. However, you will have to learn accents and diacritical marks that’re often used in writing the language.
2. Putonghua (Modern Mandarin Chinese)
Putonghua is the official language of the People’s Republic of China. In fact, it’s a form of modern Mandarin Chinese language that’s commonly used for administration and other purposes across mainland China and Hong Kong, among other places. Close to 12 percent of the population of the world speak Putonghua.
However, Putonghua ranks at 4 on the FSI and ILR scales, because it’s one of the most difficult languages to learn. There’re no alphabets in Putonghua. Instead, there’re over 50,000 symbols that signify a specific word. The Chinese use a blend of these 50,000 symbols to make an expression. That means, as a learner, you’ll need to memorize all these 50,000 characters and symbols to master Putonghua.
According to ILR and FSI, it takes at least 2,200 hours spread over four hours a day in a five-day week for 22 months. Now this can sound a daunting task for any student. However, the efforts will prove worth the while because persons that can speak and write in Putonghua are in high demand in every profession. That’s because they have the ability to converse or translate easily in that language- which is a skill that very few have, even in mainland China.
Additionally, PR China has one of the highest rates of emigration in the world. As a result, you’ll find Putonghua speakers in almost every corner of the world. And China is also a large trading partner with several countries, including India. Therefore, learning Putonghua can prove to be very important for your career or business too.
Spoken by about four percent of the population of the world, Arabic is another superb language that you can learn in you free time as a student. It ranks at 4 on the FSI and ILR scales, which means it’s a difficult language to master. However, Arabic is the official language of 25 countries, located in the Middle East and Africa. This makes it one of the most important languages in the world, since West Asia and Africa are both important for global trade and politics.
According to FSI and ILR scales, you’ll require 2,200 hours of classroom studies spread over four hours a day on a five-day week through nearly 22 months to master Arabic. However, for Indian students, learning Arabic can be easier since Hindustani (colloquial Hindi) contains several words from Arabic such as ‘mausam’ (weather), ‘seedha’ (straight), dar (gate) and so on.
Learning Arabic is complex though the language has only 28 letters in the alphabet. That’s because the language is written from right to left, unlike others. However, as an India, you’ll find pronunciation in Arabic is fairly easy.
In fact, knowledge of Arabic is very important in India and can open up doors of opportunities for you. Since the Middle East is in the extended neighborhood of this country, there’re lots of trade ties between Arabic-speaking nations such as Kingdom of Bahrain, State of Kuwait, Sultanate of Oman, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, State of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Millions of expatriate Indians are working in these Arab states. And you can find a lucrative job easily in any of these countries, if you’ve superb command over Arabic. Additionally, India has deep trade ties with these countries too. Therefore, if you master Arabic, there’ll be no dearth of job and business opportunities. In fact, you can also provide translation services to companies and individuals in Arabic.
As a matter of fact, many Indian schools and colleges offer the option of learning French as a second or third language as part of the secondary and higher secondary curriculum. Therefore, you can get a head-start by taking French as a subject during your high-school and higher-secondary studies and continuing to learn the language in your free time.
Babbel.com calls French as the fastest growing language in the world. In fact, some 50 percent of the population of Africa speak French as their first language. It is a Romance language and hence, very popular among learners. There’re close to 300 million French speakers in the world, which includes both, native and Francophones.
French is also the official language of as many as 29 countries around the world. This makes French a very important language for business, political and cultural purposes. In India, it’s possible to learn French from classes offered by the Alliance Française, an autonomous department that functions under the French government. They offer classroom study courses and, in some cases, online courses too.
According to FSI, French ranks 2 on its ease of learning foreign language scale. This means, you can master French in as little as six months, with some 600 hours of classroom studies of four hours each over a five-day week. French also derives from the Latin group of languages. And it’s script is Roman. However, you’ll need to learn diacritical marks and accentuation in French. Also, French pronunciation is very different from other languages, which you’ll need to master as well.
If you’ve taken French as a second or third language at school or junior college, you can easily enroll at the nearest Alliance Française and learn this language fully.
Deutsch is the name of the official language of Germany and Austria. It is commonly known as the German language. And German is also spoken widely in Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium, to name a few countries in Europe. In India, thousands of students want to study German for many reasons. And you can do it too, in your free time.
There’re close to 150 million German speakers in the world. It’s the 11th most widely spoken language in the world. And in India, learning German is very common, for some reason. One of these reasons is that people believe that German language derives from Sanskrit. That’s not entirely true. However, German is one of the Indo-European languages and hence, learning it in India can be simpler.
German language ranks at on 2 on the FSI and ILR scales. This means, you would require about 30 weeks to learn the language through classroom studies of total 750 hours, spread over four hours a day for a five-day week and little more.
In India, you can learn German as an optional third language or second language during high-school and higher-secondary years. And there’re excellent German language courses available from the Goethe Institute, which is an autonomous organization that functions under the German government. In fact, they offer four different courses- from beginners to advanced. You can learn the advanced level upon completing the other three.
Japanese ranks 4 on the ILR and FSI scales which makes it one of the most difficult languages in the world to master. However, we’re all aware of the importance of Japan in terms of economy and trade, politics and culture. Therefore, Japanese is one of the top useful and important languages that you can learn as a student in your free time.
Before I write further, let me warn you. Japanese is written in three different scripts: Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana. This means, to master Japanese, you’ll need to learn all the three scripts since all of them are commonly used for communications in this wonderful language. Furthermore, there’re about 50,000 characters in each script that you’ll also have to memorize if you wish to gain expert level or native level fluency in Japanese.
According to Babbel and other sources, about 150 million people around the world and in Japan speak the Japanese language. And this is one of the fastest growing languages of the world too, because Japan exports a lot of things including technology.
You’ll require extensive 2,200 hours of classroom studies spread over 22 months or more, with four-hour lessons daily over a five-day week to learn Japanese. Now this might sound like a tall order and almost impossible. However, thousands of students are already learning Japanese well and you can master this language too. It’s not all that difficult if you’re really keen on mastering this wonderful language.
Swahili is the lingua-franca for most of Africa, expect in countries where Arabic is the official and common language. An estimated 35 million to 50 million people around the world speak Swahili. Actually, Swahili is very easy to learn because it’s a potpourri of languages. It is formed of local Bantu language with liberal use of words from Arabic, French, Italian, English and Turkish combined with various tribal languages.
At the same time, Swahili is written in the Roman script. That’s because of the long reign of European colonial powers over large parts of Africa. As such, there’s no local script for Swahili.
At the same time, it’s not very easy to master Swahili. It ranks at 3 on the FSI and ILR scale of learning ease. That means, you’ll require around 900 to 1,000 hours of classroom studies spread over a year in four-hour daily lessons through a five-day week to learn the language.
Africa is gaining a lot of importance for trade and politics nowadays. Almost every country, including India, is making lots of investments in Africa. Therefore, having excellent command over Swahili can boost your career prospects too.
About 250 million or 3.3 percent of the world speaks Portuguese. Though a language from Portugal, the highest number of Portuguese speakers can be found in Brazil in South America. On the FSI and ILR scale, Portuguese ranks as 1 on the ease of learning languages. That means, you can master Portuguese very easily, with some classroom studies.
According to these scales, you can master Portuguese in 400 hours of classroom studies of four hours per day through a five-day week, over eight months or so. There’re lots of Portuguese speakers in India too, primarily in the Indian state, Goa and the Union Territories of Daman and Diu.
Learning Portuguese is fairly simple because it derives from the Latin family of languages. And Portuguese is written in the Romans script. However, you’ll also need to learn proper pronunciation and diacritics to master this amazing language fully.
Portuguese is important because India has close ties with Brazil, which is also a founding member of the BRICS, an economic group. Ties between India and Brazil are on the rise and hence, you can find some job opportunities in any of these countries if you’re fluent in Portuguese.
Anything between 85 million and 100 million people around the world speak Italian. That’s because Italian is also one of the Romance languages of the world. It derives from Latin roots and hence, is fairly easy to learn.
Actually, FSI and ILR scales rank Italian at 1 in the ease of learning. This means, you can master the language in 400 hours of classroom studies spread over four months with each lesson of four hours spread over a five-day week.
Italy is a member state of the European Union and an important ally and trading partner of India. In fact, there’re several Joint Venture companies between India and Italy in different fields of the industry.
In India, courses in Italian are conducted through the Italian diplomatic missions. You can register at these missions and pay the necessary fees. These courses are held thrice a week and consist of four levels, with basic, intermediate and advanced levels.
You can select any of the nine languages to learn during free time as a student. Actually, I would suggest you to learn a language through foreign language courses.
That’s because classroom courses are comprehensive and you can always get your doubts solved from the teachers. Apps and online courses means that you’ll be doing all the learning yourself and won’t have anyone to ask if there’re difficulties.