What foreign language to learn

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What foreign language to learn

I have been asked this question many times and here, I will try to give my perception on the languages that could suit best your personal or job expectations.


Despite learning any language could be extremely useful for certain people, I am going to focus only on five languages and, of course, the reasons for this selection will be provided.

I will not include English as I’m taking for granted that everyone should know at least English. Check this post Why learning a second language to know the importance of learning English and, at the same time, have an insight about becoming proficient in another language.


With that being said, let’s get started in alphabetical order!



Mandarin Chinese







French is still considered an influential language although in a less degree than in the past. It’s part of romance family languages which makes easier for native speakers of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian or Romanian to learn French much easier.

French is the official language of the United Nations, the Red Cross, Olympic Games and other international organizations, and a key language for business, research and technological achievements.

Have you ever thought in working for an international company? Many people would like to, and I am sure you are not the exception. Alright. Then, by learning French, you will start gaining solid justification not only to get a job but much better to transcend in your field by creating harmonious relationships in either the business, political, economic or scientific field.



Like China, India has a fast-growing economy in different sectors which require intervention of both local and foreign resources.

India is an ancient and culturally-rich country where Hindi is one of the several official languages, which is used by the government and around 300 million people speak Hindi as their first language.

Tourism, Business, Science and technology are areas where speakers of Hindi will play a crucial role to get directly involved in this rapid and diverse development.

Hindi derives from Sanskrit and belongs to the Indo-European family. That means, it shares some similarities with Romance languages, so learning Hindi is, I wouldn’t say much easier, less difficult for people who Indo-Aryan languages or speak Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian or Romanian.

In any case, as it’s also applicable to learning any language, if you want to learn Hindi, motivation, discipline and practice are unavoidable requirements.

Mandarin Chinese


Chinese language itself is considered a group of languages spoken in Mainland China and the regions under China’s sovereignty; however, I am only going to talk about Mandarin Chinese which is the official language of the government, news and schools.

Due to the fast-growing development of Chinese economy, Mandarin has become a very useful language for many foreigners who want to start any kind of relationship with China. Despite there are many other dialects spoken throughout China, learning Mandarin will be enough to understand and learn about this enriching culture.

According to ethnologue, more than 1000 million people speak Mandarin Chinese as their first language, and this number is gradually increasing which makes Mandarin attractive to learn and interact with a large number of people.

Many people are intimidated by news on the difficulty to learn Mandarin Chinese. By experience, I have my view on it. For more information, you can read this post: Learning Chinese language: Impossible



It’s a highly phonetical language, so most of words are pronounced are they are written although the opposite is not always the case.

Spanish is spoken by more than 400 people from different countries in 3 continents: America, Europe and Africa. That is a remarkable factor to encourage foreigners to learn Spanish. Despite local idioms in each country, the grammar and general vocabulary are standard and can be understood or deduced by contexts.

There is an official entity that provides guidance and rules on professional writing in Spanish: www.rae.es.

This entity has members from each of the Spanish speaking countries which participate with ideas, suggestions or recommendations on how to improve the Spanish language active and promptly adjusting to society changes. 

By being part of romance languages, Spanish speakers can learn much easier such languages.

It’s true that most countries where Spanish is their official language are considered developing countries; however, this situation is progressively changing and when that moment arrives, the significance of this beautiful language will be evident.

Furthermore, there are more than 50 million people speaking Spanish in the United States which consequently generates more job opportunities for bilingual people and even more for highly-qualified professionals in other disciplines who are also bilingual.




German is a language of great popularity not only in Europe but all over the world and it is spoken by over 100 million people.


Learning German allows people to know more and better about technology, literature, education, music and other disciplines. Students have great potential to receive education of superior quality due to the solid educational programs available in German language.


In regard to job opportunities, several well-known multinational companies are constantly in search of new talents who are able to communicate and conduct business in German. Some of those companies are: BMW, Bayer, Siemens, Bosch, Volkswagen, Daimler AG, Allianz, SAP, among others.


If you are fluent in either English, Spanish, French, Portuguese or Italian, the learning curve of German is smoother due to the similarity in grammar and vocabulary. However, this doesn’t mean it’s easy or great efforts are not required. What I actually want to highlight is that those native speakers of the Romance languages may encounter at the beginning some level of resemblance which will boost their confidence to move forward.

In any case, anyone can learn German as long as there is permanent commitment to overcome the unavoidable obstacles inherent to any activity performed. 


Bottom line


Regardless which language you decide to learn, it would be a paradisaical or torturous journey based on what you do and how you do with your learning involvement. Remember that nothing worthwhile is easy and you have to allocate time to study. If you have a strong motivation, then this time studying the language will turn out into a relaxation adventure. This is what I have experienced myself and others in the same circumstances I have had the opportunity to exchange thoughts with.  

I want to clearly state that English and the previous five languages I talked about are only the suggested languages to learn for many people; however, there are specific cases in which other languages are the best options.


Some examples:


  • If your spouse is Brazilian and you are not, it would be wiser for you to learn Portuguese to live and work in Brazil.
  • For automotive engineers learning German or Japanese is a great option
  • If you want to find your beloved in another country, many problems would be avoided by learning their native language


If you have some experiences or opinions in this regard, please share them on the comments below, so we can all learn from each other.

  • How many languages do you speak proficiently?
  • What language or languages will displace English as the international language?
  • With artificial intelligence developments, do you foresee bilingualism still necessary in the near future?
  • Is there any other language as potential “must” learn?

Why learning a second language

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Why learning a second language

Everything learned today may be useful today, tomorrow, next month, two years later or at any point of our lives. So, the only fact of learning something is already useful.

The key part is to choose what to learn because of the vast amount of information available which is increasing at exponential rates. In other words, we must set priorities of what would be beneficial for me based on my current situation and my aspirations.

Regardless the subject you are studying, and considering the highly demanding competition, learning a second language becomes a compulsory task.  Some people say that even a second language is not enough if you want to obtain significant success.

With all due respect to those who think that way, in my opinion, learning a second language “could be” sufficient to achieve our goals as long as this second language is proficiently learned. 

The reason to support this statement is that we can get specialized in a field using that second language.

For instance:

Lawyers can be experts in financial law only

Surgeons may acquire expertise in cardiology

Software Engineers could be subject matter experts in Cloud computing

Math teachers can become proficient in infinitesimal calculus

And the list goes on…

Naturally, the more you learn the more capacity of advancing you get and therefore more dedication and discipline will be required.  

It is worth noting that from a health point of view, learning a second language can also pose a big barrier to brain degenerative diseases like Alzheimer as it has been evidenced in numerous prestigious science magazines and outlets.

Learning a second language gives the learner an immense opportunity to explore a new world, culture, habits, places, and ways of thinking and living. This automatically broadens your perspective scope allowing you to be more creative and resourceful to figure out effective solutions to your daily challenges.

In addition to having more job opportunities, learning a second language facilitates the process of meeting new people. This is quite important because others have different methods and sometimes better mechanisms to face their problems from which we can learn by communicating in their native languages. If you learn a language with decent competence, you can interact directly with others and don’t have to depend on interpreters or translators who may have bias in their understanding or perceptions.

Another important aspect to highlight is the difficulty of learning a second language.

Based on my own experience, starting is crucial. And with starting, I mean taking actions to learn the chosen language: Vocabulary, grammar rules, idioms or whatever you want and need to learn. 

With starting I also want to emphasize that once you’ve learned a second language is significantly much easier to learn a third or more languages.

Of course, there are some languages that are less hard to learn than others, due to their affinity in etymology or any other similarity; however, bear always in mind that you must commit yourself to devote time to practice and to overcome discouragement or hopelessness which are normal circumstances of any situation in life. Nothing will happen overnight or by following a “piece of cake” approach unless you are a genius.

And now, the one-million-dollar question: What second language to learn?

Well, for this question, there are no black or white answers as it depends on several prerequisites, based on:

  • The language you currently know
  • The studies you have
  • The goals you want to achieve
  • The country you live

All the above requirements are correlated and therefore should be considered when deciding what second language to learn.

If you currently know only English, and have no professional studies in another field, you should clearly determine the purpose of learning a second language, so that way you can select a specific language that suits your needs. Most of bilingual speakers start working as teachers, translators or interpreters which can be highly rewarded not only financially but from the self-realization point of view.

Now, if in addition to knowing English you have a College degree, the scope expands considerably because you can rely on your new field expertise to find the most demanded second language. Again, your aspirations play a crucial role for you to move forward. The higher your ambition the more dedication you must have.

On the other hand, if you know a language other than English, the answer is much easier. You must start learning English!

The reason is well-known: English is the international language for business, diplomatic relationships, cultural events, communication among organizations and much more. Perhaps, this may change in future, but for the time being, learn English if you want to learn only a second language.

The country where you are living or were born is also important and may give certain advantages.

For example, in Europe, there are neighboring countries who speak different languages. That closeness exposes their inhabitants to have multilingual experiences.

If you live in Asia, your likelihood of learning Chinese, Japanese or Korean (to mention only 3 languages spoken in Asia) could be the starting point which is not the case for people living in South America where all the countries speak Spanish, except Brazil which has Portuguese as its official language, and the Guyanas where English, Dutch and French are spoken.    



So, why don’t get yourself immersed into a language that will allow you making significant contributions to the world in essential areas of human development and, at the same time, securing yourself from the merciless deteriorating effects that come with aging?


In this post What foreign language to learn? you can have some insights on choosing the most suitable language based on your particular situation.


Bottom line


If you have some experiences or opinions in this regard, please share them on the comments below, so we can all learn from each other.

  • Are you a bilingual?
  • Do you think it is hard to learn a second language?
  • Does learning a second language helps to find a person’s soulmate?
  • What other benefits do you find in learning a second language?
  • Do bilingual people often mix up their languages?

Translation and interpretation are not dying…yet

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Translation and interpretation are not dying…yet

Translation is basically the process to express in writing the meaning from one language (source) to another (target). Interpretation is the oral version of translation.

However, this process is not as simple as it seems. Some of the requirements are: Proficient language skills, fast thinking, subject matter knowledge, disposition to research and permanent learning.

Learning our mother tongue happens in several stages and the most important is the first one which happens naturally based on the environment we are raised; however, learning a second language may require a different approach according to the learner’s age or the purpose to learn the language. (You may also be interested in reading Why learning a second language and What foreign language to learn).


With that being said, it’s important to highlight that, for many years, translation and interpretation tasks were conducted exclusively by people; gradually, with technology evolution, more machine involvement was gaining relevance to the point of replacing repetitive or simple tasks performed by humans.


Nowadays, it’s impressive the advance of Artificial Intelligence in the linguistic field with tasks carried out by computer software. Some of those tasks include, voice recognition, audio transcription, machine translation, vocabulary database access, automated spelling checking, and more.

The question would be: Will machines totally replace translators and interpreters?

In my opinion, yes, but not totally. Only to a certain extent and not yet.

Despite some parts have already been replaced, for instance, translating simple sentences in some languages is highly accurate via computer software, much like voice recognition and audio transcription which have advanced a great deal but are still in their infancy stage.

Technology has also provided benefits to translators and interpreters. One of them is collaboration through Internet via forums, email, webinars, terminology banks, and CAT tools.

Regarding CAT tools, which stands for Computer Aided (Assisted) Translation, are just computer applications to help in conducting the translation work much faster, easily and with more consistency. I am astonished to know that some companies still believe doing translations with CAT tools is the same as machine translations.

It’s not!

The information entered to a CAT translation memory is intended to be done by a human, so it can be reused when similar segments need to be translated again. However, human intervention is still required because words have different meanings according to the context.

As per machine translations, as said before, it’s acceptable for short simple sentences. But for complex syntactic expressions, there is still a long way to go for reaching a decent status.

The only great benefit of machine translations I can see now is for translation agencies which can justify the reduction of translators’ rates by doing themselves a preliminary translation with software. In my case, I charge the same rate because most of the time I have to do the translation from scratch.

Human translators and interpreters are still relevant for tasks that require high level of professionalism and zero grammatical errors or style adequacy. But for how long?

Well, I can foresee a mutation of the current tasks that linguists are performing today instead of a total eradication of these professionals.

if we think carefully, the speedy evolution of technology is astonishing, and we must get prepared to an abrupt or gradual transition.

I can also perceive a reformed Lingua Franca, either English or another language, but mostly based on electronic devices, such as mobile phones, watches, glasses, clothes or other items where Internet of Things (IoT) is augmenting its dominance.

We are already seeing on mobile devices communication with reduced sentences, based on acronyms or rich in emojis or other type of symbology.

I don’t see this transformation as negative for linguists. We just need to adapt to imminent changes and help the new generations to get ready for embracing innovation with an open-minded attitude and entire disposition to achieve effectiveness.

Bottom line


If you have some experiences or opinions in this regard, please share them on the comments below, so we can all learn from each other.

  • What do you think translators/interpreters can do to avoid displacement?
  • Will most human languages disappear in the near future?
  • How best can linguist take advantage of technology?
  • In what other ways can linguists be useful to society?