Which Language to Learn Next

By Aaron Rockwell, Staff Wizard

I woke up thinking about whether I wanted to go to China and learn Mandarin this summer or learn another language. To assess the pros of all the languages, I compiled all the first listed language data from The World Factbook, along with Population, Landmass, and GDP numbers from Wikipedia.

If you want to learn a language solely based on the number of speakers:

Rank Language Sum of Population in Millions
1 Mandarin 1,410
2 Hindi 1,310
3 English 780
4 Spanish 403
5 Arabic 384
6 French 313
7 Malay 292
8 Portuguese 243
9 Punjabi 195
10 Bangla 162

If you want to learn a language solely based on the landmass covered by the number of speakers:

Rank Language Sum of Landmass in Thousands (km2)
1 English 28,662
2 Russian 16,581
3 Spanish 11,209
4 Arabic 10,587
5 Portuguese 9,799
6 French 9,389
7 Mandarin 9,359
8 Hindi 2,864
9 Kazakh 2,700
10 Greenlandic 2,166

Since Russia has such a huge land-space, it makes sense that they would be boosted to a number two slot.

If you want to learn a language solely based on the GDP per capita by the number of speakers:

Rank Language GDP per Capita ($)
1 Luxembourgish $105,838
2 Bokmal (Norwegian) $71,641
3 Icelandic $57,593
4 Danish $52,662
5 Swedish $51,799
6 German $45,733
7 Finnish $43,462
8 Dutch $42,954
9 Japanese $37,270
10 Hebrew $36,122

If you want to learn a language solely based on the total GDP by the number of speakers:

Rank Language Sum of GDP in Billions ($)
1 English $25,070
2 Mandarin $12,207
3 Japanese $4,730
4 German $4,545
5 Spanish $3,271
6 French $2,644
7 Arabic $2,459
8 Hindi $2,251
9 Portuguese $2,069
10 Italian $1,854

Finally, if you want to learn a language based on the above four rankings:

Rank Language Rank of Sum of Population Rank of Sum of Landmass Rank of Sum of GDP Rank of GDP per Capita Total
1 English 3 1 1 11 16
2 Mandarin 1 7 2 32 42
3 Spanish 4 3 5 36 48
4 French 6 6 6 34 52
5 German 15 28 4 6 53
6 Portuguese 8 5 9 33 55
7 Arabic 5 4 7 40 56
8 Japanese 12 34 3 9 58
9 Russian 11 2 12 35 60
10 Castilian 24 27 13 14 78

ranking-chartThis chart shows why English is such a desired language in the world. It also gives me confidence in learning Mandarin (which generally takes 2200 hours of study to become comprehensive for native English speakers).

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