Best languages to study

According to an article I came across in the “Daily Telegraph”, the most useful languages to study - obviously for people in the UK - are:

  1. German
  2. French
  3. Spanish
  4. Mandarin
  5. Polish
  6. Arabic
  7. Cantonese
  8. Russian
  9. Japanese
  10. Portuguese

Read more: Graduate jobs: Best languages to study

What do you think?

I think people in the UK don’t learn languages and are instilled with the belief that since ‘everyone speaks English’ they don’t have to. Of course anyone who has ever strayed outside a tourist area will know that the Universality of English is actually a myth. The vast majority of people in the world do not speak English.
Studying any language is great. Rating languages against one another in vague terms like ‘best’ or ‘most useful’ is childish and pointless.

@Bonnenouvellejonny: “…Rating languages against one another in vague terms like ‘best’ or ‘most useful’ is childish and pointless.”

I think it depends on the context in which one is making the judgement. If one were considering whch languages should be taught in British schools, then it would not by any means be unreasonable to consider which languages would be of the greatest practical use to the majority of British people, IMO.

Of course, individual learners are always going to have a strong personal bias of one kind or another. For example: I personally think that Icelandic is a magnificent language and I have it it on my personal “dreamlist” of future target languages. However I can well see that it would not be a very smart idea to have this language taught in British schools as a matter of Government policy, given that Iceland has such a tiny population and is thus of limited economic importance.

As regards the list of languages posted above, I would tend to put German ahead of French, but apart from that I don’t really see their logic. (I would, for example, tend to put Portuguese much higher up the list - given the rapidly growing economic importance of Brazil.)

@Jay_B You make a very good point about how considering the ‘usefulness’ of languages does actually have a practical bearing on society (the implementation of language teaching in schools). To be honest though I don’t think it matters what language a kid learns in school. Only a tiny proportion of the students which actually end up speaking the language to any kind of proficiency. And the idea that the country itself will reap economic benefits long term (as Korea will by forcing it’s school goers to learn English for example) is ridiculous. English is the language of business and diplomacy (which is of course why a lot of people think everyone speaks English), so really it is irrelevant what language kids learn in school from an economic perspective. Also I think the general mindset of ‘why should I learn this, everyone speaks English!’ really is a barrier to getting English kids to learn a language.
If the government of Britain wanted people to learn languages as a means of improving international business then they should encourage their businessmen to learn the languages. Maybe they could subsidize international businessmen’s enrollment in the schools they send their diplomats to when they learn languages.

From a purely personal perspective,of the two languages I learned at school in England , French has been much more useful than German, simply because it was used in many African countries (and also France is just a short boat ride away) .Spanish, which I learned independently, even more useful for me.

For usefulness in a work situation, I don’t have a useful opinion. Mandarin and perhaps Portuguese higher maybe?

For somewhere like Australia, it might be very different. I guess Indonesian and Japanese might be high in the list of useful languages

interesting thanks

My personal top 3 would be (aside from English) Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, just because they are widely spoken. Also if you know one of those languages from a certain branch (romance, slavic etc) it can be easier to learn other languages that are related to it. At school I had a choice of GCSE German or French, I chose German because it sounded closer to English and therefor easier. I hated the language though and didn’t make any effort with it so I failed the exam very badly. I think learning German is a waste of time if you already speak English though.