But WHICH language are you going to learn in 2014? There are, after all, many to choose from with over 6900 living (still spoken) languages in existence. Perhaps there is a language you have always wanted to learn for a variety of reasons.. heritage, holidays, romance, business or plain fancy. Or maybe you can’t decide?
Here’s our view on the best languages to start learning in 2014:
1. Portuguese: The biggest Portuguese speaking population resides in Brazil. These are exciting times for Brazil – the booming Brazilian economy combined with the upcoming 2014 World Cup and the Olympics games in 2016 in Rio, means that if you start now you could be pretty competent in Portuguese by the beginning of the World Cup in June and fairly fluent by the Olympic opening ceremony! Portuguese is also the official language of the São Tomé and Príncipe which boasts the fastest growing economy in the world. More on Portuguese.
2. Arabic: 2013 saw continued unrest and turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa where Arabic is the lingua franca for a vast area and population. Any interest business or politics wise in this area would certainly be enhanced by some working knowledge of Arabic. Whilst Arabic is considered to be a difficult language to learn due to the unfamiliar alphabet and sounds there are some pluses. Arabic is a phonetic language so once you have mastered the alphabet it becomes easier AND all syllables are stressed equally so no tricky intonation to learn. Also, for those familiar with the “common” irregularities of English or French, for example, Arabic is delightfully regular so again, once you have learnt the verb conjugation system you won’t slip up.
3. Mandarin – China continues to be the world’s biggest exporter and the second biggest economy in the world behind the US who they are due to overtake in a decade. Learning Mandarin has become hot stuff across the globe due to China’s economic status. Political change combined with growing incomes mean that in 2012 Chinese people took 83m foreign trips and spent $102bn! Whether or not you plan to visit China you can expect to be hearing more Mandarin around you in 2014 so why not take the plunge and start learning Mandarin now? Westerners can expect to be surprised by the beautiful musicality of the Mandarin language.
Economic and political factors are not the “be all and end all” in choosing to learn a language so why not consider these languages for 2014?
4. Norwegian – For 5 consecutive years Norway has topped London based Legatum Institute‘s prosperity survey which uses both traditional economic indicators alongside measurements of life satisfaction and well-being because prosperity is “more than just the accumulation of material wealth, it is also the joy of everyday life and the prospect of being able to build an even better life in the future.” Close contenders are near neighbours of Norway: Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Holland. Interestingly, from a languages perspective, there is no official standard of spoken Norwegian, various dialects co-exist and most Norwegians simply speak their own dialect..
5. Danish – Denmark is the World’s Happiest Country according to the UN World Happiness Report out in 2013 which assessed 149 countries on their happiness both with life as a whole and the happiness they experience as an emotion on a given day. Danish is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Swedish plus is a minority language in Germany and Greenland. Danish is also mandatorily taught in schools in Iceland all of which widens the opportunities available from learning Danish. Plus, who knows.. maybe a little Danish happiness rubs off on all those who learn the language!
6. Spanish – According to the New Economics Foundation those leading the most sustainable lives and experiencing the greatest well being are predominantly speaking Spanish and live in South America – Costa Rica topped the list of 151 countries surveyed: http://www.happyplanetindex.org/data/ So, if you are looking for a slice of the good life – time to start learning Spanish.
Moving on from money and happiness what about a linguistic challenge for 2014?
7. Hungarian – or Magyar as it is called in Hungarian, is a notoriously difficult language to learn due it’s complex grammar, it will really test your sticking power. The British Foreign Office found that their diplomats had the most difficulty learning Hungarian despite the familiar alphabet (Japanese came in second). However, imagine how satisfying it must be to crack Hungarian! Learning another language after Hungarian would seem soooo easy 🙂
8. Esperanto – If you are looking for an easier language challenge why not try an “invented” language? The most successful language invented to date is Esperanto with over 2 million speakers. Created in 1887 by a Polish doctor Esperanto was designed to help end ethnic conflicts and be simple to learn. Leo Tolstoy claimed to have learnt Esperanto in just four hours!
9. Welsh – Flying the flag for minority languages across the world. 94% of the world’s population speak 6% of the world’s languages. Which leaves 6550 languages to be spoken by just 6% of the population. Why not learn a minority language and help keep it alive? Welsh has seen a significant growth in numbers of speakers over the past 20 years due to progressive language policies. For the British Welsh is the language of our forefathers – before the Romans, the Saxons and the Normans the original Brits spoke what has become Welsh. Learning Welsh is certainly a challenge, probably easier if you live in Wales but don’t let that deter you!
10. Ancient Greek – Moving on from minority languages, what you really want to learn is a dead language. Whilst “dead” languages may have fallen out of use they are the backbone of civilisations across the world. Philosophers, scientists and literary giants who played a significant role in the development of worldwide civilisations wrote in these ancient languages so to learn them can give you valuable insight into incredible worlds which still affect us today. Learn Ancient Greek and you could read the words of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Euripides, Aristophanes without the need of translations.. very impressive.
As this Indonesian quote says “Bahasa jiwa bangsa” – Language is the soul of a nation. If you want to learn more about a nation, it’s people, culture and history, the very best way is to learn their language. Good luck with your language learning in 2014 and let us know which language you choose!
Finally.. Happy New Year!