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 What do you want it for?

I would like to travel
I need it for my studies
I need it for my job
I am a responsible citizen
I need to fulfill myself
More links

   
          
         
   

I would like to travel



    ^    
       

About 15% of all adult language learners state holidays as their primary motivation for studying. Needless to say: you will enjoy your travel abroad the more the more knowledge you have about the foreign language. But, moreover...

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  People from other cultures can open your mind to new ideas and views. If you hesitate, remember what you thought about diving before you learned to swim.

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  For some reason, during holidays, romance seems to come up easier :-)

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  Sorry to say this: safety is an issue in some places. If you don't stand out as a foreigner, you are less likely to be robbed or something worse...

At home, your language skills may also prove helpful. For example, you may have to help an immigrant or a tourist in trouble.

What language should you choose? The following map shows the areas of influence of the major "
world languages". (NB In parts of Northern Africa covered by French and Spanish on this map, Arabic is actually more important.)

World map (linguae francae)

         
       
   

I need it for
my studies



    ^    
       

Some reasons for learning a second language:

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  Being able to read scientific publications in their original versions makes it easier to be up-to-date.

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  Learning a complex language trains your logical and critical thinking skills. Latin and Old Greek are typical examples: paradoxically, a solid knowledge of classical languages is a better preparation for scientifical studies than certain foolproof, rule-based mathematical textbooks in use today.

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  Some people learn ancient languages for religious motivations: Christian theologians study koiné Greek, Muslims learn classical Arabic, Thai Buddhists study Pali.

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  And, last but not least, learning a foreign language makes you understand your mother tongue better. You will find many opportunities to contrast both languages.

What language shall you choose? For reading scientific literature, the answer is relatively simple. About half of all scientific publications in humanities translated into other languages were originally written in English, the other half being shared by works first published in German, French, or Russian. The figures for natural sciences and technology are not likely to be much different.

Scientific languages pie graph

For some disciplines, certain languages are more important than others. For example, in western psychology and philosophy German is essential, and Russia is still a world power in mathematics.
For literary studies or leisure, consider the languages with a long written tradition: Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Farsi (Persian), ...

         
         
   

I need it for
my job



    ^  

What do you do? Depending on your kind of activity, you will need a different language and a different level of proficiency.

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  If your company does business with other countries, foreign language skills will allow you to have a more direct relationship with your customers.

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  Your career opportunities within a company may depend on your language skills. For example, in the German branch of Daimler-Chrysler (Mercedes-Benz), the meetings of high executives are held in English. On the other hand, large companies often require employee mobility.

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  Migration: If you are a citizen of the European Union, you have the right to live and work in any country of the Union for unlimited time. But you can take advantage of this chance only if you have appropriate language skills.

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  In today's constantly changing labor market, a high educational standard proves decisive for adapting to new situations.

Now, which languages prevail in business contacts? The following graph shows an estimation of the population living in the areas of influence of major languages. Note that in business, certain widely spoken languages are replaced by a "
world language" (e.g. Hindi by English).

Business languages pie graph

Consider the following factors as well:

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  Do you want to sell or buy? China and India have a big growth potential due to their population, but check UNESCO's Human Development Index to see which territory your future clients are likely to be living in.

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  Which countries or ethnic groups will you deal the most with? For instance, Germany is the largest trade partner of the USA; the largest minority in the USA are Hispanics (est. 30 million).

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  Note certain minorities have a greater purchasing power (e.g. ethnic Chinese in Singapore (74%), Malaysia (34%), Thailand (8%), and Indonesia (3%)).

For statistics comparing countries as per various criteria, see
http://www.nationmaster.com

         
         
   

I am a responsible citizen



    ^    
        In regions such as the European Union, foreign language knowledge will be increasingly essential for being able to participate in decision making at various political levels. It is not likely that a single official language will be adopted in the near future in the EU. Anyway, multilingualism is no Utopia: in countries such as Luxembourg or Switzerland, it has been taken for granted for centuries.

Reversely, national unity can be promoted by spreading the knowledge of minority languages (French in Canada, Spanish in the US).
         
         
   

I need to fulfill myself



    ^    
        A foreign language (the more exotic, the better) bears its own world view. Learning a new language will greatly expand your views and develop your personality.

Get the feeling for the
savoir vivre at first hand! In many cases the original version of a written work will show you facets that got lost by the translation. Reading foreign books or watching foreign movies are original and advantageous leisure activities.
         
         
   

More links



    ^    
        See

Sprachpflege.info: Liste der Weltsprachen ***** (in German) Various language rankings.
how-to-learn-any-language.com *****
         
         
   
 
    Updated: 2016 January 30
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