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The 12 Most Important Languages To Learn For Success In 2024

Updated: July 8, 2024 | Published: May 18, 2020

Updated: July 8, 2024

Published: May 18, 2020


Knowing more than one language is nearly vital in today’s world. Companies are all global, and the demand for multilingual applicants is high. But not all languages are created equal; some will get you further than others. Learn from us — which are the most important languages to learn in 2024?

What Makes A Language Useful To Learn?

Learning a new language can enhance your personal and professional life. Factors like the number of speakers, geographic distribution, and economic influence make a language particularly valuable. Proficiency in a widely spoken language can boost your communication skills, open doors to cultural exchange, and improve your career prospects. Let’s take a closer look:

Number Of Speakers

Unsurprisingly, it is very important to know how many speakers there are of a language before you set your heart on learning it. Most people opt to learn languages spoken by the largest number of people. You should also consider how many people speak the language as a second language. With this information, you will open more doors to global communication.

Geographic Region

This is where your goals and interests come into play. Do you plan to travel in one particular region for a while? If so, look into what languages are commonly spoken there. If you want to learn a language that is widely spoken throughout the world, you may want to opt for English, French, or Spanish, which are spoken on all continents.

Usability And Versatility

When choosing a language, you may want to look at versatility. Mainly, can you use this language both at home and abroad? What about in both business and social contexts? Ask yourself, “How much will I use this language?” It takes time and effort to learn a language, and you will want to learn the one with the most usability for you!

Career Opportunities

Think of your current or future field, and location of business. If you are working in the United States, Spanish is a very useful language to learn. If you expect your industry or company will do a lot of international business, learn languages that will be useful in your field. It could be Chinese, Japanese, Italian, or German.

Woman speaking in front of others in a discussion
Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

The Most Important Languages To Learn In 2024

In 2024, the most important languages to learn are influenced by global trends, economic opportunities, and cultural significance. Languages such as English, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic stand out due to their widespread use and influence in business, technology, and diplomacy. Mastering these languages can open doors to international communication, enhance career prospects, and deepen cultural understanding across various fields. Let’s explore the top languages to learn and their unique benefits:

1. Mandarin Chinese

With over one billion Mandarin Chinese speakers in the world, of course it tops the list of most important languages to learn in 2024.
Most speakers are located within China, however, so is it still one of the most important languages to learn? The answer is yes — with China emerging as a global power, it becomes increasingly more important for businesses to have team members that know Chinese.

2. Spanish

Spanish has a large number of native speakers, and a large number of overall speakers as well. Most Spanish speaking countries are located in South and Central America, which are extremely popular travel destinations in recent years. For this reason, you will find many across the world who speak Spanish. In addition, due to the large number of Spanish speakers in the US, if you live, work, or travel in the United States, Spanish is the one to learn!

3. German

Germany is the most widely spoken language throughout Europe, as Germany remains Europe’s most dominant economy. For this reason, if you do business or plan to do business in Europe, German is one of the most important languages to learn. It’s a funny language to learn, with endings tacked on to words to give them specific meanings. But it is also a surprisingly easy language to learn.

4. French

French, also called the language of love, was actually the international, diplomatic language for centuries. Only recently, historically speaking, with the rise of the United States as a global power, did English prevail as the language of diplomacy. France is still quite the economic powerhouse, and a popular travel destination, so French is definitely a language to learn!

Paris Eiffel Tower over the river
Photo by Chris Karidis on Unsplash

5. Arabic

Arabic started as a nomadic language, spoken between moving tribes. Today it is the official language of the Arab League, consisting of 22 countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates. These popular travel destinations make it worthwhile to learn Arabic. Not just that, it is the language of the entire Muslim civilization and all of its texts. With over 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, no wonder Arabic made the list.

6. Russian

Russian is an extremely influential language among many Eastern European and Europeasian countries. The Russian language also has the second highest percentage of internet content (following English), and the leading percent of internet content in Europe. This makes the Russian language one of the most important languages to learn for European business.

7. Portuguese

Portuguese is spoken all over the world — it is the official language of countries in Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa. If that wasn’t enough to prove that this language is one of the most important languages to learn, here’s more: Brazil is emerging as one of the world’s newest economic powerhouses. Tourism in the country is growing and global companies are setting up shop, so the demand for Portuguese speakers is growing.

8. Japanese

While the Japanese language is not spoken widely outside of Japan, it’s still an important one to know. Whether you want to travel in Japan, love the culture and food, or the technology, knowing Japanese can get you far in many ways. It’s also an excellent introduction to other Asian languages. There are some Chinese characters in Japanese, and with similar grammar to Korean, learning Japanese puts you on the path to learn all three.

9. Hindi

With some of the highest numbers of speakers in the world, Hindi is one of the most important languages to learn without a doubt. But like with other languages, it’s not just the sheer number of speakers that should entice you to learn the language, but the global power of where the language comes from. India is a huge part of today’s world economy, and as Hindi is the most spoken language in India, it’s the one to learn.

10. Italian

Italian may not have the most speakers on this list, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an important language to learn. Italy is steeped in arts, culture, and history. Many world heritage sites are located in Italy, and many historical texts are written in Italian. This country is a popular travel destination, and knowing Italian will help you on a trip. Plus, knowing any of these similar romance languages — Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese, will make it much easier to learn the others in the group.
Italian Colosseum on a clear day
Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

11. English

English remains one of the most essential languages to learn in 2024 and beyond. It is the dominant language in global business, international travel, diplomatic relations, and technology. Many of the world’s top economies, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, are English-speaking countries.

English also boasts the highest number of second-language speakers, with nearly a billion non-native speakers worldwide. This widespread use makes English a key language for communication across diverse fields and regions.

12. Korean

The Korean language is an interesting one to learn, as its characters are phonological: the shapes are similar to the shape of your mouth as you make the sound. It is a unique writing system that makes the language an easy one to learn.

Most spoken languages in the world, important to learn. Infographic by University Of The People

Why Learn A New Language

Learning a new language can improve cognitive skills like memory, problem-solving, and multitasking. It can better your career opportunities, improve global communication, and enrich your cultural experiences through deeper connections with others. Understanding different languages can open doors to new personal and professional growth opportunities:

You’ll Make More Money

Being multilingual can significantly boost your earning potential. Multilingual employees are, on average, 5% more likely to receive a raise compared to their monolingual counterparts.

Additionally, these employees often earn about 19% more than those who speak only one language. This is because the ability to communicate in multiple languages is highly valued in the global job market, enabling better interaction with diverse clients and colleagues, and opening up more job opportunities

You’ll Have More Career Opportunities

Globalization is on the rise, and our world is always growing smaller. Those in-demand jobs may expect applicants to know at least two languages — especially if companies work across global teams or with foreign business partners. Having fluency in several languages will help you stand out on your applications, especially if they are in-demand languages.

University of the People student searching for jobs on tablet
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Should You Get a Language Degree or Certificate?

Are you considering whether to pursue a language degree or a certificate? A language degree offers comprehensive knowledge, including literature, culture, and history, leading to deeper fluency and understanding. This can open doors to careers in translation, interpretation, teaching, and international business.

On the other hand, a language certificate is practical and efficient for acquiring specific language skills or demonstrating proficiency for a particular job or academic program. Certificates are ideal for those needing to quickly enhance their language skills for immediate career or academic needs. Choose based on your career goals and the depth of knowledge you wish to achieve.


What’s The Most Commonly Spoken Language Today?

First Language

Mandarin Chinese tops the list of most commonly spoken native languages with 1.138 billion native speakers. With less than 200 million second language speakers, the vast majority of Mandarin speakers are native and also located in mainland China.

Second Language

When it comes to second languages, English takes the cake, with over 1.077 billion second language speakers, which makes up the majority of the number of English speakers overall. Arabic is also a popular second language. With over 24 countries with an official language of Arabic, it’s easy to see why.

Is There A Language Spoken On All Five Continents?

There is, and you may be surprised to learn it is… French! French colonizers spread out all over the world, and as a result, there are both native and nonnative speakers in every continent.

Map of all five continents
Photo by Andrew Stutesman on Unsplash

What’s The Most Useful Language On The Internet?

Russian. A little less than half of all web content is written in Russian! Plenty is written in English as well, but if you are all about the internet life, you may want to learn some Russian.

What’s The Highest Demand Language?

Portuguese! This is due to the rapidly growing economy of Brazil. The native language of Brazil is Portuguese, an effect of colonizers in the area from Portugal. Brazil’s tourism industry is booming, and many companies are setting up locations in Brazil, making Portuguese a newly in-demand language.

How can learning specific languages enhance career opportunities?

Learning languages like Mandarin, Spanish, or German can boost your career by making you a more competitive candidate for international business, diplomacy, and translation roles. Employers highly value multilingual skills for communicating with global clients and partners.

What are the economic benefits of being multilingual in today’s market?

Being multilingual can lead to higher earnings and job security. Multilingual individuals have access to diverse job opportunities and can help businesses expand into new markets, increasing revenue.

Where can I learn new languages?

You can learn new languages at universities, language schools, or online platforms like Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and Coursera. University of The People also offers an online English as a Second Language (ESL) course.

How long does it take to learn a new language?

Learning a new language varies by difficulty and study time. Basic proficiency can take several months, while advanced fluency may take several years.

At UoPeople, our blog writers are thinkers, researchers, and experts dedicated to curating articles relevant to our mission: making higher education accessible to everyone.