Learning a foreign language has many advantages. First, it is good for the brain: people who speak several languages better retain concentration and their intellectual abilities maintain good condition longer. Secondly, it is useful for the career: knowing a second foreign language increases your salary by 20-30% if you work in an area where it is in demand. Finally, it's just interesting: a foreign language opens up a new culture for you, which means a new way to look at the world.
But how to choose a language to learn? The most correct approach, in our opinion, is to choose what your heart tells you. This is at least a guarantee of good motivation. If you have not yet decided what you like, then you can start from more rational considerations. For this, we have prepared a list of languages with educational, career and immigration benefits.
Which language is more difficult?
The difficulty level of a foreign language depends on your native language. Generally speaking, the most popular languages can be divided into four groups. Depending on the group where your native tongue belongs, the others can be either simpler or harder to learn.
You can start learning a new language yourself, there are many useful resources for this. Apps like Babbel, Duolingo, and Memrise have courses in all major languages. If you understand that your choice of language is final, you can enroll in a language school or get a tutor. To make progress even faster, you may take a vacation for language courses abroad. There, in two weeks you will achieve the same results as after a few months of studying at home. For selection of language courses, you can contact us.
German — Deutsch
German is the official language in six countries: Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium, with 76 million native speakers. The language of Heine and Goethe is the second most widespread in Europe. The total number of German speakers around the world is almost 135 million, and another 15 million are learning it as you are reading these lines.
Features of the German language
Difficulty level: 1
German is related to English and other Germanic languages: Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish. Moreover, 60% of the vocabulary of German coincides with English. So if you already know English, it will not be so difficult to learn new vocabulary. And then it will be much easier for you to start speaking Scandinavian languages.
Although German is far from the most difficult language, it has its own challenges. To begin with, it is famous for long compound words: they often include more than two roots. For example, the word Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften means "insurance companies providing legal protection." One of the main difficulties in learning German is its grammar. Four cases and three grammatical genders, which are alien to an English speaker, and even articles are inflected. The complex conjugation system, a rigid word order — all this complicates the learning process.
Why learn German?
Free education. One of the main reasons to learn German is for free education. For studying at all state universities, except for the state of Baden-Württemberg, you only need to pay a semester fee of 171-747 USD. It is also possible to study in English, but not all universities and not in all specialties have English-language undergraduate programs.
Career.After university, it will be much easier to build a career with the German language. The most in-demand specialties in Germany are programmers, electronics engineers, IT consultants, economists, architects and nurses. The unemployment rate among foreigners is only 5.6%, while the European average is 14.9%. Finding a job in Germany has become easier after the priority check system was canceled, according to which local residents had an advantage over foreigners in employment.
Immigration. To obtain German citizenship, you must have lived in the country for 8 years without a break. At the same time, the years spent at the university count towards all federal states, except Bavaria.
The French language has a rich history. Once it was the international language of diplomacy and aristocracy, it was spoken in all European capitals. But from the beginning of the 20th century, English began to replace it in this role. And although French has now lost ground, it is still a truly international language: it is spoken by 267 million people, holding 7th place by the number of speakers, and is recognized as an official language by the UN and 29 former French and Belgian colonies. In modern culture, French has become famous for cinema, music, continental philosophy and literature. French writers have won the most Nobel Prizes in the world.
Features of the French language
Difficulty level: 2
French is famous for its beautiful phonetics, but it is not easy to enunciate: there are many sounds absent in English. In oral speech, different words are linked into one according to special rules, and because of this, it is difficult for beginners to understand what the speaker is saying. This phonetic phenomenon is called liaison. Grammar is also difficult: nouns and adjectives are agreed by gender and number, and verbs have 18 tenses. Each has its own rules of formation and exceptions.
But for English speakers French words will be easier. You already know some of them: there are lots of borrowings in English. In addition, after French, it will be easy to learn Spanish and Italian, because these languages are related — they all descended from Latin.
The affordable education. In France, education is relatively inexpensive: cheaper than in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. Prices in all state universities are fixed, a year of study for a Bachelor's degree costs 2,954 USD, for a Master's degree — 4,021 USD. And the PhD program will cost only 405 USD per year. Bear in mind that France is not the cheapest country. Living expenses per month are at least 1,067 USD.
Career. To build a career in France, you can't do without French. The French do not know English well — worse than, for example, Poles or Estonians. Therefore, even from tourists, they expect a minimum level of language mastery, and more so from migrants. The most popular professions in France, according to LinkedIn, are cybersecurity specialist, artificial intelligence specialist and real estate agent. However, the unemployment rate among foreigners is quite high — 13.1%. For comparison, in the UK it is only 4.3%.
Migration. To obtain citizenship, you need to live in the country for five years. But if you graduated from a French university, then the term is automatically reduced by three years.
Monthly living expenses
Average monthly net salary
TV 5 Monde — materials for learning French at any level
Since the 16th century, Spanish has been spreading across the globe and is now spoken by 543 million people. By this metric, it ranks 4th in the world after English, Chinese and Hindi. And in terms of the number of speakers, it is second only to the Chinese. Spanish is recognized as official in 18 Latin American countries and in Equatorial Guinea. The largest Hispanic population is in Mexico. 120 million people live there. The second place, oddly enough, is held by the United States. There are even more Spanish speakers than in Spain itself — 59 million people.
Features of the Spanish language
Difficulty level: 1
There are many dialects in Spanish, which are very different from each other. Therefore, it is better to decide in advance where you are more drawn — to the Iberian Peninsula or to Latin America. Difficulties can be caused by grammar: in Spanish there are articles, agreement on gender and number, many tenses and irregular verbs. Therefore, you just have to memorize the conjugations. On the other hand, English will be of some help in learning vocabulary: you will recognize some words by common roots. And French after Spanish will seem quite simple: the lexical similarity between the two languages is 75%.
Why learn Spanish?
Travels. Spanish is spoken by most of Latin America — an entire subcontinent. At the same time, most of the inhabitants of Spain and South America speak only their native language. So at least the basics will definitely not hurt to learn.
Affordable education. A year of studying at Spanish public universities costs from 800 USD to 2,666 USD — cheaper than at many Western European universities. And in some Latin American countries, for example in Argentina, education is free even for foreigners.
The cost of living. The cost of living in Spain is almost a third lower than in other states of Western Europe. And in the countries of Latin America, life’s even cheaper.
Migration. Latin American countries are not the most economically successful, but still quite comfortable — primarily due to the climate and cheerful culture. And it is relatively easy to get citizenship there, provided you know Spanish. In Uruguay, you need to live for three years, in Argentina — only two. In Spain, citizenship can be obtained after five years in the country.
The language of Dante and Petrarch in the modern world is spoken by 67 million people, or 15% of the EU population. It is recognized by the state in four countries: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and the Vatican. But in fact, Italians live not only there. In the 20th century, fleeing from terrible poverty, they settled all over the world and flooded Europe, reached the United States and even Latin America. In the States, for example, there are more than 700 thousand of them, and in Argentina — more than a million. There, Italian even influenced the local dialect of Spanish. So there may be more practical uses for Italian than meets the eye.
Features of Italian
Difficulty level: 2
Italian sounds very pleasant to the ear, but pronunciation can be difficult. First of all, intonations will seem unusual. In addition, you will have to learn to speak loudly and to actively gesticulate.
Also in Italian there are many irregular verbs, the conjugation of which must be memorized. But some words will be familiar to you from English. And if you already speak French, then the language will be easy for you.
Another feature of Italian is a huge number of dialects, and the differences between them are quite serious. Of course, most Italian citizens have command of the literary norm, but dialects are used for everyday communication in the regions. So if you come, say, to Naples and realize that you do not understand anything, do not be alarmed. When the locals find out that you are a foreigner, they will speak to you in the literary Tuscan dialect.
Why learn Italian?
Travels. Italy is a real treasury of Europe, each city has a rich thousand-year history. At the same time, English is spoken there worse than in many European countries. About a third of the population speaks the language at a basic level, but the number of fluent speakers is much lower. So Italian comes in handy when dealing with locals.
Affordable education. In Italy, there is the oldest university in Europe — Bologna. In the country, programs in Design and Architecture are considered especially prestigious; they are appreciated all over the world. And medical education is one of the most affordable among European universities: the average cost is 4,000 USD per year. In the UK, medical programs are 10 times more expensive. In addition, knowing Italian will increase your chances of getting a scholarship. They are issued by both universities and the state. The scholarship can fully cover tuition fees and accommodation.
Migration. Many people dream of living in Italy, but to stay in the country you need to find a job. It is not easy to do this: the unemployment rate among foreigners is one of the highest in Europe — 13.1%. The competition for jobs is such that even Italians themselves are leaving the country en masse. But if you still manage to find a job, then in 10 years you will be able to apply for citizenship.
The first language to have ever been spoken outside of Earth’s atmosphere is also the 8th most spoken one in the world. It’s the most widespread one in Eurasia and the language with the largest number of native speakers in Europe — at 258 million speakers worldwide. Russian is officially recognized in the majority of former Soviet republics and satellites, and is the de-facto lingua franca throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States. It has many more utility than it might initially seem — from being used as language of business communication with Russian partner companies, to moving to the country in pursuit of lower tax rates and entrepreneurship opportunities. In addition, you might be surprised by the amount of Russian communities outside of the national borders. For example, there are huge communities of Imperial Russia refugees in Latin America, who have been living there since the 1920s.
Features of the Russian language
Difficulty level: 3
Russian is commonly considered to be one of the hardest languages for a native English speaker to learn, right up there with Arabic and Chinese. The alphabet is oddly similar, and yet different. For example, the letter [B] is read as the English [V], not [B]. That sound is indicated in Russian with the letter [Б]. Word stress is hard to understand, as the pronunciation rules are very vague. As a final stroke, there are six entire grammatical cases — and everything needs to be conjugated and agreed accordingly. However, things are not as grim as they might appear at first glance.
For instance, the word order is very flexible — you won’t mess up the meaning of the sentence if you change the word placement. This is mostly thanks to the aforementioned case system. There are no articles, and the verb "to be" is not used in the present tense —once you understand the inflections, is never a problem to make sentences, tovarisch! Another pleasant feature — to change a phrase from a question into a statement and vice versa, you simply need to change the intonation.
Why learn Russian?
Tourism. Russia is a marvelous place when it comes to sightseeing. Stretching 6800 kilometres from West to East, and with its 1000 year history, the country shows no shortage of either historical or natural locations of interest. However, outside of major tourist directions and the largest cities, the general population speaks English quite poorly — only 3% of Russians are fluent speakers. So without knowing the local language, you likely won’t be able to truly appreciate the diversity of the country.
Affordable education. Russia can be characterized as a study destination with a great balance of price and quality — while there are numerous universities with modern high standards of education, the prices generally stay below the threshold of 2,133 USD/year. In addition, there are many state-funded seats, and even separate quotas for foreign students. This makes medical education in Russia one of the most affordable in the world. On the downside, Russian degrees are reluctantly recognized in Europe, and a graduate will need to undergo the process of legalization, often even pass qualification exams in order to work outside of the country.
Migration. Though it doesn’t seem obvious, Russia is an appealing place to migrate to for many reasons. Apart from the interest in local culture and nature, they can be purely pragmatic — in Russia, you will need to pay significantly less taxes, than in countries of the EU or in the USA — between 4 and 15% on turnover. At the same time, you will live in rather European surroundings — four seasons of the year, familiar fashion and food, and Romano-Greek cultural backbone. To move to Russia, you will need to get a permanent residence permit and stay in the country for 5 years, without spending more than three months per year outside of the country.
Easy Russian — A youtube channel about the Russian language and culture
Chinese — 中文
Chinese is the largest language in the world by the number of native speakers, and in terms of the total number of speakers it is only slightly smaller than English. But most of them live in China, and very few in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. Once, Chinese had already been an "international" language in East Asia — it was used in Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Now, along with the growth of the PRC's economy, interest in Chinese is also growing: in 2012, 5 million people took the HSK language test, and by 2018 the number had grown to almost 7 million.
Features of the Chinese language
Difficulty level: 4
There are two main difficulties in learning Chinese. The first is the tone system that replaces the stress we are accustomed to. Don't worry, though, the Chinese phonetics can be understood by anyone. You just need to give it a little time and effort.
The second difficulty is writing. You will have to learn hieroglyphs all the time, especially if you are going to get higher education in China. There is nothing you can do to avoid it. True, modern computers and telephones make life much easier: characters can be typed using the Latin alphabet (Pinyin), you only need to memorize their reading. In fact, you need to be able to recognize them, but writing by hand is no longer so important. And knowledge of hieroglyphs is not required for vocal communication. Another good thing: the grammar in Chinese is easy. You don't need to memorize conjugations, there is no grammatical agreement either — everything is expressed using just word order.
About 70% of the PRC's population speak the standard dialect, which is also sometimes called "Mandarin." But the remaining 30% is 400 million people. Many of them speak dialects that are very different from the standard language. A resident of Beijing and a southerner may simply not understand each other.
Why learn Chinese?
Affordable education. According to Project Atlas, almost 500 thousand foreign students study in China — 2 times more than 10 years ago. Six Chinese universities are included in the top 100 of the QS Best Universities Ranking. And all this at relatively low prices: 2,000-4,000 USD per year.
Scholarships. Both the state and universities in China provide scholarships for international students that cover up to 100% of the costs. With knowledge of Chinese, the chances of getting funding are higher.
Career at home. Despite the fact that China's cooperation with other countries is growing, only 1% of the population speaks English in China. Therefore, the demand for specialists with the Chinese language is continuously rising.
Career in China. Translators and English teachers are in great demand in China. Teachers are paid an average of 2,737 USD per month, but the figure may be higher for native speakers. It will be easier for people from IT or engineering professions to build a career with knowledge of the language. Local companies rarely employ people who do not speak Chinese in leadership positions. But keep in mind that for this you will have to move to the PRC, and life there is not suitable for everyone.
Compared to previous languages, Czech is quite "small" — it is spoken by only 13 million people. Nevertheless, the language and the country have a rich history. Once the Czech Republic was called Bohemia and was part of the Holy Roman Empire. In the 14th century, the Czech king Charles IV even became the emperor. Prague, located in the very heart of Europe, was the center of cultural life. In 1348, Charles University was founded there, one of the oldest institutions of higher education in the world. In the 20th century, Czech culture became worldwide famous thanks to outstanding writers (Jaroslav Hasek, Milan Kundera, Karel Čapek), artists (Alfons Mucha) and composers (Antonín Dvořák).
Now the Czech Republic is a member of the European Union and one of the most developed post-communist countries. At the same time, living costs there are 2-3 times less than in Germany, France or the Netherlands.
Features of the Czech language
Difficulty level: 3
Czech is a Slavic language, a close relative of Russian. The lexical similarity of the two languages is 74%. But there are certain interesting differences. Czech, as well as Russian, has a complex grammar with its own nuances. The nouns here have 14 declensions to learn, and the word order in the sentence is slightly different.
Contrary to the popular myth, knowing one Slavic language doesn’t mean that you will be magically able to perfectly understand any other. However, there are a handful of exceptions, here’s one: Czech is very similar to Slovak. So once you have learned one, you will understand both.
Why learn Czech?
Free education. Studying in Czech for both Bachelor's and Master's degrees is free. Moreover, Czech education is one of the most prestigious in Eastern Europe. That is why many students from post-Soviet countries go to the Czech Republic: today there are about 11000 of them.
Language classes. Czech universities offer language courses that last one to two semesters. This time might be enough to learn the language to the required level for admission — B1 or B2, depending on the field of study and qualification.
Work and andimmigration. After graduation, you will have 9 months to find a job. The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic is only 2.9% — the lowest in Europe after Hungary. Therefore, employment is very achievable. After ten years of living in the country it will be possible to obtain Czech citizenship, which will open access to all European countries.
Turkish is spoken by 88 million people, and not only in Turkey: a large number of migrants live in the Balkans, France, the USA and especially in Germany — more than 2 million people.
Features of the Turkish language
Difficulty level: 3
Turkish is a language from the Turkic language family. Therefore, for English speakers, some things in Turkish grammar will seem unusual. For example, the word order: the verb is always placed at the end of a sentence. And there is also a huge number of suffixes that are layered on top of each other. As a result, the word turns out to be very long and can sometimes replace a whole sentence.
Why learn Turkish?
Government scholarships. The Turkish government scholarship program is called Turkiye Burslari. It fully covers the costs of tuition, accommodation and flights. Before the start of the program, students study for a year in language courses at the university, also free of charge. The competition for the program is quite high: every year 100,000 applications come in and only 5,000 scholarships are awarded. An important condition of the program is to return home at the end of the program. You cannot stay and look for work in Turkey.
Career. Before the coronavirus epidemic, the number of tourists coming to Turkey grew by 5-10 million a year, most of the travelers coming from Russia and Germany. Bilingual guides and hotel managers in Turkey are in great demand. Also, specialists in the field of construction and energy are in demand here.
There are 126 million native speakers in Japan. Interest in the Japanese language is increasing throughout the world: the number of language courses for foreigners in Japan doubled from 120,000 in 2012 to 240,000 in 2017. Many people start learning the language due to their passion for manga, anime and video games. Others do it out of interest in classical painting, literature, or martial arts. Still, there are career prospects: Japan speaks English rather poorly, but due to japantimes.co.jp/opinion/demographic problems-commentary/looking-overseas-solve-japans-labor-shortage/, it is in dire need of foreign workers.
Features of the Japanese language
Difficulty level: 4
There is a popular belief that Chinese and Japanese languages are similar, but in fact this is a big delusion. The two countries are really close culturally and geographically, but between the languages there are more differences than similarities. The Japanese writing system consists not only of hieroglyphs, but also of two syllabic alphabets, which add up to a total of 92 characters. Function words, pronouns, endings and foreign borrowings are written with them. Japanese grammar, unlike Chinese, is very complex. You will find many things unusual:
the predicate is always at the end of a sentence;
12 grammatical cases;
lack of grammatical gender, number and person markers;
there are only two tenses — the past and the non-past.
But the pronunciation will not be so difficult. Japanese is a phonetically poor language with fewer sounds than most others.
Why Learn Japanese?
Government scholarships. The Japanese government generously funds students who want to study in Japan and master the Japanese language. MEXT scholarships cover full tuition and living expenses. You can study in both undergraduate and graduate programs.
Career in Japan. After graduating from a university in Japan, a former student can change the visa status from “student” to “work,” but for this you need to find a job. The unemployment rate is very low — only 2.29%. Due to problems with demographics, the Japanese government expects that the country will lack 1.3 million workers in the coming years. Therefore, given the knowledge of the Japanese language, it is quite possible to find a job. The most demanded specialties are IT experts, investors, sales specialists, and engineers.
Immigration. After five years of working and living in Japan, a foreigner can apply for citizenship. It is not easy to get it: there is a huge amount of paperwork, the whole process can take from six months to a year. You will also have to renounce the citizenship of your home country.
81 million people speak Korean in only two countries — North and South Koreas. Despite this, in recent decades, Korean culture and products have flooded the global market. This phenomenon has even been called the "Korean Wave." Thanks to K-Pop, TV-dramas and manhwa, the number of Korean learners is growing. In the USA, for example, over 20 years it has increased by 85 times: from 163 to 14,000 people.
Features of the Korean language
Difficulty level: 4
In the Korean language, unlike Chinese and Japanese, not hieroglyphs are used, but a phonetic alphabet — Hangul. There are only 24 letters in it, so it won't be difficult to learn. But the grammar and phonetics for native speakers of Germanic languages will be unusual: there are many overlapping suffixes and unfamiliar sounds. Another hallmark of Korean is polite speech. To use the language at work, you will have to memorize special polite words and phrases. There are seven styles of courtesy in Korean.
Why Learn Korean?
Government scholarships. The Korean government is offering international students the Global Korea Scholarship. It fully covers the costs of tuition, room and board.
Career. After graduating from a university in Korea, you can change your visa status and stay in the country, but for this you need to find a job and meet all the conditions. In recent years, Korea has tightened the rules, making it harder to get a work visa. But if you specialize in programming, architecture, or marketing, and speak Korean, chances are better. Korean is also useful outside of the country, for working in a Korean company or as a translator. There are very few Korean language specialists, so you won't be left without a job.
Immigration. South Korea is a modern country with a high standard of living. In terms of GDP per capita, it even surpasses Japan. Therefore, moving there for many will mean an increase in income. But getting Korean citizenship is not easy. To do this, you need to live in the country for at least 5 years, have an income of 30 million won and speak Korean fluently. The process of obtaining citizenship itself takes one and a half to two years.
Arabic is the fifth most spoken language in the world, with 346 million speakers. It is recognized as official in 25 countries around the world. The language has a rich history: most of the heritage of the ancient era — Ancient Greece and Rome — came to us thanks to Arabic translations. In addition, it is the official language of worship in Islam, the second most widespread religion in the world. The sophisticated oriental aesthetics pushes many to study Arabic: traditional Islamic miniature, the art of calligraphy, classical poetry and mystical music reveal a world perception that is unusual for Europeans.
Features of the Arabic language
Difficulty level: 4
Arabic is actually not one language, but a whole group. They are usually called dialects, but the differences are so significant that, for example, a Maghreb resident will not be able to understand the Syrian dialect. It is worth learning the literary Arabic language, as it is used for international communication by the inhabitants of the entire Arabic world. Unless you are going to read the Quran — it is written in the classical language, that has its own differences.
Arabic is considered a difficult language. Nouns and verbs agree in gender, there are three cases that, similar to Russian, change the endings of nouns. Difficulties will be caused by phonetics with unusual sounds and writing, in which letters are written differently depending on the position in the word in a sentence. But this does not mean that Arabic is not worth trying to learn. If you put in enough effort and time, you will definitely succeed.
Why learn Arabic?
Travels. Thanks to the Arabic language, you will discover North Africa and the Middle East from a new perspective — as many as 25 countries. Somewhere you will be understood in English, but you will not be able to get out of the tourist areas without Arabic.
Career. The countries of the Arab East own 60% of the world's oil reserves, so Arabic will definitely assist you when looking for work in this area. Also in Arab countries, architects, engineers, and specialists in the financial sector and tourism are in demand.
Immigration. In Saudi Arabia, 37% of the population are foreigners, and in the United Arab Emirates — 90%. Migrants come to Arab countries because of good salaries. And although it is very difficult to obtain citizenship there, this does not in any way interfere with having a comfortable life.
Portuguese. Portuguese is the 9th most spoken language in the world, with 258 million speakers — the same amount as Russian. So it will definitely come in handy, at least for travel. Prices for education in Portugal are also relatively low for Europe — 6,399 USD per year. But in France and Germany, education is cheaper.
Norwegian. Education in Norway is free, regardless of citizenship and language of instruction. True, there are very few English-language programs at the undergraduate level, so it will be difficult to enroll without knowing Norwegian.
Finnish. In Finland, education in Finnish and Swedish is free for everyone. Studying in English costs 10,000 USD — 12,000 USD per year.
Hindi. Hindi is the third most widespread language, spoken by 600 million people. Due to the growth of the Indian economy, foreign specialists with knowledge of Hindi are becoming more and more in demand.