Top Foreign Languages Students Should Learn This School Year
As students head back to school, which foreign language has the biggest potential to become the most useful language of the future?
Now that the kids are back in school, it’s a great time to start planning which extracurricular programs and activities to add to their daily academic and afterschool routines. While there’s no doubt that your student would benefit from kicking the ball around at soccer practice or learning poise and posture from a ballet class, when it comes to foreign language study, the clock is ticking—and there’s no better opportunity than right now to add learning a new language to their educational resume.
Experts say that the window of time for language study gradually closes as children grow up and that students who begin studying a second (or third, or fourth) language in K-12 are more likely to speak like a native in that language as an adult.
Experts also agree that students who speak more than one language perform better in all subject areas and on standardized tests—and in general, experience higher college entrance rates—than their monolingual counterparts.
While it may be a no-brainer that your student should begin studying a new language as soon as possible, the question remains: what’s the best foreign language to learn?
Middlebury Interactive offers intensive language acquisition programs in five different languages—Spanish, French, German, Chinese and Arabic—considered to be the most important international languages of the future. Our summer immersion language academies, Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy, offer all five of these languages in a fun and immersive month-long residential setting at sites in the U.S. and abroad. Our K-12 school-based courses, which can be implemented fully online or in blended learning environments, are available in Chinese, French, German and Spanish. These online courses are also available for parents to purchase directly for their K-12 student.
According to 2012 US Census projections, data shows that in 2050, the United States will be the country with the most Spanish speakers in the entire world. If this isn’t reason enough to start learning Spanish, the romance language is considered by many to be one of the most poetic and beautiful languages in the world. With more than 500 million speakers worldwide, and 44 countries boasting Spanish as their official language, Spanish is also the second most spoken language on the Internet—right behind English and Mandarin Chinese.
America’s fascination with Parisian style has made French one of the most sophisticated choice for second language study. But apart from giving French speakers that certain allure—or je ne sais quoi—French is quickly becoming an important global language. According to Forbes magazine, a recent study by investment bank Natixis predicted that French will be the most spoken language in the world by 2050, noting its predominance on the continent of Africa—a massive, potential economic powerhouse that’s been steadily gaining ground in recent years.
One of the oldest languages in the world, students of the Arabic language are introduced to a world of rich history and culture. With 300 million speakers across the globe, Arabic is the official language of more than 20 different countries and has become the fifth most spoken language in the United States. In addition, speakers of Arabic are in high demand and low supply in America, a need that is only expected to grow considerably in the next decades. This demand is reflected in the U.S. State Department’s identification of Arabic as a “critical language.”
Aside from being a world leader in science, technology and engineering, Germany is the second largest exporter in the world with the largest economy in Europe and the fourth largest economy worldwide. German is one of the 10 most spoken languages in the world, and is the primary official language in six economically powerful nations. Germany is also home to many important international corporations, making it a useful language to learn when considering entering a profession filled with global career opportunities.
More than 873 million people in the world—that’s close to one fifth of the world’s entire population—speak Mandarin! Meanwhile, China is rising quickly as a leading nation in the global marketplace. Many U.S. companies have large operations in China and also have business relationships with Chinese corporations. Students who master Mandarin are sure to become valuable candidates for employment in many industries and companies in China, the U.S. and all over the world.