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Ten Languages To Learn Before You Take On The World

Updated on May 24, 2017

If you love to travel or your work requires you to travel a lot. You are going to get to a certain point where English alone just doesn’t cut it anymore. There is no doubt about it. I am writing this from a traveller’s point of view. So whether you are road tripping through South America, hiking the Great Wall of China or chilling on a beach in Mozambique. Here are some of the top languages to learn which will greatly aid you on your quests around the world.

After learning these languages, you should be able to comfortably travel the world without running into any language barriers.

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Spanish

Spanish is one of the most spoken languages in the world with about half a billion native speakers throughout at least 20 countries. Spanish will make your trip to South and Central America so much more enjoyable. Can you imagine the amount of things you could rather do with your time, instead of spending hours explaining everything in broken Spanish or very slow and “stupid-sounding” English? From Mexico to Argentina and everywhere in between, not to mention Spain. Spanish is definitely the go-to language for diversity. Plus, it sets the stage for the next language in the list.

Spoken In: Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Uruguay, Panama, Nicaragua, Ecuador, El Salvador, Cuba, Bolivia, Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, Paraguay, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Costa Rica, Andorra, Belize, Puerto Rico and Gibraltar.

Portuguese

Portuguese should be your next language to learn. Spoken by more than 250 million people, this language will let you travel hassle free to many countries in Africa, South America and of course Portugal and Brazil. Portuguese will be easy to learn once you know Spanish. Although you should probably already be able to communicate with Spanish alone. It is best to learn Portuguese anyway, just to avoid any confusion and misunderstandings, which is a good idea in Africa. In Mozambique, most people only speak Portuguese and you will have a hard time if you don’t.

Spoken By: Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea and São Tomé and Príncipe.

French

French has about 80 million native speakers, but seeing that it can open your horizons to almost 30 new countries. It has earned its spot at number 3 on this list. French will allow you to travel to most of Africa that you haven’t already visited with your Portuguese skills. Another language that should be relatively easy to learn if you already speak English and Spanish. French are also spoken in a few European countries and Canada but since English can get you through these, mentioning them is not all that important in this context. The most notable African country that has French as a first language is the Congo. Which is the best place to go if you love exploring the African jungle.

Spoken In: France, Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Monaco, Vanuatu, Haiti, French Guyana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Madagascar, Gabon, Burundi, Niger, Djibouti, Cameroon, Rwanda, Equatorial Guinea, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Guinea, Senegal and Comoros.

Arabic

Arabic is very difficult to learn for English speakers so because of this and its intimidating writing system, sadly, many people won’t learn it. With a native speaker count of almost 300 million in almost 30 countries, it can also broaden your horizon to much of North Africa and the Middle East. Many people in countries like Morocco who are fluent in French, will refuse to speak French to foreigners. It might be that they feel, if you cannot speak to them in their native Arabic, you are not worthy of speaking to them at all. It will truly make your life much easier when you are making your way across North Africa.

Spoken In: Morocco, Algeria, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Sudan, Egypt, Iraq, Mauritania, Jordan, Israel, Syria, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain, Chad, Qatar, Tunisia, Malta, Comoros, Djibouti, Senegal, Mali, Iran, Niger, Cyprus and Eritrea.

Italian

Italian has a total amount of about 85 million speakers in about 10 countries. Also, if you know languages like French, Spanish and English, it should not be too hard to master. The problem with Italian is that most Italian speakers are perfectly good English speakers as well. So it might not make sense for everyone to learn it but people will definitely show you more respect if you are able to communicate with them in their native language.

Spoken In: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Malta, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Swahili

With Portuguese, French and Arabic in your pocket, the only remaining language to conquer Africa is Swahili. An official language in six East African countries, which also happens to be some of the most tourist friendly African countries, this language can definitely be a valuable asset in your language arsenal.

Spoken In: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Malawi and Zambia.

German

Also not a very wide horizon with this language. But with 90 million native speakers in Europe and the African country of Namibia. It is good to learn as a traveller. It also gives you amazing opportunities if you are interested in working while you are travelling. I’ve come across many opportunities to get paid as a German translator and hundreds of cruise ship jobs require you to speak German.

Spoken In: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and Namibia.

Hindi

This language basically limits you to India but with more than a quarter billion native speakers. It definitely deserves a spot on this list. Once again, not very easy to learn and even harder to read and write. This language will unfortunately evade most foreigners. But an indispensable language nonetheless.

Spoken In: India, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, and Mauritius.

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Mandarin

Mandarin won’t unlock as many countries as most of the other languages on this list but it does have over a billion speakers. It is the most spoken language in the world. So it will definitely be a great idea to learn it. Like Arabic, it has a complex and somewhat intimidating writing system which will scare most people off. It also restricts you mostly to China and Singapore only. But with Chinese culture manifesting itself more and more all over the world. You cannot go wrong with this language.

Spoken In: China, Singapore and Taiwan.

English

Since English is the lingua franca of the world and you are reading this post in English, I left it for the last spot on this list. But in the case that you are not an English speaker or perhaps you are not proficient enough in English, you can’t go wrong by learning it. With English alone, you can probably travel the world. It might not be that easy since there are really people and countries out there that do not speak English at all, it is definitely possible.

Spoken in: Almost Everywhere.

Where These Languages Could Take You

show route and directions
A markerNorth America -
North America
get directions

English, French, Spanish

B markerSouth America -
South America
get directions

Spanish, Portuguese, French

C markerEurope -
Europe
get directions

Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, English

D markerAfrica -
Africa
get directions

Arabic, Portuguese, French, Swahili, German

E markerMiddle East -
Middle East
get directions

Arabic

F markerAsia -
Asia
get directions

Mandarin, Hindi

G markerAustralia -
Australia
get directions

English

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