Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Of the Thousands of Foreign Languages You Can Learn Which One is Best for You?

A Key Question

A key question people ask when thinking of embarking on the life-long quest that foreign language learning can ultimately become, is “which foreign language should I try to learn?” Certainly there’s no lack of choice. Reasons for wanting or needing to learn a foreign language can be almost as many and as varied as the number of people themselves. Family, ancestry, employment, business, education, travel, adventure, romance and other personal concerns all may have their respective roles in the decision to learn and continue learning a foreign language.

Some Interesting Language Statistics

According to Vistawide World Languages & Culture statistics online at: http://www.vistawide.com/languages/language_statistics.htm
there are currently 6912 living languages in the world, but did you know that 516 of these are nearly extinct.

The Fabulous Five

Of the top five spoken world languages, Mandarin Chinese has the greatest number of speakers with a whopping 1.051 billion who manage one of the nearly one dozen forms or dialects.

Photo: one of my Mandarin teachers, Shutzng Zhang, is on the right in the photo

English is a “distant” second with an approximate total of 510 million speakers in 64 different countries. It is also the world’s most widely published language and has the largest number of words - approx. 250,000* distinct words. (*Some linguists even contend that there are as many as one million or more words in the English language.) English also has the greatest number of people who speak it as a second language – with up to 350 million non-native speakers.

Hindi is in third position with 490 million.

Fourth place is occupied by Spanish with 420 million native and second language speakers.

Arabic comes in fifth with 255 million speakers when all of its varieties are combined according to a World Almanac estimate.

Additional Language Statistics

The language with the fewest number of words is Taki-Taki, also called Sranan, which is spoken in Surinam. It has a mere 340 words.

The country where the largest number of languages is spoken is Papua New Guinea with 820 different languages even though it has only around 5,545,268 people. (That’s one language for every 6762 people for all of you statistics freaks out there)

Number two Indonesia has 742 languages among its 241,973,879 people.

Nigeria, with 516 languages spread through its 128,771,988 people, steps in at third.

In India 1,080,264,388 people spread across the country’s vast reaches speak an astounding 427 languages among them.

These statistics are likely, one of the reasons English has been adopted as an official language in each one of these countries.


So whether your reasons for wanting or needing to learn a foreign language include family, ancestry, employment, business, education, travel, adventure, romance or other more personal ones, a wide variety of language choices are available.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an English language teaching and learning expert author and university professor in Cali, Colombia. Now YOU too can live your dreams in paradise, find romance, high adventure and get paid while travelling for free. For more information on entering or advancing in the fascinating field of teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language send for his no-cost pdf Ebook, “If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know”, by sending an e-mail with "free ELT Ebook" in the subject line. For comments, questions, requests, to receive more information or to be added to his free TESOL articles and teaching materials mailing list, e-mail: lynchlarrym@gmail.com

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