The Most Useful Language For English Speakers To Learn, According To An Economist

The Most Useful Language For English Speakers To Learn, According To An Economist

So you want to learn a second language to help advance your career, but you have no idea which one would benefit you the most. If you were to ask an economist, this is probably what they’d tell you.

Photo by Ian Lamont.

Over at Quartz, Emily Oster, an associate professor of economics at Brown University, recommends two languages that will offer the most benefits in the present and future. The first, Mandarin, offers the most benefits overall. It’s the native language for 14 per cent of the world’s population — many of whom don’t speak English — meaning it’s the most influential language on Earth. It’s also incredibly important on the business side, with Mandarin speakers being highly sought after.

The second option, Spanish, has a few special benefits of its own. It’s the second most spoken language on the planet, and there are many native speakers of the language in the US, making it a pretty valuable skill. Spanish is also considered to be much easier to learn than Mandarin, especially if the goal is fluency, so it’s the more practical choice.

Of course, this is only one person’s take, and your needs may call for something else entirely. If you’re doing regular business in Germany, for example, learning Mandarin probably isn’t the best use of your time. That said, it’s some interesting food for thought if you’re not sure what to learn and simply trying to maximise your career potential with a single language skill.


  • Cantonese is the third most spoken language in China after Putonghua (Mandarin) and Wu. If anything it’s a language in decline with language becoming standardised across the country. Kind of like kids in Australia having American accents from all the TV, I mean YouTube, they watch.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!