Top 20 Most Popular Foreign Languages to Learn in 2023-24
By: Shahzad Bashir
Learning a new language has been an enthusiastic activity for many avid language learners. It has immense benefits. It not only opens new doors of opportunities for the individuals but also expands the vision and they can also cope with the challenges of language hindrance. Language learning can be a hectic and challenging process depending on the target language.
Table of Content
- List of Most Popular Foreign Languages
- 1. Arabic
- 2. Spanish
- 3. French
- 4. German
- 5. Korean
- 6. Mandarin Chinese
- 7. Japanese
- 8. Russian
- 9. Italian
- 10. Hindi
- 11. Portuguese
- 12. Malay
- 13. Bengali
- 14. Persian
- 15. Turkish
- 16. Tamil
- 17. Marathi
- 18. Punjabi
- 19. Vietnamese
- 20. Urdu
List of Most Popular Foreign Languages
Learning a second or third language has been really beneficial. With new languages, traveling becomes easier, and people can communicate with each other more conveniently. Here is a compilation of the most popular foreign languages to learn in 2023.
It is the fifth most spoken language in the world and getting proficient in it may bring a lot of opportunities. There are more than 300 million speakers of this language and it has speakers in more than 20 countries.
Arabic is an ancient language and has been a popular language since ever, however, this language in 2023 is going to be the most popular foreign language to learn as it is rapidly getting popular for many reasons.
Arabic is a beautiful language and is considered quite tough to learn for English speakers. Moreover, it has different vocabulary and dictionaries in the different regions and hence, an Arabic speaker from Lebanon may not understand a speaker from Algeria well.
The Arabic language has an important place in the United States. It has deemed Arabic as a language of strategic importance. It is because of its significance in international affairs, that reading and understanding of knowledge can lead to lucrative positions in and outside of government.
Expected timeline to learn Arabic
Foreign service institute also known as FSI suggests that an average English speaker requires at least 2200 hours to get proficient with an advanced level in Arabic.
Also, it is important to note that it is not the timeline of a native level. This timeline is for an advanced level. However, for native-like fluency, the individual may take longer to understand and get proficient.
Spanish is another important and one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. It is also one of the official languages of the United Nations. This language enjoys massive popularity and is also quite hot among new language learners.
Also, it has been enjoying recognition for years now and it is no different in 2023. It rather would be getting more popular in the years to come. It is also considered the easiest choice to learn a new language for English speakers.
It is an official language of more than 20 countries. With more than 600 million people fluent in the language it is soon going to enjoy universal status.
Expected Timeline to Learn Spanish
As Spanish is quite close to the English language and shares a lot of similarities so it is not quite tough to learn and understand for English speakers. It hardly takes 24 weeks or 600 hours to ace the language.
This romance language which comes from the Indo-European family is one popular and worldwide famous language. It is the official language of 29 countries across different continents.
It is also one of the six languages of the United Nations. Therefore, it is going to get more learners in 2023 and in the years to come. It is an official language in 11 countries that too solely.
French is also the number one choice for new language learners and they love exploring this language due to its rich historical background.
Expected Timeline to Learn French
The learning time for French may differ for the native of different languages. If one wants to learn this language as a tourist he may need 80 to 100 hours to achieve the tourist level grasp.
Whereas working knowledge may also vary and it requires at least 200 to 400 hours for this level. It is quite a popular language that students take up to study. It is the second most taught foreign language in the United States.
German is the closest relative of the English language and both share the same family. Therefore, German is also widely spoken among the masses all over the world.
It is a West Germanic language and has its speakers mainly in central Europe. It also is going to rule the world as a foreign language in 2023 and for many more years to come.
German is widely taught as a foreign language, particularly in continental Europe and it is the third most foreign language after English and French.
It is not easy but yes quite similar to the English language, hence, making it a slightly easy choice for English speakers. It is also a good option for people who enjoy rigid grammar rules.
Expected Timeline to learn German
It was also considered the language of science before world war I after which it got replaced by English. It is the main language of the European Union, therefore, people who plan to travel to Europe or intend to go there for work or business purposes can start studying this language.
It might require at least 30 weeks or 750 classroom hours to learn this language to an advanced level.
Korean is one the language that started with the status of an isolated language and now it is the 18th most popular language globally.
It has more than 75 million speakers. Considering its great influence worldwide, this language seems to grow stronger politically and culturally in 2023 and the future.
Korean is also taken as a much easier language to learn. It is quite logical as compared to other languages. It has 24 letters and Hangul is the only Korean alphabet.
Expected Timeline to Learn Korean
Besides the cultural importance and Korean entertainment, many largest companies in the world are in South Korea. According to the foreign institute, Korean is a category V language and that makes it a bit harder to understand for non-natives.
It requires 2200 hours or 88 weeks of the study of language to reach fluency in the Korean language.
6. Mandarin Chinese
Chinese language though already is the world’s most spoken language with billions of speakers. It intends to keep growing only in the future. It has multiple variants and there are different dialects and languages being spoken in different areas.
The Chinese language is considered a lot by new language learners despite its challenges. Its increasing importance makes it the number one choice to learn in the business world to enjoy the opportunities in the Chinese market.
Expected Timeline to learn Chinese
Learning Chinese could be a real task with a lot of effort. To get proficient in the Chinese language an individual might require 230 weeks which is more or less 4 years. It’s a long time but yes consistency is the key.
Japanese is the native language of more than 128 million people. It is the national language of Japan. The interesting fact about the Japanese language is that its writing system Kanji comes from the Chinese language.
Japanese though belongs to Japan only. Still, there are plenty of reasons to go for this language. Japanese is one of the hardest languages to learn with three writing systems, complex grammar, and no links with other languages virtually.
However, the effort is worth trying as Japan is not only a popular travel destination because of its rich and unique history. It is also the third largest economy and is home to the world’s most innovative companies.
Japanese is also the most spoken language on the internet so anyone can see how it is going to get growing in the current year and future.
Expected Timeline to Learn Japenese
The estimated time as suggested by the US state department of Japanese is quite tough and hard to learn for the English natives. So, English speakers have to spend around 88 weeks of learning or 2200 hours to get fluent in the language.
The Russian language is an east Slavic language that is spoken across Russia. It is the native language of Russians and comes from the Indo-European language family.
It has more than 258 million speakers on the whole. Russian is the world’s 7th most spoken language already with a number of native speakers.
It is also one of the six languages of the United Nations. Russia is the largest country and was even larger before it was the Soviet Union. It is undoubtedly going to lead the world in the future, therefore, Russian becoming one of the top languages.
Expected Timeline to Learn Russian
Russia being the home of companies and scientific inventions have become one of the top economies of the world.
According to the foreign service institute in the United States, it takes more than 1100 hours of study to get fluent in the Russian language.
For people who can study 3 hours study every day, it could require one year to reach the level.
Italian is a romantic language and was used to bridge the gap of communication between a lot of dialects. The speakers are more than 800,000 inhabitants.
It has 87 million speakers and is one of the fastest-growing languages among speakers. It is also quite common among new language speakers.
Furthermore, the language is also emerging as the most popular language of recent times. It is one of the best foreign languages that can be good among others to learn and rule.
Expected Timeline to Learn Italian
Italian is considered as the group one category and that implies that the language learner needs to spend around 600 hours learning the Italian language. Foreign services institute rate Italian as one of the easiest languages to learn and get a good grasp at.
Hindi is another popular language of recent times coming from the Indo-Aryan language family and spoken in the Hindi Belt. It has been considered the standardized and Sanskritized register of Hindustani languages.
Hindi is written in its Devanagari script and is one of the two official languages of the government of India with English. It is an official language in 9 states and 3 union territories.
Hindi has been turned to be the emerging language worldwide with many and according to experts has great potential to be a successful foreign language in 2023 and the future.
Expected Timeline to Learn Hindi
Hindi could be a tough language to learn and understand for English speakers. It takes about 1100 hours or 3 years of consistent studying the language.
Once the individual reaches proficiency he can communicate in the language and can also understand a lot of colloquial expressions.
The Portuguese language has more than 229 million speakers. It is spoken in Portuguese and Brazil mainly and has also many speakers in a lot of different areas too.
It shares similarities with Spanish, and Italian. Considering Brazil is an economy with a home of world’s renowned companies, Portuguese is also claiming its place and importance globally and getting good recognition as a foreign language.
Expected Timeline to Learn Portuguese
This language requires around 350 to 400 hours of study to reach an intermediate level of study.
The Malay language is also hugely popular all over the world. It has 281 million speakers and official language of Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and Singapore.
The Malay language is considered a successful foreign language. Evident language learners should try learning it for multiple purposes. It is one of the important languages of 2023 and according to analysts might enjoy more popularity in the future.
Expected Timeline to Learn Malay
Though language learning depends on one’s capacity and potential. However, an ordinary speaker can get a good grip on the Malay language in around three months.
Bengalis is an official language of Bangladesh and it has its speakers in India as well. This language has speakers of around 261 million and it is also getting good popularity in the global market among the list of emerging foreign languages.
It is an Indo-Aryan language and around 85 million speakers from India speak it in the West Bengal, Assam, and Tripura states.
Expected timeline to learn Bengali
Bengali is an easy language to learn relatively. The speakers of Indo-Aryan languages can understand it more openly as compared to other languages.
Even after three hours of the basic class, few learners can get engaged in the simple conversion and after 50 hours of learning, they can get even better.
The Persian language has more than 121 million speakers all over the globe. It is mainly spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikstan.
Also known as Farsi, this language has a great influence on Arabic and therefore it is also a great choice to learn as a foreign language in 2023. Arabic speakers can learn the Persian language in no time.
Expected Timeline to Learn Persian
However, overall it takes around 300 to 600 hours of active study to reach the intermediate level. It is important to note that around 1000 hours of study are necessary to get fluent in the language.
Turkish as known as the language of the Ottoman empire has more than 88 million people around the globe as its speakers.
Turkish are spread all over the world in Syria, Germany, Iraq, Austria, etc. Turkish is a significant foreign language to consider learning in the current year and the years to come.
Expected Timeline to Learn Turkish
The Turkish language is tough and hard to learn for English speakers. According to the foreign services institute, the learners can reach the advanced level of the Turkish language in about 1100 hours which makes 44 weeks.
Tamil is another important language and is a rising language. Approximately 77 million people speak this language all over the world.
It is an official language in Tamil Nadu and the region of Puducherry. It is also considered the classical language because its an ancient language and is the language of literature and also depicts multiple traditions.
Expected Timeline to Learn Tamil
Tamil could be tough for different people depending on the learning capacity of the individuals. However, people overall can learn the basics in a few hours and can reach a fluency level after studying it for around 2-3 months of active study and practice.
Marathi is another important regional language of India and is hugely in demand for translation services too late, which implies how it is going to emerge as a successful foreign language. it has been derived from Sanskrit and comes from an Indo-Aryan language family.
Expected Timeline to Learn Marathi
Marathi is quite easy to learn and it can be learned in 27 days to reach an advanced level. It requires 3-4 years of practice though. Also, consistency is the key and people should make sure they give proper time to this language.
Punjabi is an entertaining and fun language that belongs to the Punjab tribes of India and Pakistan. It is the official language of the Punjab state of India and Pakistan respectively.
It has 30 million speakers in India and 70 million in Pakistan. This language is also spoken overseas where there is a huge Sikh population, particularly in Canada and United Kingdom among many other countries too.
The Punjabi language has also become significant to learn in the current global market for several reasons. Therefore a good foreign language to get learned.
Expected Timeline to Learn Punjabi
People who are from the neighboring languages and speak Indo-Aryan languages can easily attain a decent level of fluency in three to six months. However, for an English speaker, it could be tough to learn more than any language.
This language has 95 million speakers around the globe. It is spoken in the Czech Republic and Vietnam. It is also a minority language n Cambodia.
The Vietnamese language is found in many communities globally. The influx of immigrants has made it a minority language in many regions including Cambodia. Also, it is a national language in the Czech Republic.
Expected Timeline to Learn Vietnamese
As Us’s foreign service institute calculates, a native English speaker can get proficient in Vietnamese. It requires 1110 class hours. It further implies that by dedicating 1 hour every day during the 7 days of the week the individual can get proficient in 40 months i.e 3 years.
Urdu is an important language of the subcontinent. It has a great historical background. It is an Indo-Aryan language and the national language of Pakistan.
It also has massive speakers in India. It is an eighth Schule language whose status, function, and cultural heritage are covered in the constitution of India.
The Urdu language has a registered regional dialect in Nepal. It has around 149 million speakers all over the world. It is going to be one of the important foreign languages of the future.
Expected Timeline to Learn Urdu
English natives may find the Urdu language tough to learn and understand. However, speakers of Indo-Aryan families can learn it more easily and in less time.
As FSI suggests it requires 720 hours of intense study which makes 10 hours per day to gain basic fluency in Urdu and for full fluency it needs to have 1100 hours of detailed study.
Learning a language is always a good practice and can open the gateway to opportunities. The top twenty foreign languages that the new language learners can shortlist and consider have been stated above with the timelines for the individual which tell how soon they can learn the language.