Increased globalization and access to almost every part of the world has created commercial and travel opportunities that seemed unimaginable just 50 years ago. This phenomenon has sharply drawn to focus the sheer number of languages and cultures practiced around the world, and the need to be at the very least bilingual is a common trend among individuals today.
With over 7000 known tongues existing today, what are the languages that our children must learn to stay ahead of the curve?
Several factors may come into play when deciding on a foreign language elective to teach your child. Listed are some of the common influences and the languages that would be the primary option in those categories. Whatever you choose, start early while they are still at the sponge and fun stage!
World’s most commonly spoken languages
If the foremost consideration was only the total number of people speaking a language then Mandarin (898 million), Spanish (437 million) and Arabic (295 million) would be top choices, excluding English. Just by pure statistics, the chances that it may create an advantageous opportunity to engage in conversation with another individual, is higher. However this also depends on the country you currently live in. For example, an individual living in New Delhi, India, where English and Hindi pretty much dominate the spoken tongue, would not benefit much from learning Spanish even though over 400 million people across the world speak the language.
The languages of emerging economies
A recent report by Fortune magazine indicated that India, Indonesia and Malaysia seem to be the fastest growing economies in the world at present. Based on this statistic, Hindi, Indonesian and Malay would then become the top choice for parents when picking foreign languages. In terms of improving business prospects this would be an ideal way of making a selection. It must be noted, however, that at the beginning of the millennium, Brazil, Russia, India and China were the four big investment countries, and that mood has swung in under 20 years.
Languages for travel
English is the obvious top-of-the-list choice when traveling, with 106 different countries speaking the language. Other popular options based on the languages spoken in the highest number of countries are Arabic (57), French (53), and Spanish (31).
Languages of other individuals in your country
For the most part, this may be a decision that is made for you, especially if your child attends a school offering second language electives. For example, students attending school in U.A.E., regardless of curriculum, must undertake a ministry-approved Arabic education from grades 1 to 10. This is owing to that Arabic is the national language of the country, and is in place despite only 12% of the population being Emirati.
Immigration and diaspora are phenomenons that have been experienced by everyone, either directly or indirectly. Most children of immigrant parents are taught their mother language at least to some extent, especially if the need to communicate with older generations exists. This is another case where there is often less decision-making involved in the language to be taught, and is based purely on a personal choice.
With how fast the power status of languages keeps changing, a foreign language elective for a child is ultimately a decision that is up to the parent to make. The good news is that with the rise in digital learning, language apps and other innovative approaches, opportunities have now increased for students to pick up languages whenever they desire.
So what language should your children learn? Choose depending on your family circumstances, but the best tip? If you really want them to engage, then make sure you learn the language too!