This post sets out to answer the question, what is the best language to learn? It will answer it clearly and objectively and I hope to open your mind when it comes to language learning.
Polish is the best language in the world to learn. I write this seriously as a professional linguist.
CW and the best language to learn
English is both a European language and a universal language.
Conventional wisdom programs most American to think you should learn Spanish for example. In Europe the mantra might be to study the German or French language.
Wrong. The best language to learn is not German or French or Spanish etc. Ignore conventional wisdom and the herd mentality.
Best language to learn
The best language to learn is not the answer you might think. Lets say you are a native English speaker, therefore, lets rule out English. If you are not a native speaker of English, of course the answer is English, do not waste your time learning French for example. Great language mind you but not the best language to learn. To learn German or French it is only useful if you are really into those cultures.
The best language to learn if you live in Europe:
- The Polish language – You can not even compare languages for both usefulness and uniqueness.
- Chinese (no explanation necessary, but in 100 years or so everyone will look like future people from south park.)
The best language to learn if you live in the USA:
- Your ethnic roots, Polish or Italian or Greek, for example.
This goes against conventional wisdom but is very important to understand my rational.
Why is Polish the best language to learn
Why do I recommend Polish as the most useful language? The whole world speaks English. This is the universal language for business. I have traveled the world to pretty remote place and never had a problem with English. Thank you MTV and Hollywood.
Therefore, why learn another universal European language like French or German or even Spanish, if it does not get you anywhere that English can not already do.
People that speak English as a native language and Polish as a second earn 38% more in the UK than those in IT and finance than those who know English alone. This is according to a EU based think tank. The reason are obvious, with the millions of Poles working in the UK there is a great demand on all level for this language.
Further, KPMG has asserted that Poland is one of the best places to develop and invest a business.
John Markman and Jim Jubak from MSN money, two top US investment managers as well as Templeton”s Mark Mobius recommends to explore emerging markets as this is where the real opportunities are in the future.
Go to Egypt or Greece for vacation, everyone is learning Polish or Russian as a foreign language, not Spanish for example. Go to the Austrian Alps skiing and signs are in Polish in the hotels. Forget Croatia in the summer it is a Polish tourist colony.
For there being so few Polish people they have had such a huge impact on history from the beginning in 966 to bringing down communism to disproportional number of Nobel prize winners. There is not way this nation is not the future. It is a great language to learn if you can get past the crazy grammar.
You say well I will double the number of people I can speak to if I learn Spanish. In my mind it serves no point unless you are passionate about this language. Why? I have traveled through South America and the Caribbeans and never had a problem with English. I am also from the US where large parts of the population is Spanish.
But I have never used Spanish. I study Spanish now because I like it, but not because it is useful. In fact, I have a Spanish website and really love this language, but it is not my first choice or the best choice if you were going to learn one more language. But to compare it is one of the easiest languages to learn.
Do not learn Spanish because you think it is some golden ticket, it is not.
Here is my rational, Polish is the top language because with Polish you will be an amazingly different. No other language can compare.
Polish is a unique language. It also the hardest language to learn. However, it will make you unique as is Ukrainian, Norwegian or even Romanian. It is also very useful as Polish people are everywhere, especially the UK, Brazil (1 million) Australia, US Poles are pretty much everywhere.
Polish people love to explore the world, not only for work, but like Wojciech Cejrowski, they are passionate all things cultural. I have been in the most remote places and met Polish speaking people, from South American jungles to Mississippi (now that is really remote).
Many businesses are outsourcing to Poland. Investment opportunities are in the new and emerging markets. Poland will be a net recipient of globalization for at least the next 15 years.
Poles are progressive. Do you think you can study French for a few years and be accepted by the French? No way. But Poland is a very progressive country and if you learn Polish, Poles will be more open then the French.
The best combination of languages to learn is – one universal language and one unique language
How do I know this and can go against conventional wisdom with confidence? I am an American and have been teaching languages in Europe for many years. My friends that have studied English and French or English and German get yawns from people on their CV when looking for a job or new opportunity. This combination of languages is nothing special. It is a generalist. However, my friends that know English and Polish or English and Norwegian, have doors open to them. They are experts and specialists.
One universal language like English and one unique language like Polish makes you stand out and shine if you are an English native speaker.
Language learning and relationships
Lets be honest and cut through the BS, countries like Sweden, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Romania and Iceland have the most beautiful women. If you were to learn one of these languages things might happen in terms of relationships.
If you are back in the USA checking your match.com account when you get home from the office hoping something will happen, guess again. If you are living in some exotic European country and speak their language, you might be surprised.
Best language to learn if you are a guy -A lot of my friends have made this comment: ‘there is no way I would marry a French or German or American woman’ . However, Polish women are the most beautiful women in the world. Hmm, I am living in Poland and I do not know if I want the rest of the world finding out about Polish women and then moving here, but it is true.
Disclaimer, I am also Polish in ancestry of course so perhaps I am partial.
Best language to learn if you are a girl – If you are a women, many women like Italian or Spanish guys, so these languages you might find more exciting.
I met an American girl in South America. She said she was 35 not married, a lawyer living in NYC. She said scr_w it and moved to South America, learned Spanish and got married. I do not know if she is still with this Latin musician but at least she had guts and dared to be different.
Should with languages is boring
My point is do not study a language that is common or you think you should. Have you ever noticed the word should sounds like the word S_ _ t. Never base your life on shoulds, especially other people’s conceptions. That is, do not listen to conventional wisdom as to what language you should speak.
Learn the language you have a connection to (ancestral), that is interesting for you. I think the less spoken languages will make you more unique and more interesting as a person, as a human. This is why I recommend you ignore conventional wisdom about the best language to learn in the world and consider what am conveying.
Best language to learn – I need your feedback
What languages have you studied and how has it affected your life? That is, what experience has this language brought you. Do you agree with my thesis that Polish (or some linguistically equivalent language) is the best language in the world to learn?
104 thoughts on “Best language to learn”
The best language to learn is Greek. I am Greek and I am telling you that is the most beautiful and easy language of the world.
I’m really happy for you that you love the Polish language so much, and by all means I understand that it would be a very useful and very enriching language to learn, but it’s ridiculous to propose that there is a single “best” language to learn. Your article is hugely oversimplifying a multifaceted, complicated and partially subjective issue. I actually agree that the usefulness of learning Mandarin is being exaggerated by many, but I think it’s hard to argue that Polish is objectively more useful to learn than, say, Arabic, Spanish, French or Russian. You say that you’ve travelled all around the world and got by fine with just English: this I find difficult to believe, as my own experiences in Russia, Georgia and Armenia show me that there are still parts of the world where English isn’t widely spoken. I believe this is also the case in much of China, Latin America and francophone Africa, not to mention some European countries such as Italy. I also have trouble believing your assertion that Polish is the most difficult language to learn, though I’ve never learnt Polish so I can’t say for sure. I do find interesting your thesis that Polish is the perfect middle ground between an “obscure” language and a useful language, but it is absurd to say with such confidence as you do that Polish is objectively and without a doubt “the best language to learn”.
You have to dare to be different. If you were purely a pragmatist just learn English, Spanish Chinese, the languages by the numbers but life is an art not a science. It is boring also to just do what the heard does. If you have one major language than a rarer but useful second language like Polish is recommended.
I think you misunderstood my point. I’m not disputing the value of learning a more obscure language, I’m disputing your claim that Polish is among the world’s most “useful” languages. Indeed I agree that it can be a lot more rewarding and exciting (and a great addition to the résumé too) to learn a language that’s less frequently studied. Having learnt German and French to a high level, I’m currently studying Russian. If I make good enough progress with Russian, I hope to learn one more language: current top candidates are Persian, Malay and Turkish. I’m just trying to say that Polish might be the perfect language for you, but it might not even come top ten for most other people.
I have learnt French and Spanish to high degrees but have found French to be more useful for me personally. I have also learnt to a general degree some Italian and Russian. But find Italian is more useful. I didn’t like German. I have also tried Polish. I think it depends on your background and what type of job you hold. If you work in science then German or a nordic language like Swedish would be better; but if you work as a teacher of English in Armenia then Armenian would be the better choice (obviously). what I am saying is that everyone has a different opinion based on their own ideas.
I honestly don’t think there is a “best” language out there. Yes polish is unique and might be nice for some to learn but not for everyone. If a lot of people speak chinese, english, and other widly spoken languages I would learn those because more people around the world speak them and you most likely will be able to communicate with them. Though I think that polish, slovak, or czesc would be a nice side language to learn. I think this is an over exaggerated opinion of yours that polish is the absolute “best” language to learn and lookin at the other posts you are very narrow minded about this.
My first attempt to learn Spanish was in 1996 (4 months), the second in 1998 (4 months) and finally the third one since last November till now. I have a love/hate relationship with Spanish. After so many years it has evolved to a real Vendetta (Revenge contract). It will be either me or it. One morning I get up and I practice Spanish all day but after a few days I do not want to hear about it. This language is very deceiving. It is very easy to read and write since it is a phonetic language, especially for me being Greek and having the same pronunciation. However, it gets really difficult from intermediate level and above. Plus, I do not like Spanish music or movies at all. After all, maybe it would be wiser to quit trying. Spanish makes me so miserable, it is the ultimate dead-end.
I’m Italian but do not speak the language fluently. I want to because of my heritage. But I live in a city in Southern California where the majority is Mexican’s It is also very hard to find any Italian communities or organizations in this area.
So my question is this, should I or should I not learn the Italian language under these circumstances. Would I be wasting my time knowing I can’t find anyone of Italian deceit to chat with. What’s your take on this?
I wold learn Italian. It is one of the great classical languages of the world and even if you have no one to speak it with now, by the time you make headway you will.
Vincent, it’s great to find origin, heritage. My friend was born in Canada, but speaks persian, turkish, polish, german… etc. His girl is from Eastern Europ, multilanguage speaker, as usual :). But visiting his family (Turk) he found he not belong to that cultur.
So it’s still great You try, ragazzo, even 4 fun.
I like your passion for the Polish language but I think you went a bit overboard. I agree that you should not learn a language because you ‘should’ but because you like it. However, I don’t agree that you can get by with English everywhere. I have Spanish as mother tongue and while traveling in countries like France, Italy, or Greece they actually preferred me to speak Spanish than English to them. Also saying that Polish is the hardest language to learn is a bad generalisation since the difficulty of learning a language depends on your mother tongue. Every language is unique and we should cherish each and every single one of them!
Hi! My name is Mariam, I come from Tbilisi, Georgia, (Caucasus).
I have question about learning some language.
Thought my dad is Georgian and my mom Czech, I come from family where everyone speak Russian. Thus Russian is my native. However, since I leave in Georgia and graduated law school I am fluent in Georgian and speak fluent English (thanks to my specialization in International Law and some time spent in UK). Now I am thinking about to study some additional language but did not com with the decision yet. I would love to study French (I have been visiting Paris lately this year and fall in love with french pronunciation), but at the same time think that German can be fine as well (I learned some bases in school), also since Georgia has shared border with Turkey think that might be fruitful as well.
What would you suggest?
Thank for help!
Mariam, it depends what your motivation for learning a new language is. If you want to do it to improve your employment prospects, you need to think about what field and what part of the world you intend to work in, and which languages are most useful in that field. If you want to learn it for travel, then obviously it depends on which countries you like the most, or find the most interesting (also perhaps which countries you’ll visit most frequently). If you just want to learn it for your own interest and enjoyment, then you should learn a language with film and literature that you enjoy.
I strongly recommend that before starting to learn a language you research thoroughly where in the world it’s spoken, and a bit about the culture of those places, as well as researching the grammar etc. of the language to see what it would be like to learn (depending on your preferences, you might want to choose the easiest or you might want to choose the most challenging!).
I speak French and German, and both are very enriching languages to learn, with fantastic bodies of film and literature, and I love both Germany and France. Which language is my favourite is almost impossible to answer definitively, but perhaps the fact that French can facilitate travel in a lot of exciting places (particularly in Africa) swings the balance in its favour.
So Mark is in love with Polish that we cannt deny.
One thing is the usefulness of a language and in this subject English is the real, totally worldspreaded lingua franca without any doubt.
But coming from a language teacher who is able to measure subtle and exquisite details in form and expressiveness, architecture of the idiom and has of course a wide view of the scenery is easy to understand he’s looking for some sophistication.
I’m not in his position of course, but I smell aymara would be a big surprise to him.
Im native spanish speaker, english and some german, made an attempt with russian years ago but very scarce.
As Polish girl I am flattered to hear so many good words about Polish language. BUT.
Truth to be told, if you are a foreigner planning to visit Poland, probably you are going to visit big city. Young and middle aged people there can speak English. Even if you look for a job in companies, still most of them accept English speakers.
I agree that it is a good strategy to learn one universal language and one unique. So far I learned how to speak English, French, German, little bit of Russian and I am native Polish speaker. This year I start Swedish. Why? I simply like the culture of a country, and that essencial for me to start studying new language.
There is one good reason why you should start learning Polish. This experience will teach you how to learn. Believe me, when you learn to speak Polish, you can learn anything!
I am Swedish, so thanks for saying that we are beautiful 🙂 I speak English and German well, and have studied Mandarin, Spanish and Danish. Now I am learning a language that is very unconventional to study- Irish. It’s sounds really different and is soo fascinating.
I really think Russian is the best language to learn in NYC at least. Everyone in the business I’m in s Russian (including my partner) and it is close enough that most Russians seem to ge t the gist of Polish. I am of Italian descent and speak it fluently as well as Spanish due to my wife and the fact that everyone who isn’t Russian is Latino here. What do you think, yea or nay?
Thank you for such an awesome article Mark! I studied 22 languages and I teach 7 at the universities around the world (currently in Ecuador). I agree that Polish language is one of the hardest in the world. In Lodz, Poland there is 1 year Polish language school. Most of foreigners are able to learn Polish in one year. There are many reasons why Polish is attractive: history, culture, literature especially poetry, passion, art, music, travel, beautiful Polish women and handsome Polish gentlemen. There so many English schools you can get a job as a young American, German or French. I find Poles the most educated nation in the world. They are intelligent, open minded and wordy. I like them because they are funny, they DANCE and sing and the Polish hospitality is well known around the world! The whole country is just precious. Poland offers such a variety of vistas from Baltic Sea, Mazury with 1000 lakes, Warszawa, to the mountains: Bieszczady, Tatry (Krakow), Sudety(Wroclaw) – it’s like a fairy tale. Just yesterday a friend from Belgium said that he loves to go to Poland for the passion and to be with beautiful Polish girls. I have heard from one French teacher that Wroclaw is the place to be NOW! People that tried Polish food – they talk about it forever: barszcz, golabki, bigos, schabowe….I personally like Polish wodka;)
If you learn just a few words in Polish like: “Jak sie masz?” – how are you? – Poles will love you….I would recommend to all my friends to visit Poland – I guarantee you will LOVE IT!!! But most important you will feel loved and appreciated. One of my American professors John – adores Poland – he said: in Poland you just need a Polish friend and then you don’t worry about anything! Go Poles, go Polish, go visitors to Poland.
Many thanks my children should be native in english as they been in nursery since they turned to 2 years old.also i tried with italian language . learning italian was fun for them they liked it and liked their italian child minder .but i think polish can be better as always polish people have responsible for their job so we never wast our money for employing the tut ions and els …
You praise Polish very highly, and I’ve been struggling with learning this language for a while. Do you have a detailed guide or plan you can recommend?I don’t want general guidelines or tips, I know all of them. Tell me more in detail how you did it, and the best way to do it.If you have the time you have my email address and you can write to me all you want regarding the acquisition of Polish, I’m not afraid of reading, if you have a book tell me the name.
I notice that a problem I have is being in a vicious circle, I learn A, then learn B, then learn C. Once I learn C, I’ve forgotten A so I study A again but forget some of B. It’s as if my knowledge were leaking.
Seriously though, I’m having trouble with keeping motivation up against what seems like an impenetrable fortress.On top of this it is difficult to come across material in English for learning. I hope you read this soon and I can get some feedback, sometimes I feel like saying the K word and just letting it go.
You need to make your own link words or mnemonics. They need to be funny or even fantasy based. This way the words will stick to your brain. When you have about two thousand then you can start to learn some grammar.
I get it, and it has worked so far. There is just 1 thing, you say “once you have 2000 words you can start learning some grammar”. The thing is that when you say that words ending in “a” are feminine and those ending in consonants are masculine, that’s already a mini grammar lesson. I understand that focusing on a lot of grammar in the beginner periods is counterproductive, but can you help me draw a line between what grammar I should avoid until I know plenty of words and what simple grammar rules can actually help to speak better?
If you like grammar you can certainly learn as much as you want, like genders and cases. However, these things will become more useful when you have a core base of vocabulary to work with. Too many people get distracted learning grammar and their vocabulary is not at a critical level to communicate. I have a site polishgrammer.com (have one for Russian also) which teaches basic Polish grammar for example. But it would be hard to do unless you know the meaning of the words you are transforming. Better is to immerse your self in the words and listing to others speaking and you will get an intuitive feel of the rules of the language before you start to learn it formally.
I have a love hate complicated relationship with grammar. I know it is useful but I feel the need to have something on which to use the grammar (which has so many exceptions anyway) So I’ll mainly stick to what you said. Dziekuje bardzo! Na razie 🙂
Our history didn’t start in 966. Please do not propagate school lies (which are written in the books). We’re more than that. Our culture is older, from that date Poland is under germanic-catholic occupation. I know these times are really old and now a lot of Poles are catholic devotees (no one remember old gods). We were great nation even before. If you wan to know more (if anyone want to) please check this site. It is in Polish, but if you can read or at least translate, you will undestand: http://wspanialarzeczpospolita.pl/