The reality for English-speakers is that foreign travel is certainly possible without learning any other languages at all. English is spoken in many countries around the world, even if it’s not the official language. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother learning other languages.
Knowing other languages allows you to connect with locals on a deeper level. It also helps you to better understand the culture and customs of a particular destination, and definitely helps you to avoid standing out as a tourist. Plus, getting around is just easier when you understand the local tongue. Check out 10 of the most useful languages to know while traveling.
10 English: The Most Popular
This should come as no surprise. English is the most influential language in the world, as well as one of the most popular and widely spoken. That’s why you’ll find that English is commonly spoken, even in countries where it’s not the official language.
Often, English-speakers don’t bother to learn other languages because it’s not necessary for most destinations that they travel to. But we recommend still getting to know other languages. Even if locals speak English, it’s always polite to make the effort to learn at least a few words in their language.
9 Mandarin: The Language With The Most Speakers In The World
English may be the world’s most influential language, but Mandarin is the language with the most speakers in the world. Naturally, learning Mandarin comes in handy if you’re planning on traveling to China. While you’ll find that many people still speak English, you’ll be less limited if you can speak a little Mandarin.
Keep in mind that not everybody in China speaks Mandarin, but it will certainly help you to gain a little independence while traveling. Mandarin is also widely spoken in Taiwan, where it is the official language.
8 French: Seven Million Mother-Tongue Speakers In Canada Alone
There are several destinations around the world where knowing a little French will be an enormous benefit to you. The most obvious location is France, where locals are known for being much friendlier to those who can speak a little bit of their language.
French will also help you when traveling through Canada, where seven million people hold the European language as their mother tongue, according to Fluent U. There are also several countries in the Caribbean and Africa where knowing French will give you the upper hand.
7 Russian: Spoken Throughout Eastern Europe
Russian is not just the official language of Russia but is also the official language of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. It is also spoken as a minority language in Uzbekistan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and Norway. If you’re planning on traveling through Eastern Europe, Russia is the language to know.
While the Soviet Union is no more, the Russian language is a remaining legacy that is still prevalent in many former states today. Understanding Russian and the Cyrillic alphabet will help you immensely in all of these countries.
6 Italian: One Of The Romance Languages
A Latin-based Romance language, Italian is a popular language that is helpful to know when traveling throughout Europe. Besides Italy itself, countries such as Switzerland, Belgium, Malta, Slovenia, and San Marino are all home to many Italian speakers, according to Tourist Maker.
As far as language-learning goes, Italian is one of the easier languages to learn as it is extremely phonetic. Many of its root words and formations are also similar to French and Spanish, so knowing Italian can help you in countries where these languages are spoken. Interestingly, Italy itself boasts a different dialect for every region and vast differences between Southern and Northern vernaculars. But many locals will understand the Standard Tuscan Italian.
5 Portuguese: Useful In Europe, South America, And Asia
Portuguese is helpful to know in Portugal, even if there are many locals who speak English. But it’s also the official language of Brazil and various countries throughout Asia. In Macau, for example, Portuguese is the official language and you might not stumble across too many English-speakers, so it’s definitely a handy weapon to have at your disposal.
Many people don’t realize that Portuguese is also commonly spoken in Japan. While it’s not the official language, it is spoken due to the large numbers of Brazilian immigrants who brought their language to the Asian country.
4 Arabic: Spoken From North Africa To The Middle East
Arabic can seem a little daunting for an English-speaker to learn, but it is hugely beneficial to have under your belt. Travel Managers points out that Arabic is spoken throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and with immigration, it is also found in communities on just about every continent on the planet.
The site also explains that the Arabic language is a crucial element of many local cultures in Africa and the Middle East. By learning some Arabic, you’ll be better able to understand the specific beliefs and customs of the local people.
3 Japanese: 127 Million Native Speakers
There is at least one good reason to learn Japanese: the language has 127 million native speakers, in addition to many more who have learned it as a second or third language. Due to the strength of the Japanese economy, Japanese is especially beneficial to know if you’re traveling for business.
Though it seems extremely difficult to learn, Japanese isn’t overly hard once you get your head around the various symbols. Day Translations explains that it’s actually not any more difficult to learn that the majority of European languages.
2 German: Helpful In Central Europe
If you’re planning a trip through central Europe, it’s a good idea to know at least a little German. Aside from Germany, the language is widely spoken in Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
Some German words can seem almost otherworldly to a native English-speaker, but there are also plenty of words that are similar to English. Once you get a hang of the pronunciations, it’s not too demanding at all. There are also some words in the English language, such as kindergarten, that have been taken from German.
1 Spanish: Used On Many Continents
With over 500 million speakers worldwide, Spanish is one of the most popular and widely spoken languages in the world. Extending far beyond the confines of Spain, the language is the official tongue of countries in South America, Africa, and Europe.
By knowing some Spanish, you’ll be in a much better position to travel throughout South and Central America. According to Live Anywhere, there are also destinations in North America that are becoming increasingly popular among Spanish speakers. Another Romance language, Spanish will help you understand other languages that originated from Vulgar Latin.