In a world of globalization, multilingual communities, faster and faster travel and constant connectivity, there are over 6,000 languages spoken on the globe. Some of these languages are very exclusive in terms of the numbers that speak them but others open up both economic and social avenues in different parts of the world.
The World Economic Forum has compiled an index of powerful languages that include some very specific criteria in order for them to be ranked which include the languages use in,
1. Geography: The ability to travel
2. Economy: The ability to participate in an economy
3. Communication: The ability to engage in dialogue
4. Knowledge and media: The ability to consume knowledge and media
5. Diplomacy: The ability to engage in international relations
Here we look at the top 10 languages and see why they are so powerful.
Hindi is an Indian language spoken predominantly in the North and North West of India as well as being the official language of Fiji and recognized as a regional language in Mauritius, Suriname, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago. With over 260 million native speakers and around 120 million L2 speakers, the sheer numbers of speakers make it so powerful.
By numbers, Hindi is the fourth most-spoken first language, however, largely confined to specific global regions, it has failed to climb higher up the list because of this.
The sole official language of Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, and São Tomé and Príncipe., Portuguese has had greater penetration across the globe than many languages but still remains relatively low compared to others on this list. With 215million native speakers and 250 million L2 speakers, it is thus more spoken casually than at a native level.
Because of this its use in terms of global media holds it back from climbing any higher despite being the third most spoken European language in the world in terms of native speakers.
Japanese has around 125 million native speakers and is spoken mainly in Japan with few others choosing to adopt the language. What then, makes it so powerful? Well, the trading power and economic size of the country has meant that, in the global marketplace, Japanese holds a lot of sway.
With large ex-pat communities across the globe that also speak the language, the power of it remains very strong.
With around 90 million native speakers and a further 15 million L2 speakers, German has a relatively small number of those using it in terms of this list. A lot of its power comes from the economic force of Germany where it is a leader in engineering and finance as well as being a key and major force in the politics of the European Union and that region.
As such, its role in diplomacy and economics has made it a very powerful language to learn.
Russia's history plays a large part in the widespread use of the Russian language, with the Russian empire and then the Sovie Union using its influence to push the Russian language and this has, in part, led to the 150 million native speakers and 260 million L2 speakers to use it. With Russia still being a major force in global politics, the language remains very strong indeed.
One of the six official languages of the United Nations, diplomacy and banking make this language extremely prevalent today.
With 420 million native speakers, across many, many countries, Arabic's strength is tied to the sheer numbers of speakers as well as its association with certain religions, thus making it extremely important in terms of global diplomacy especially given that it is a liturgical language of 1.6 billion Muslims.
It's cultural importance and widespread use makes it a vital language on the world stage.
Spanish is widely Spoken across the globe which came about largely thanks to the Spanish empire which spread its reach across both Europe and Sout America and that is why it has around 470 million native speakers and a further 100 million L2 speakers and is an official language of the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Union of South American Nations, as well as the United Nations.
Its usage by so many people as well as official status by such high-powered organizations means that its use for media purposes, travel, and diplomacy all make extremely strong.
With 80 million native speakers and 230 million total speakers, French has a position of great cultural importance because of its prevalence in both Europe and Africa. Central to European communications and the European Union, it is also an official language of the United Nations and is highly protected by the academie francais.
Its use in diplomacy is what really drives it to the higher reaches of this list but the lack of greater global use prevents it from hitting the highest points.
A branch of Chinese spoken in most of the Northwestern and Southwestern areas of China, Mandarin has a staggering 960 million native speakers and for that alone, it has incredible power as it is used in media and diplomacy and is only on the increase with the growing economic and political importance of China in the world.
Largely contained to China and other Asian regions, the language is growing beyond these borders due to economic forces.
With 400 million native speakers and 700 million L2 speakers, English has spread, in no small part, due to the British Empire and then the rise of America as a superpower. As the British-dominated global politics for many years, they pushed their language to the forefront and many countries thus adopted it (willfully or not) as an official language and this included the United Staes.
As the British Empire faded, the American influence grew and so the language remained on top for diplomacy and trade throughout the world and it has stayed there due to its official use by many global organizations.