Choose one. One you think looks cool, or one you recognize, or one you select randomly.
Got one? Now, match up your pick with the list below.
All right, here’s the fun part. Take the language you chose, and go learn it.
The above list contains the languages estimated to be the most widely spoken in the world. Notably absent is English, which comes in as the third most popular language, but was intentionally excluded from this list because if you’re able to read this, you know English already. And our goal is to encourage you learn a language you don’t know.
Let us explain why.
To put it simply: It’s good for you. It’s good for your professional life, and your health, and more.
Speaking more than one language makes you smarter. That is a scientifically and quantifiably true fact. Children who speak more than one language tend to perform better on standardized tests, and they have increased attentive focus and cognition. Multilingual people are more adept at switching tasks, and they’re more likely to perform those tasks without errors. They make more rational decisions. They’re more perceptive to their surroundings. They’re able to better compete in an ever-increasingly global marketplace. They retain memories better.
And not just short-term memory—they have better long-term memory, too. In fact, studies show that people who develop Alzheimers and dementia will show the first signs of the disease later in life if they speak more than one language. The mean age for monolingual adults is 71; for multilingual adults, it’s 76.
The brain is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it will become. Do you know how heavy verb conjugations are? Learning them in a foreign language is like squatting double your body weight. Studying a new language will get your brain Arnold Schwarzenegger strong. It might even get you a cool accent like his, too.
Ahora, ¡ve aprender! (Now, go learn!)
Not sure where to start? For Saint Joseph’s College students, faculty, and staff, Wellehan Library provides access to Mango Languages, a self-paced, online language learning system. For non-SJC members, look into free mobile apps like Duolingo, or check out a more comprehensive list of language learning services on PCMag.com.