Expat's Manual

There are just under 7000 languages spoken throughout the world and it is generally accepted that some of these are harder to learn than others. Here we review foreign language profiles, assessing the difficulty of some of the most commonly spoken languages in the world.

Below we have provided an overview of the top 12 languages, the number of speakers of these languages throughout the world and the difficulty associated with learning that language. This is only intended as a guide and has obvious limitations but we hope that it can be of use as a high level tool for identifying what you are taking on when you choose a language to learn.


Top 12 Foreign Language Profiles

LanguageDifficultyPopularityOfficial language
Mandarin Chinese 5 out of 5 1.051 billion speakers People's Republic of China, Republic of China, Singapore
English 2 out of 5 510 million speakers Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brunei, Cameroon, Canada, Dominica, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Fiji, The Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Hong Kong (People's Republic of China), India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Maritius, Micronesia, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevs, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somolia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, Vanuatu, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Hindi 3 out of 5 490 million speakers India, Fiji
Spanish 2 out of 5 420 million speakers Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, United States (New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela
Arabic 5 out of 5 255 million speakers Modern Standard Arabic: Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Niger, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Quatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Western Sahara, Yemen. | Hasaniya Arabic: Mauritania, Senegal.
Russian 4 out of 5 255 million speakers Abkhazia (part of Georgia), Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyyrgyzstan, Russia, Transnistria (part of Moldova).
German 3 out of 5 229 million speakers Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy (South Tyrol), Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Poland, Siwtzerland
Bangali 3 out of 5 215 million speakers Bangladesh, India
Portuguese 2 out of 5 213 million speakers Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Macau (People's Republic of China), Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé e Príncipe.
French 3 out of 5 130 million speakers Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, France, French Polynesia, Gabon, Guernsey, Guinea, Haiti, India (Karikal, Pondicherry), Italy, Jersey, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Martinique, Mauritius, Mayotte, Monaco, New Caledonia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Switzerland, Togo, United States (Louisiana), Vanuatu
Japanese 5 out of 5 127 million speakers Japan, Palau
Urdu 3 out of 5 104 million speakers India, Pakistan
Oriya out of 5 32 million speakers India

Sources of Information for Foreign Language Profiles:

The information included within these foreign language profiles was adapted from two sources:

Popularity = Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 15th ed. (2005) & Wikipedia.org

Difficulty = http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/e/languages/index.html

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