Sunday, January 04, 2009

10 Steps to Reach 3.8 Billion People

By learning the following widely spoken languages, one could theoretically communicate with 3.8 billion of the world's 6.7 billion people, or approximately 57%:

1) Mandarin - 1120 million speakers
2) English - 510
3) Hindi - 490
4) Spanish - 425
5) Arabic - 255
6) Russian - 254
7) Portuguese - 218
8) Bengali - 215
9) Malay - 175
10) French - 130

I, of course, already speak English. Additionally, I lived in Thailand for two years during the 1990s, but at 60 million speakers Thai did not make the top 10. At one time I would have considered myself to be fluent, though after more than a decade, I would consider myself to have intermediate Thai language skills. Additionally, I took some Mandarin Chinese during college, though I've never traveled to China and have forgotten much of what I learned in college.

With my new international marketing role at work, I am working to upgrade my language skills. I recently purchased self-study language programs for both Mandarin and Spanish and have enjoyed my early progress. Additionally, I support my company's marketing efforts in all of Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, so Portuguese (Brazil and parts of Africa), Arabic (Middle East and parts of Africa), and French (parts of Africa) would all help me as I travel in my new role. I know I can't learn 5 new languages at once, but two at a time seems doable as long as only one of them is a European language. After I reach an intermediate level in both Mandarin and Spanish, I plan to add Portuguese and Arabic. I haven't yet set a goal to learn all 10 of the top languages, but it would sure be a good addition to a life list!


Anonymous said...

Spanish will do for Portuguese and Hindi/Urdu for Bengali. That ought to make it easier for you.

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Do Good said...

Just spent the last hour going through some of you older posts after finding this blog. I'll definitely be back for more. Hope that 2009 reaps as many rewards as 2008 gave you.

Christopher said...

Good points here - maybe that could be a new year's resolution each year for the next 10 years? To learn each language :)

Bryan said...

I don't know anyone that speaks 10 languages. That would be quite the feat. If anyone could do it, it would be you Ryan. Your altruism takes you to great heights.

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