How to choose your new foreign language?
I think this is a hard question to answer, and we need to think about it from 3 angles. Let’s ask ourselves 3 sets of questions:
First, the questions that determine the necessity of learning the language:
1) Am I going to work or study in a country that speaks that language, and how long?
2) Does my future spouse speak that language? (If yes, learn it)
3) Am I immigrating somewhere else?
Second, the questions that determine the ‘big picture’ benefits:
1) How many people use this language? -e.g. Chinese -> more than 1 billion people speak Mandarin. If you learn Mandarin, you could talk to potentially 1 billion more people!
2) How many countries use this language? -e.g. Spanish is spoken in 20 countries by 300 million+ people, but English is spoken in 115 countries by 300+ million people too. If you learn English, you can use it in more countries.
3) How many other languages are like this language? -e.g. Spanish is like French, Italian and Portuguese, so if you know Spanish you could learn those languages in a shorter time and hence connect more quickly to another large group of people.
Finally, the questions that can complement your interest in the language:
1) How many friends do I have that speak that language already?
2) Are the movies, music, food from that culture nice?
3) How close is it to languages that I know already?
I think after we sort this out, we can decide what are the languages we want to learn. It’s important to do so because honestly, it takes about 3 years to get one right (fluent, able to read and listen properly) if you are not living in a country that uses these languages daily. Otherwise you would work at it for a while, and then lose the interest or motivation – you’re going to feel like a quitter.