The most-learned languages worldwide

Posted by Anita Froneman on 24 January 2020

A recent study by popular language learning service Duolingo has revealed valuable insight into what languages people are trying to learn all over the world. The app offers 24 languages across 195 countries and has a reported 300 million users across the globe according to The Language Nerds.

As it happens, English is by far the most studied language around the world. A whopping 52 percent of Duolingo users in 116 countries have signed up to learn English on the app, followed by French (17 percent) and Spanish (11 percent).

The ‘global village’ concept means that nowadays, not only professionals who want to do business abroad or tourists who holiday in foreign countries are forced to learn second and even third languages to be able to help themselves, but immigrants as well. Emigrating to another country is nothing strange, but brings with it challenges like language barriers that might lead people to sign up for language courses.

In another study, published in the journal Cognition, however, it was found that reaching native-level fluency in a second language is extremely difficult to ‘nearly impossible’ if learners start studying it after the age of age 10. ‘It turns out you’re still learning fast,’ said study co-author Joshua Hartshorne, an assistant professor of psychology at Boston College, according to Time Magazine. ‘It’s just that you run out of time, because your ability to learn starts dropping at around 17 or 18 years old.’

But second language-learners shouldn’t lose heart quite yet, as the adult brain seems to be better at learning than researchers thought even if they might not become completely fluent. ‘We’re finding that you don’t start to see lack of brain plasticity [responsible for the difficulty in learning a new language] until late adolescence, early adulthood, mid-adulthood,’ Hartshorne says.

Image: Pixabay

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