Chinese now ‘the most useful second language’

April 11, 2014, 3:56 PM GMT+0

In Britain, Chinese is now seen as the most useful second language to speak in today’s world

According to UNESCO, the world’s most widely spoken language by native and foreign speakers is Mandarin Chinese, spoken by over 800 million in China alone.

English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, German and French are all runners up.

But Chinese isn’t only a widely spoken language; it represents the fastest growing economy in the world, and one with which the British in particular are seeking ever closer trading ties.

And these facts are seeping into public opinion. When asked which second language is the most useful to speak in today’s world, Chinese is chosen by 40% excluding ‘don’t know’ (13%) – far ahead of the rest.

Spanish is also incredibly ubiquitous: it has 406 million native and 60 million second language speakers. It is seen by 19% as the most useful language, followed shortly by French (15%).

While previous YouGov research has found that French is the most widely spoken second language in the UK (15% claim they can hold a conversation), it is beaten by Spanish as the language perceived as the most desirable for a child to speak. 26% of people excluding 'don't know' (11%) would like their children to speak Spanish, more than Chinese (24%) or French (23%).

The prior YouGov research for the British Council, from 2013, found that 75% of British people are unable to speak any second language well enough to hold a conversation.

See the full poll results

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