WordTips, the famous unscrambler tool for word games, was curious which nationalities were choosing which languages. Their team used Google’s Keyword Planner to find the number of searches for ‘learn x language’ (translated into different languages) in every country from May 2020 to May 2021. Then they mapped the most popular language to learn around the world and coded the data in a visually appealing map that we have broken down below.
Africa is the only continent where countries are more interested in learning French than any other language. This is evidenced by the high search rate for French language lessons in various African countries, including a former French colony (Algeria) and protectorate (Morocco), as well as Botswana, Kenya, and Zambia.
Middle East and Central Asia
In this region, there is an equal interest in learning both English and Arabic. Arabic is the official language in all the countries where it is the most commonly studied. However, there are significant expatriate communities and minority cultures in many Arabic-speaking nations. Additionally, there are regional variations of the language that may prompt locals to study Arabic.
Although English is considered the global language of business, English language proficiency is relatively low in Arab societies. However, the ability to speak English is a valuable asset for unemployed individuals in the Middle East, whether they plan to work abroad or within their home countries. In fact, research suggests that individuals with strong English language skills can earn up to 200% more in Iraq than those without such proficiency.
In Europe, the search for language study is more prevalent in the eastern countries than the western ones. Ukraine, in particular, has the highest search rate globally for its native language. Although the majority of Ukrainians speak their native language as their first language, Russian was the dominant language during the Soviet era and still remains prevalent in some regions. Given the ongoing tensions with Russia, Ukrainian individuals who speak Russian may feel compelled to learn their native language. This is especially true since language has become a contentious cultural topic in Ukraine.
Russia also displays a high search rate for language learning, with English being the most popular choice. Conversely, individuals from Western Europe tend to focus on studying English or Spanish. However, Portuguese is the primary language of choice for language learners in Sweden. This trend can be attributed to the fact that Portugal is a popular holiday and retirement destination for a considerable number of affluent Scandinavians who seek warmer weather during the winter season.
North America is predominantly populated by learners of Spanish and English. In half of the territories, people are more inclined to search for online Spanish language lessons. Although it may appear unusual that Spanish-speaking countries in North America have a high rate of online searches for Spanish lessons, the case of Guatemala provides a suitable example. While Spanish is the official language, over a million Guatemalans speak one of 24 indigenous languages.
The most popular language in the United States and Canada may come as a surprise as it is Japanese, which is currently experiencing a surge in popularity due to Japan’s thriving export culture of anime and manga. Many adults today grew up with Japanese arts, which has created a pre-existing interest in the language. Meanwhile, their children are currently consuming it in large quantities, and this is fueling their curiosity about traveling to Asia. Although China’s economy may seem more influential than Japan’s, both countries offer promising opportunities for employability. Additionally, many people still view Japan as a safer destination to visit.