best languages to study abroad

Studying abroad has popularized among higher education institutions to diversify the college experience, and more and more students plan to study in a foreign country at some point.

According to the Institute of International Education, the number of US college students studying abroad exceeded 330,000 during the 2016-17 school year.

That being said, heading off to a brand-new country remains a daunting idea for many. “Where will I study abroad?” “How will I be able to communicate with other people?”—These are questions that students must consider prior to embarking on their journey.

Based on the latest survey conducted by, learning a new language is a key factor for students when deciding where to study abroad.

Of the 33,000 international students surveyed, a staggering 31% said that learning a language was a top priority when deciding where to study abroad.

Of those students who cited language-learning as a top reason for studying abroad:

  • A majority of students (63%) ranked language as the top factor;
  • Approximately 20% were specifically interested in taking a language immersion course while abroad;
  • 47% were concerned about not knowing the local language of their study abroad destination.

While many students are already enrolled in language courses prior to studying abroad, classroom time doesn’t always translate into complete fluency.

Not only are real-life conversations much more contextual and fast-paced, various slangs can also make it difficult to understand those who don’t share your native tongue.

However, learning a new language abroad can be a wonderful and rewarding experience. From memory improvement to enhanced creativity, benefits of learning a new language are countless. Being in an environment where there is constant exposure will undoubtedly accelerate the language-learning process.

Are you wondering what languages other students want to learn abroad? Here are the top 5 languages besides English from the student survey.

*The ranking is based on the percentage of students who want to study in a country where the particular language is spoken by the majority of the population.

1. Spanish

Spanish sits comfortably—and unsurprisingly! —in the top spot. Not only is Spanish the second most widely spoken native language worldwide, it is also considered one of the easiest foreign languages to learn for English speakers.

Deemed the most in-demand professional language by American employers, having Spanish as one of your language ability should be a no-brainer.

A good command of Spanish can open up many doors for aspiring world travelers: you will be finding your way through both the Argentine Antarctica and the sunny beaches in Spain in no time!

2. Swedish

While Swedish doesn’t come as the first choice of foreign language for students, it is much easier to learn than you think! Also falling in the US Foreign Service Institute’s Language Category 1 like Spanish, it takes only 24 weeks of class time for a student to reach “professional working proficiency.” Having many cognates and loan-words from other European languages, you will be pleasantly surprised by how much Swedish you already know! Being able to converse in Swedish enables you to explore the rest of the Scandinavian region, as the language shares many similarities with Danish and Norwegian.

3. German

The most widely spoken native language throughout the European Union, German is your golden ticket to central Europe.

The official language of 7 countries, German comes in handy if you want to live and work in Europe in the future. It is not uncommon to find German-speaking communities in countries including Hungary and Poland, where German is an officially recognized minority language.

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4. Italian

Are you a fan of the amazing Italian cuisine, fashion and history? Learning Italian abroad is the right choice for you! Known as a tourist hotspot, Italy’s cultural wonders continue to attract visitors worldwide, experiencing a 11% tourism growth in 2017.

Hop over to parts of Austria and Switzerland, you will still blend in if you know Italian!

5. French

The self-acclaimed “most beautiful” language, French certainly has the charm and popularity among non-native speakers. French is also the official working language of the UN, UNESCO, NATO, and many other international organizations. Mastering French will widen your perspective in the globalized age.

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