Foreign Tongues: If you’re thinking of a career move abroad, a new interactive map can help

The interactive map will calculate exactly how long it will take to learn the language, and just how much it will cost

Well, the colder Autumnal weather is here, and even going on holiday might not cure our blues, as due to the weakening of the pound, our money just isn’t going as far as it used to when we go away. So could the answer be to leave the UK altogether and just start again somewhere new (and cheaper)?

The thought is certainly appealing – it has been widely reported that there have been record numbers of people applying for passports for countries such as Ireland and New Zealand, and 323,000 people left Britain last year* to start new lives abroad. But if you’re not moving to one of the many countries where English is widely spoken, you’ll have to prepare by taking lessons in your new language. LanguageLine, the UK’s leading translation service has created a very handy interactive map:

This shows where the world’s top 20 languages – after English – are spoken; it also shows roughly how long they take to learn, and therefore how much it might cost to pay for lessons.

But you might be surprised to see how many countries share the same language, which may make it more worthwhile to learn that particular language as it could give you a greater choice of places to move to or travel around. For example, French is spoken in many more countries than you would think; it is also widely used in parts of Canada, and a host of African countries including Mali, Senegal and Madagascar (something to think about if hot weather is one of your main considerations!). In fact, over 220 million people speak it around the world. LanguageLine estimates that it would take around 550 hours of lessons to become fluent in French, and at £26 an hour, that’s a total cost of £14,300. But worth it to be able to seamlessly set up home in a different country, surely.

Similarly, learning Spanish means you can pick from a host of different exotic countries, rather than just Spain and South America. Swathes of the Caribbean would open up to you, so you could choose to live in the newly modernising Cuba, where you can still see the 50s cars and colourful houses the country is famous for, or get yourself to Argentina, home of the juicy steak and the sexy tango! The more intrepid travelers could head to Equatorial Guinea – the only Spanish speaking country in Africa. In total, over 585 million people globally speak Spanish, meaning the 600 hours you’d spend learning it (at £22 an hour, it would cost you £13,200) would be a wise investment.

However, if you want to learn the most widely spoken language in the world, you’ll have to learn Chinese. Over one billion people speak Chinese, or Mandarin, as the country’s official language is known, and the 2,200 hours it would take you to become proficient would cost you just over £66k, at £30 an hour. But then you’d be able to order your favourite meal with words, rather than just numbers!

‘The world can become your oyster when you learn a different language,’ says James Williams, Commercial Director at LanguageLine. ‘Another language can really widen your options if you are thinking of moving abroad, and spending money on learning a language which is spoken by millions of people has got to be a good investment!’

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