Being cool ain’t easy.
You have to buy all the latest fashions even if it means there’s only room in your budget for a closet-sized apartment.
You have no choice but to eat all the latest Instagrammable foods, even if they taste decidedly less beautiful than they look.
You have to master the perfect apathetic expression and maintain it in even your most joyous moments.
But there is one way to be chic that will give you plenty of street cred without any major drawbacks: learn a cool language.
And there’s no shortage of cool languages out there. Between the world’s most common languages and the most useful languages, you’ll have a lot to choose from. Among the languages of Asia alone, you’ll have an overwhelming number of super cool options.
Don’t worry, though. You don’t have to search social media to find out which language is the trendiest to learn (in other words, which language Kim Kardashian likes best). Look no further to find out the hippest features of some of the coolest languages around!
Why Learn a Cool Language?
One thing is clear: Learning a cool language could definitely increase your motivation. Learning a language is largely based on motivation, and goodness knows that people will go to extreme lengths to be cool… how else could you explain the popularity of extreme lip injections? And if a language having cool points gives you a little extra motivation, it could actually make that language easier to learn.
Plus, if you’re studying a cool language, you might have an easier time getting friends in on the act. Learning a language with friends is not only fun, it can also help keep your learning on track, so getting friends to study with you is tremendously valuable.
Finally, learning a cool language can make you stand apart from the crowd. There’s a huge array of languages spoken in the United States, but learning a cool language can make you a little more unique.
Earn Street Cred by Learning 1 of the 16 Coolest Languages
Over 315 million people speak Arabic, making it one of the world’s most widely spoken languages. While regional variations of the language exist, it’s spoken throughout the Middle East, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
What Makes Arabic Cool
Like art? You’ll love the look of written Arabic! Written Arabic uses a cursive-style font that looks more like artwork than writing. It’s so beautiful that you might find yourself scrawling in Arabic on any surface you can… even if you’ve only learned a handful of words.
Arabic is written from right to left rather than left to right, making it distinct from many other languages.
It has a reputation for being challenging for native English speakers to learn, meaning if you can master the language, you’ll look super smart.
Arabic Learning Resource
Learn101.org is an excellent free resource that can help you master the basics of Arabic, including the alphabet, basic vocabulary, basic grammar rules and even some phrases. Plus, Learn101.org offers plenty of audio to give you a clearer idea of pronunciation.
Around 500,000 people speak the Basque language. Most of this population is centered in Basque Country, which is comprised of the Northeastern Spain and a small portion of Western France.
What Makes Basque Cool
Basque is a language isolate, meaning it has no known existing language relatives.
The Basque language is one of Western Europe’s oldest languages, predating the spread of Indo-European languages such as English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
Love a good mystery? You’ll love the Basque language. The origins of the unique language are unknown. Even linguistic scholars can’t solve the mystery.
Basque isn’t widely studied, so knowing Basque will set you apart from other language learners. And because it’s spoken in parts of Spain and France, it pairs nicely with studying the Spanish and/or French language.
Easy Basque is a YouTube channel that has 13 free videos to teach you the basics of the Basque language. You’ll learn subjects, numbers, common verbs, common adjectives and more.
Around 1.3 billion people speak Chinese, making it the most widely spoken language in the world. That being said, there are many different dialects of Chinese, and not all of them are mutually intelligible. This means speakers of one dialect might not understand speakers of another dialect. However, the most common dialect of Chinese is Mandarin.
Chinese is spoken primarily in China, Singapore and Taiwan, but with so many speakers, you can find immigrant populations using the language all around the world.
What Makes Chinese Cool
Given how widespread the language is, learning Chinese can help you communicate more easily with a massive population. This can help you on your travels, in school or even in the business world.
Chinese uses logograms, which are characters that are meant to represent an entire word or phrase. What other writing systems use logograms? Egyptian hieroglyphs!
The writing system for Chinese has ancient roots. In fact, it’s thought to have developed starting around 2000 B.C.
Chinese is a tonal language, meaning that changing the tone of just one syllable can affect a word’s meaning.
FluentU is a resource that teaches you Chinese in a fun, authentic way.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU is about so much more than videos: You also get access to interactive flashcards and vocab lists, annotated subtitles and personalized quizzes that evolve as you learn. This resource targets all levels of Chinese learners, from novice to nearly-fluent speakers. And there’s a free trial!
FluentU isn’t just for learning Chinese. You can use it to learn several other cool languages on this list, including the following:
Around 379 million people speak English as a native language. The English language is most often associated with Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. However, it’s also common in a huge number of other countries, including Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ghana, India, Malaysia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa and more.
What Makes English Cool
English is the most widely spoken second language, with over 753 million people speaking it as a non-native language. That means around twice as many people speak English as a second language than people who speak it as a first language.
Because it’s so widely spoken as a second language, speaking English can help you connect with people around the world, even if neither of you speaks the other’s native language.
Hollywood movies and English-language music are popular around the world, so learning English can help you better enjoy popular entertainment options.
Learn English Online offers over 50 free lessons to teach you the basics of the English language. Lessons include vocabulary, audio, images, examples, tests and more.
French is spoken by nearly 77 million native speakers. French is most often associated with Canada and France, but it’s much more widely spoken than that, including significant populations in Algeria, Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Haiti, Italy, Lebanon, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Switzerland and more.
What Makes French Cool
Over 208 million people speak French as a second language, massively expanding the pool of how many people you can communicate with.
The French language is often associated with love and romance, so if you’re looking to woo someone in a beautiful language, it’s undoubtedly a good choice.
Like food? Who doesn’t! Classical French cooking is highly acclaimed and remains popular throughout the world, so learning French can certainly make you seem a lot cooler the next time you go to a high-end restaurant.
The French Experiment offers free online learning materials. Lessons cover fundamentals like counting, asking questions, telling the time, talking about your family and even idioms. Plus, lessons cover important grammar rules, such as possession, articles and making things negative. Lessons contain examples and audio to help you get the hang of things.
Over 76 million people speak German as a native language, and another 56 million speak it as a second language. While it’s most widely spoken in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland, it can also be found in a variety of other countries throughout the world.
What Makes German Cool
German is the most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union, so if you want to travel around Europe, the German language will certainly come in handy.
There’s not much variation between dialects in written German, so if you can read German, you can probably read German materials from anywhere in the German-speaking world.
Sometimes, the longer the word, the cooler it seems. If using long words makes you feel cool, it’s time to learn German ASAP. German has plenty of lengthy compound words. Take a look at this one: Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz. In case it isn’t already in your daily vocabulary, this 63-letter-long behemoth is the name of a law that regulates beef testing.
Deutsch-Lernen.com offers 10 free beginner lessons. If you already have some German under your belt, though, you can also enjoy 24 free advanced German lessons.
The beginner lessons teach basic syntax, verb forms and vocabulary. They include grammar rules, examples, exercises and a word list. The advanced lessons are written in German and delve more deeply into grammar.
Hindustani is a language from the Indian subcontinent that can also be broken down into two separate languages: Hindi and Urdu. As separate languages, Hindi has 531 million speakers, less than half of whom are native speakers. Urdu has another 109 million speakers, the vast majority of whom speak it as a second language. With these numbers combined, Hindustani is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world.
What Makes Hindustani Cool
Is it one language or is it two? The uncertainty alone makes it pretty cool. Some argue that Hindi and Urdu are separate languages. Some argue that they’re dialects of the same language. Regardless, if you learn both, it allows you to choose how many languages you claim to speak.
Learning Hindustani can help you connect with two distinct cultures. Hindi is most often associated with members of the Hindu faith in India, while Urdu is more often associated with Pakistani Muslims.
Why learn one alphabet when you can learn two? Two separate alphabets means twice the fun! While much of the vocabulary is shared between Hindi and Urdu, Hindi uses Devanagari script, while Urdu uses a Perso-Arabic alphabet.
Because of the differences between Hindi and Urdu, they’re usually grouped separately for learning purposes. Thankfully, MyLanguages.org offers both free lessons for Hindi and free lessons for Urdu. These lessons cover the alphabets, basic grammar rules and common vocabulary.
Nearly 68 million people speak Italian, most speaking it as a native language. It’s mostly associated with Italy; however, it’s also fairly common throughout parts of Europe, including countries such as Croatia, France, Malta, Romania and Switzerland.
What Makes Italian Cool
Music lovers rejoice! If you play music or sing, chances are that you already know a lot of Italian because many familiar musical terms are actually Italian. Not only will this give you a leg up on picking up vocabulary, but learning Italian will also help you understand the meanings of musical terms in greater depth.
The Italian language itself has a musical ring to it, making it particularly easy on the ears. But be careful: your friends might keep begging you to speak it to them.
Italy is a popular vacation spot, and speaking Italian can make your trip infinitely cooler. You’ll have a much easier time ordering your perfect pasta or selecting the right gelato flavor.
One World Italiano offers a nice selection of free learning options, ranging from a beginner through an intermediate level. Courses cover both vocabulary and grammar and feature example conversations complete with audio. One World Italiano also offers a free video course if you prefer the feel of more conventional coursework.
Around 128 million people speak Japanese. Nearly all of those people speak Japanese as a native language and are located in Japan.
What Makes Japanese Cool
The world can’t get enough of Japanese culture. Between manga, anime, sushi and innovative products, most people associate Japan with cool things, so if you’re learning Japanese, it will inherently seem cool.
Japanese features four different kinds of characters: hiragana, katakana, kanji and romaji. If learning one type of script is cool, learning four types has to be cooler.
Japanese is another language isolate, meaning it doesn’t have any living language relatives. Major cool points for uniqueness!
Tofugu offers plenty of colorful, free resources to teach you the basics of Japanese. These resources are organized in one master article that links to individual articles to help you master specific skills, such as reading, typing, pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar.
Around 77 million people speak Korean. While this population is mostly centered in North Korea and South Korea, nearby countries, including China and Japan, also have notable Korean-speaking populations.
What Makes Korean Cool
The origins of the Korean language remain debated. Some say it’s a language isolate. Others argue that it may be related to Turkish, Mongolian and/or Japanese. So where did the Korean language come from? Learn it and decide for yourself.
Learning Korean can also help you enjoy Korean entertainment, which is pretty darn cool in and of itself. People can’t get enough K-pop. K-dramas are as bingeable as any American TV shows you love. With so much great Korean entertainment, learning Korean can open up a lot of doors.
While Korean has a reputation for being challenging, the alphabet itself was designed to be convenient, giving you the best of both worlds: You can look impressively smart without the challenge of learning more complex characters, like those used in Chinese.
How to Study Korean offers more free resources than any perspective Korean student could even dream of. That’s because its lessons are designed to take you from complete beginner to an advanced level. Dozens of lessons cover vocabulary and grammar in detail. Plus, clear audio can help you perfect your pronunciation.
Over 236 million people speak Portuguese, including over 222 million native speakers. Brazil and Portugal are the countries most often associated with the language, but it’s also widely spoken in Angola, Mozambique and by smaller populations around the world, particularly in regions colonized by the Portuguese.
What Makes Portuguese Cool
Despite being widely spoken in South America, Portuguese is not as widely studied in the United States as Spanish, making it a unique but useful option.
Portuguese pairs well with other Romance languages, including French, Italian and Spanish. Because they have some similarities, you might have an easier time learning Portuguese alongside any of them, thereby adding an extra language to the total count of languages you speak. Being trilingual is cooler than being bilingual, right?
Like soccer and want to impress your friends? Learn Portuguese! Soccer is huge in both Brazil and Portugal, so learning the language will open you up to infinitely more soccer viewing options.
EasyPortuguese is an excellent free resource that’ll set you up with all you need to start learning Portuguese. Lessons range from beginner through intermediate and cover grammar rules, common vocabulary and key phrases you might need to use. Plus, the lessons have audio to help you nail down the pronunciation.
Russian is spoken by over 265 million people, including nearly 154 million native speakers. While the largest concentration of speakers is in Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia are also home to many speakers.
What Makes Russian Cool
The grammar is pretty darn complex, but that also makes it intriguing. There are six cases, sometimes seven. There are three declensions. There are three genders. All in all, that’s an awful lot of grammar rules to learn!
Sentence structure is flexible, so you can get creative with your word order. Because cases and conjugations add to the meaning, you don’t need to follow one standard word order to be understood.
Reading Russian classics in Russian could be one of the coolest accomplishments of your life. Tolstoy. Dostoyevsky. Pushkin. Chekhov. Gogol. These literary titans have one thing in common: They all wrote in Russian. Learning Russian can massively expand your ability to read their literary classics.
Learn Russian for Free is a great go-to source for all sorts of free Russian learning material. It offers organized courses, complete with audio. There are also tons of supplemental learning materials, like vocabulary videos, exercises, music videos, comics and more.
Nearly 513 million people speak Spanish, making it one of the world’s most widely spoken languages. Over 442 million people speak it as a native language. Spanish is spoken throughout Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Mexico and Spain; however, it can also be found a number of less expected places, including Equatorial Guinea, Morocco and the Philippines.
What Makes Spanish Cool
If you live in the United States, speaking Spanish is a highly marketable job skill. The United States is home to over 58 million Spanish speakers, including over 43 million native speakers. The widespread nature of the language means that it can be a useful skill across industries.
Spanish is phonetic, making it easier to learn than many languages. Each letter corresponds with a sound, and pronunciation rules are quite consistent, so you won’t have to memorize tons of exceptions to rules.
Spanish is also unique in that it has a body devoted to the language. Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy) promotes common, shared language standards in the use of the Spanish language. How many other languages can claim they have their own governing bodies?
StudySpanish.com has everything a beginning Spanish student could hope for. It features pronunciation tutorials (with audio), grammar lessons, verb drills, vocabulary, cultural notes and more.
Over 12 million people speak Swedish, over 9.5 million of whom are native speakers. It should come as no surprise that Swedish is most widely spoken in Sweden. However, Finland is also home to 2.6 million Swedish speakers, most of whom speak it as a second language.
What Makes Swedish Cool
Scandinavia definitely has a cool reputation—both literally and figuratively. But even if snow and freezing temperatures aren’t your thing, learning Swedish can help you seem cool in the more figurative sense.
Learning Swedish can also make you feel super cool the next time you visit Ikea. After all, knowing a little Swedish will undoubtedly make reading product names much easier.
Swedish has a tone/pitch accent, which makes it sound particularly rhythmic, hence the culturally insensitive accent of the Swedish Chef on “The Muppets.”
Loecsen is a free online service that teaches you basic Swedish vocabulary and phrases. Each word or phrase is accompanied by an image and audio, making it relatively easy to memorize the vocabulary and perfect the pronunciation.
Tamil is spoken by nearly 69 million people, most of whom are native speakers. While Tamil is most associated with India and Sri Lanka, there are also speakers in Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa.
What Makes Tamil Cool
Significant effort has been made to keep Tamil “pure,” meaning you won’t find a lot of words derived from other languages. Because most languages borrow heavily from other languages, this is quite unique.
Tamil has ancient origins. Written evidence of the language dates back to the 5th century B.C.
The Tamil alphabet was designed to avoid ripping palm leaves. Palm leaves were once used as writing tablets, so the alphabet is exceptionally curved to avoid any accidents.
Learn101.org offers exceptional free learning materials to get you started with learning Tamil. This includes grammar rules, vocabulary, phrases and even an exam. Plus, the site features tons of audio pronunciations to help you learn the right way to say things.
Over 19 million people speak Xhosa, though it’s slightly more common as a second language than a first language. Nearly all speakers are located in South Africa.
What Makes Xhosa Cool
Perhaps most remarkably, Xhosa features “clicks” adapted from the Khoisan language, making it sound incredibly unique and challenging.
Xhosa borrows from other languages, too. Some of the vocabulary comes from Afrikaans and English, so you might already recognize some words.
Xhosa has plenty of terrific idioms that you’ll love learning and wish you had in your native tongue.
ilanguages.org is a great resource for learning a little Xhosa on your own. The site will introduce you to common vocabulary, basic phrases and grammar rules. Words and phrases are accompanied by audio to help you get the challenging pronunciations down. Flashcards and a quiz can also help reinforce your learning.
Studying any of these 16 languages can help you earn instant cool points, all without risking life and limb for the perfect Instagram pic.