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At a couple of bookshops with dedicated areas for language learning, some languages get entire aisles, while other languages get just one or two books.

The number of speakers can't be the sole determining factor of a language. For example, Mandarin Chinese has far more speakers than English, but many countries put more of an emphasis on learning the latter, even China's neighbour Japan.

I don't have any professional reasons to learn a language, and don't currently have any personal reasons to do so either.

When deciding whether or not to learn a language, or which language to learn next, I'd like to have some objective data along with my own personal preferences.

What metrics or other means can I use to evaluate the importance of a language?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Anthony Pham, fi12, Flimzy Jul 31 '16 at 20:22

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 3
    The answer by @PythonMaster sums it up very well, I just want to point out that Language Learners usually don't evaluate several languages to learn. I can't imagine myself scratching my head and thinking, „Well, it seems I haven't learned L2 for a while. Which one should I focus now?“ In reality instead, I know myself thinking like, „I desperately need improving my Mandarin Chinese because the entire Northern Eurasia, upto the borders of my country, will speak it soon“. – bytebuster Jul 31 '16 at 4:10
  • I think to be fair one should grant that maybe something like 'objective importance' could be established. But then again we would have to ask the question of 'relative to what?' - the most important language for studying the ancient Greek philosophers is Ancient Greek (and then what - German, French, English?), the most important language for learning in-depth Capoeira is probably Brazilian Portuguese, the most important language for reading 'Language Learning StackExchange is English etc. etc. I.e. we need to know: "important for what purpose?" @PythonMaster – J.Past Jul 31 '16 at 9:52
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Yourself.

The importance of an language varies from person to person. For me, the most important languages are Vietnamese and English since I use them regularly to speak with family and friends. Others though might say that they are irrelevant and their languages are more important. A debate is sure to erupt if we were to group all the languages by importance. But from this, we can safely say that the importance of a language depends on how a person views it: is it necessary for you or not at all?

Usually, the "importance" of languages is ranked (by each person, to their own opinions) by its necessity to the person who is ranking them. So ask yourself, what languages are vital and important to you?

The grouping of the languages you have seen are irrelevant: some of the books are there (or not there) for purely business reasons (supply and demand, popularity, profits, etc.) and others are there for other reasons such as being popular to the people near the store or the languages are simply more likely to be appealing and well known.

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