Which is the best language to learn?

In the fourth in our series of Big Questions, we invited six writers to make the case for the language they thought most worth learning. The Economist's Robert Lane Greene introduces the series. He's well qualified to do so. Our editor asked him how many languages he spoke. "Six," he said, "and I'm conversant with another three." As he points out, if you've read this far, you already know the most useful global language. If you were to learn one other, he recommends French.

Over the next couple of weeks we will be publishing online the arguments made by the other five contributors. But voting starts now. Perhaps you will agree with Daniel Franklin, The Economist's executive and business editor, that after English, Spanish is the most-used international language, or with Simon Long, The Economist's Banyan columnist, that learning Chinese makes the best economic and political sense. Or maybe you will be persuaded by Josie Delap, who is Middle East and Africa editor for The Economist online, of the beauties of Arabic. Helen Joyce, the magazine's São Paulo correspondent, argues that Brazilian Portuguese is the one rational choice and our own editor, Tim de Lisle, says Latin should win out because it has been indirectly useful every day of his career.

Have your say by voting in the poll below. Or if you think there's a case to be made for Urdu, Danish, Swahili, Italian, Russian or any of the other 6,900 languages in the world, please tell us why.

Update: this poll is now closed. For the results, see The Best Language Surprise.

Esperanto
25% (3204 votes)
Brazilian Portuguese
15% (1946 votes)
French
14% (1860 votes)
Spanish
14% (1839 votes)
Chinese
12% (1489 votes)
Gaelic
5% (620 votes)
Latin
4% (471 votes)
Arabic
3% (368 votes)
Russian
2% (283 votes)
Scottish Gaelic
2% (281 votes)
German (other)
0% (49 votes)
Italian (other)
0% (33 votes)
Japanese (other)
0% (24 votes)
Turkish (other)
0% (22 votes)
English (other)
0% (17 votes)
love of the people and the culture is the reason to learn a language rather just o for ulterior financial gain. (other)
0% (17 votes)
Hindi (other)
0% (15 votes)
Ancient Greek (explanation: Homer, Plato, Euripides, Lucian, New Testament etc.) (other)
0% (15 votes)
polish (other)
0% (15 votes)
Gaidhlig as it's an old historic beautiful poetic language ! (other)
0% (11 votes)
Japanese. It's simple. (other)
0% (11 votes)
GREEK (other)
0% (11 votes)
korean (other)
0% (10 votes)
Hindi - India's expanding economy (other)
0% (8 votes)
Portuguese (other)
0% (8 votes)
German. (It's the language of Kultur rather than civilisation.) (Yes, I am joking.) (other)
0% (8 votes)
German, because it is a philosophical language. (other)
0% (8 votes)
German. The language of Goethe, Bach, Einstein, Beethoven, Mozart. A major business language and language of the arts. (other)
0% (7 votes)
Tamil (other)
0% (7 votes)
Sanskrit (other)
0% (7 votes)
Japanese because it has a different alphabet so it help us to keep our memory great (other)
0% (7 votes)
German, strongest european economy (other)
0% (6 votes)
Any language is worth learning for the mere pleasure of it. Why should learning always be utilitarian? (other)
0% (6 votes)
Norwegian (other)
0% (6 votes)
bahasa Indonesia (simple language, easy, and use by a-lot people) (other)
0% (6 votes)
Portuguese, because portuguese people learn other languages fastest and easier than others. (other)
0% (6 votes)
euskera (other)
0% (6 votes)
Hungarian - it is not an Indo-European language, so learning it really broadens you horizon, but as it has European alphabet, it (other)
0% (6 votes)
Portuguese, basically the same as in Angola, Mozambique, Brazil or Portugal (other)
0% (6 votes)
Swahili (other)
0% (6 votes)
Klingon, to find other trekkies (other)
0% (5 votes)
Persian (other)
0% (5 votes)
Esperanto. It's easy to learn. (other)
0% (5 votes)
Gaelic because it's the language of the Garden. (other)
0% (5 votes)
Manderin (other)
0% (5 votes)
Finnish, because every other language you learn afterward will seem incredibly easy. (other)
0% (5 votes)
Chinese. If you want to succeed in business, you'll want to fluent in Mandarin and Canto, at least. (other)
0% (5 votes)
Gaelic; the language of my parents a very old and rich language (other)
0% (5 votes)
Gagpül (other)
0% (5 votes)
Gaelic, because in my estimation it was the language of the most important people who built this country. (other)
0% (5 votes)
Hungarian (other)
0% (5 votes)
Language of computer (other)
0% (4 votes)
Urdu - A marvellously polite language that can also express the most abstract ideas too and has no compunction in using English (other)
0% (4 votes)
Java (other)
0% (4 votes)
German, since Germany is at its best. (other)
0% (4 votes)
Elvish (Sindarin) (other)
0% (4 votes)
German - powerhouse language of continental Europe with a historic (and rising) global reach. Plus Goethe Institute, DW, et al. (other)
0% (4 votes)
German, for its literature and importance in modern history; also Russian for the same reason (other)
0% (4 votes)
Finnish (other)
0% (4 votes)
Deutsch (other)
0% (4 votes)
Czech (other)
0% (4 votes)
German,the language of thinker and poets (other)
0% (4 votes)
Telugu (other)
0% (4 votes)
Any language in addition to your L1 (other)
0% (4 votes)
Jamaican It is the language of Bob Marley and the Rasta ethos. (other)
0% (4 votes)
latina (other)
0% (4 votes)
XML (other)
0% (3 votes)
italian, because it's so musical (other)
0% (3 votes)
Turkish. A growing powerhouse with increasing poliical and economic influence. (other)
0% (3 votes)
Gaelic - it is afterall a British language! (other)
0% (3 votes)
Inglês, pela sua dispersão o mundo todo, mas também Esperanto (other)
0% (3 votes)
Belarus (other)
0% (3 votes)
Esperanto. Thanks to the structure of Esperanto, it's usually much easier to master than other foreign languages. (other)
0% (3 votes)
One of the original languages of the British Isles, with native varieties still spoken in Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. (other)
0% (3 votes)
Korean: The grammer has few exceptions and the Koreans are now all over the world. (other)
0% (3 votes)
Portuguese from Portugal (other)
0% (3 votes)
Portuguese ( the original; the language of Camões) (other)
0% (3 votes)
Finnish (most complex to learn!) (other)
0% (3 votes)
None of them. Every language is of equal worth to the world. (other)
0% (3 votes)
ESPERANTO! (other)
0% (3 votes)
JavaScript (other)
0% (3 votes)
Hebrew (other)
0% (3 votes)
Cornish (it's my mother tongue) (other)
0% (3 votes)
all (other)
0% (3 votes)
Serbian (other)
0% (3 votes)
ITALIAN; that is in no way a global language, but it has such a wonderful history behind that itself can't be ignored. (other)
0% (3 votes)
German - the language of Thomas Mann and Goethe as well as wonderfully logical grammar and infinitely long words! (other)
0% (3 votes)
German - because Germany has fourth largest GDP in the world: poulation is set to shrink 15% by 2050 + there will be jobs (other)
0% (3 votes)
German, because is closely related to English and one of its linguistic foundations (other)
0% (3 votes)
Indonesian (other)
0% (3 votes)
italiano (other)
0% (3 votes)
Mongolian (other)
0% (3 votes)
Taiwanese (other)
0% (3 votes)
Esperanto — it's by far the easiest language to learn, and facilitates future language learning; also useful in its own right! (other)
0% (3 votes)
Gaelic is one of the nices languages in the world (other)
0% (3 votes)
Arabic , For politics, oil, history, religion, and mental joy of learning a completely different language. (other)
0% (3 votes)
I suggest why Esperanto! Is much easier to be learned and equals the speakers. (other)
0% (2 votes)
Greek (if you learn this language you already know thousands of words borowed from Greek that are in all modern European tongues (other)
0% (2 votes)
German - to gain understanding of middle Europe (other)
0% (2 votes)
challenging (other)
0% (2 votes)
German, because i like the sound and grammar. (other)
0% (2 votes)
Swedish (other)
0% (2 votes)
GERMAN - language of science, poetry and philosophy (other)
0% (2 votes)
German (strong economy, good perspectives) (other)
0% (2 votes)
german (many still not well undersood writers) (other)
0% (2 votes)
Any language that motivates you enough to keep you going till proficiency level (other)
0% (2 votes)
Urdu (other)
0% (2 votes)
German (most important language in the European Union) (other)
0% (2 votes)
Greek - It will enable you to read the original classics (other)
0% (2 votes)
Gaelic because it is one of the oldest indo european languages and has a differfent philosophy (other)
0% (2 votes)
canyonese (other)
0% (2 votes)
Ancient Greek (other)
0% (2 votes)
No one language: In many places, people speak more than one language, so no language is more important. (other)
0% (2 votes)
ITALIAN (because of its generally harmonic sound) (other)
0% (2 votes)
Greek (useful in math, science, philosophy, medicine, art, theatre) (other)
0% (2 votes)
Portugal Portuguese (other)
0% (2 votes)
faroese, just because (other)
0% (2 votes)
Irish (other)
0% (2 votes)
Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia): no plural form, no gender, no tenses. (other)
0% (2 votes)
German - the germans rule! (other)
0% (2 votes)
INTERLINGUA ("easy latin" of modern world) (other)
0% (2 votes)
German, most widely spoken language in Europe. (other)
0% (2 votes)
German, you cover Central Europe very easily. (other)
0% (2 votes)
German - the most learned second language in Europe and an important language for business and academics (other)
0% (2 votes)
Urdu, because it has finest poetry, it is understood all over Indian subcontinent and middle east (other)
0% (2 votes)
Finnish. Just for the exoticness and fun of it. (other)
0% (2 votes)
ESPERANTO is the internationale language. (other)
0% (2 votes)
german, very important country (other)
0% (2 votes)
Turkish, because you get to know Turkish culture and history which is so varied rich and rewarding (other)
0% (2 votes)
Urdu. It is the most poetic language in the world (other)
0% (2 votes)
Yiddish (other)
0% (2 votes)
Italian. Because it's the only way the enjoy Dante's Comedy or others (other)
0% (2 votes)
Cornish (it is about finding my own national identity as a Cornish person, but it has also inspired me to learn other tongues) (other)
0% (2 votes)
Welsh (other)
0% (2 votes)
German, the most spoken language in the European Union (other)
0% (1 vote)
Bhutanese (other)
0% (1 vote)
Hebrew ~ Lashon HaKodesh...because this is the language which connects me to Hashem, our Creator (other)
0% (1 vote)
ITALIAN (it raises the spirits like no other language and enables one to express one's emotions without feeling self-conscious) (other)
0% (1 vote)
Romania (other)
0% (1 vote)
Danish -- it's cute, and the culture is agreable (other)
0% (1 vote)
PORTUGUESE. just as spanish is just spanish, so is portuguese. just as english is just english, so is portuguese. (other)
0% (1 vote)
ESPERANTO - it is neutral, democratic, easy, rich (other)
0% (1 vote)
Japanese While the point about Chinese characters is true there is a certain beauty to the system and each individual character (other)
0% (1 vote)
German, Germany is becoming a huge European Superpower. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Hebrew, greek, latin, syriac, russian, yiddish, spanish, french, italian, portugese, german (other)
0% (1 vote)
BANGLA (other)
0% (1 vote)
Welsh, (other)
0% (1 vote)
Sanskrit - because it is the oldest (other)
0% (1 vote)
Manderan (other)
0% (1 vote)
Indonesian I live there and 300,000,000 people speak it Malaysia etc (other)
0% (1 vote)
music. A language before language. (other)
0% (1 vote)
nigger (other)
0% (1 vote)
If you are interested in linguistics, Danish is a very fascinating language, especially in terms of stress and vowels. (other)
0% (1 vote)
German. Its grammar has the complexity and poetic diversity of Latin, with the vivacity of Italian or French. (other)
0% (1 vote)
ingles (other)
0% (1 vote)
Ukrainian (other)
0% (1 vote)
Hindi, because the population of India is growing, and so is the number of immigrants, they know English (most of them, anyway), (other)
0% (1 vote)
Marsnish (other)
0% (1 vote)
albanain (other)
0% (1 vote)
Japanse - emerging market in technology and finance (other)
0% (1 vote)
Guarani (other)
0% (1 vote)
Japanese because they make the most technical hardwares and softwares fist it is the future (other)
0% (1 vote)
Tagalog (other)
0% (1 vote)
Urdu : Culturally rich : Poetry bequeathed from the mughal empire and continuing in Bollywood. Also indistinguishable from Hindi (other)
0% (1 vote)
Lietuvių (other)
0% (1 vote)
Portugal portuguese because is the same as brazilian portugese (at least we understand each other perfectly) and it's the base. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Italian. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Farsi (other)
0% (1 vote)
German, because of its incredible capacity to express human emotions with a single word (other)
0% (1 vote)
DUTCH (other)
0% (1 vote)
Yiddish (rich culture and literature, a natural language not associated with any one country and therefore beyond nationalism) (other)
0% (1 vote)
Lojban (other)
0% (1 vote)
Mizo (other)
0% (1 vote)
Hindi, second official language of India, language of Bollywood films, Indian restaurants-cuisine, limo drivers in NYC, (other)
0% (1 vote)
Korean- south korea is growing fast and as evryone learns chinese there will be an undersupply of korean english speakers (other)
0% (1 vote)
German is the future (other)
0% (1 vote)
Italian. Because it the most musical. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Italian, it's more romantic (other)
0% (1 vote)
Quechua, language of the Incan Empire, lent words to Spanish and English, soul of Cusco, Peru (other)
0% (1 vote)
Farsi. Opens the door to Iran and Central Asia (other)
0% (1 vote)
PORTUGUESE. If you say Brazilian Portuguese than you must say American English or South American Spanish... (other)
0% (1 vote)
vietnamese (other)
0% (1 vote)
Australian (other)
0% (1 vote)
European Portuguese (other)
0% (1 vote)
Japanese: For sudoku lovers and students of universal values. The hobby of a lifetime. The rewards and costs are significant. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Deutsch for strong technology based industries (other)
0% (1 vote)
German, because its grammar comes from latin, it is a phonetic language and german language is used in the world today yet.. (other)
0% (1 vote)
German, it leads the EU (other)
0% (1 vote)
GALELIC (other)
0% (1 vote)
Bealrusian (other)
0% (1 vote)
German. Would you ever bet against the resilience of the German economy? (other)
0% (1 vote)
italian, english (other)
0% (1 vote)
Beautiful, simple and easy to learn. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Sanskrit/Hindi (in order to gain philosophical insight on life from texts in these languages) (other)
0% (1 vote)
Portuguese Portugal (other)
0% (1 vote)
Italian: the language of Music, Art, Fashion and Cuisine (other)
0% (1 vote)
Portuguese from Portugal. Because Portugueses have a much better accent for the other languages. Brazilians are more limited. (other)
0% (1 vote)
ESPERANTO - EASY TO LEARN, INTERNATIONAL (other)
0% (1 vote)
bulgarian (other)
0% (1 vote)
Danish - As Danes are the happiest people in the world! be part of it, move to Denmark and learn Danish! (other)
0% (1 vote)
LINGUA FRANCA NOVA (other)
0% (1 vote)
Sanskrit - due to the vast literature (other)
0% (1 vote)
Lingvo Internacia (other)
0% (1 vote)
Hindustani as it a lingua franca of the Indian sub continent and kept alive by Bollywood! (other)
0% (1 vote)
Mandarin. I know you said Chinese, but there is no Chinese language. It is a remarkably simple language. (other)
0% (1 vote)
GERMAN (The second most important language in technical sciences and technology) (other)
0% (1 vote)
The language is Portuguese. Calling it "Brazilian Portuguese" is the equivalent of saying "American English". (other)
0% (1 vote)
Catalan (other)
0% (1 vote)
basque, the oldest and most beautiful language in europe (other)
0% (1 vote)
German - economic powerhouse of Europe for almost a century, language of important engineering, physics/science, and philosophy (other)
0% (1 vote)
Persian/Turkish: will open up the opportunity to gain access to the myriad of excellent poetry (other)
0% (1 vote)
Aramaic (it is an ancient language; a hidden culture awaits) & Nahuatl (it offers a mysterious & scientifically savage culture). (other)
0% (1 vote)
OCCIDENTAL PATAGONIAN (other)
0% (1 vote)
Belarusian (other)
0% (1 vote)
Malay (easy pronunciation, grammar, spelling combo: great for self-confidence + motivation. Spoken by 200 million+ in SE Asia. (other)
0% (1 vote)
Sanskrit: Important in the Indo-European family of languages. (other)
0% (1 vote)
German - Increasing influence in EU and world (other)
0% (1 vote)
CANTONESE (other)
0% (1 vote)
Japanese (Japan is not dead yet and still the 3rd world economy) (other)
0% (1 vote)
Gaelic language of my ancestors (other)
0% (1 vote)
German (economic and political dominance in the EU and the world) (other)
0% (1 vote)
gaelic - it's sheer poetry (other)
0% (1 vote)
Serbian: Because SERBIA STRONG! (other)
0% (1 vote)
English - the only language of any value in the 21st century of globalization (as the Economist makes clear) (other)
0% (1 vote)
KOSAN (an Inter-galactic language) (other)
0% (1 vote)
schwitzertütsch (other)
0% (1 vote)
German: It's aweasome! (other)
0% (0 votes)
German. Due to Germany's influence in Europe (other)
0% (0 votes)
Persian - It's a language of art, beauty... as exotic as it might sound, it is an Indo-European which to many sounds like French (other)
0% (0 votes)
Total voters: 12868