According to recent international research by YouGov, English is accepted as the most important language for children to learn, but Chinese is catching up fast. The YouGov–Cambridge Centre partnered with the Guardian and the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at Cambridge University to produce the YouGov–Cambridge Globalism Project: a new annual study and the largest of its kind on populism and the public state of globalization, including national samples in 23 countries spanning the world. The project has involved collaboration with numerous academics and practitioners to develop an extensive, multidimensional survey that can correlate attitudes and behavior across myriad areas of life: from politics and democracy to food, travel, and technology; from soft power and supra-nationalism to consumer habits and the environment.
YouGov polled more than 25,000 adults across 23 countries on which language was the most important to learn in 2019. Participants were able to select up to four responses. The study showed that English was overwhelmingly seen as the most vital language for children today, with every country polled putting it ahead of Chinese, which came second in every country. On average, 31% of those polled—excluding people in China—believed speaking Chinese was an important asset for today’s children. French and Spanish followed as the next most important languages, with just under a third of respondents in nations excluding France and Spain seeing them as important. In the U.S., 73% of adults believed English was the most important language to know, followed by Spanish. Chinese was named the third most useful language, with 28% of participants saying children should learn it. In Britain, English, Spanish, and Mandarin were listed as the most important.
In China, 84% of respondents ranked English as one of the most important, while 81% cited Chinese. In Europe, English was overwhelmingly seen as the most important language to learn, with 91% of people in Poland ranking it first. Thailand and Australia, after China, were the countries where the largest proportion of respondents felt Chinese was important. French and Spanish followed as the next most important languages. While a simple average puts Spanish and French neck and neck at 31% apiece across the other nations, the French language ranked second to fifth in importance in each other country, while the Spanish range was slightly less positive at second to eighth. The divide seems to be between Europe and the Americas (which tend to see Spanish as more important) and Africa, Asia, and the Middle East (which see French as more important). Perhaps most worryingly for Spanish prospects, the world’s two most populous countries—India and China—are noticeably more likely to see the importance in French than Spanish. The results are available at