Top 5 International Languages to Learn
Updated on Dec 18, 2015 - 3:04 p.m. IST by Shreelata
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Top international languages to learn: 
English as a lingua franca (ELF) is a universally accepted mainstream language, and for majority of the world’s top universities, passing an English language proficiency test is mandatory for international students from non-English speaking countries. But this doesn’t mean knowledge of English language is enough for studying abroad. Knowledge of the local dialects of the place of your study along with English is equally important for international students to complete their daily errands. 

If you are planning to study abroad in top universities in the US or the UK, the English language skill might be sufficient but to be in countries like France, Russia, Italy, Germany, China and Japan as international student, you should have good knowledge of the local languages such as French, Russian, Italian, German, Chinese or Mandarin, and Japanese, respectively.This will help you as an international student to do post classroom activities, especially off-campus activities effortlessly.

In fact, we nudge the international student community to gain skills for as many top world languages as possible for they will be attending a classroom that may include folks from different nations and cultures. As said by a renowned psycholinguist, Frank Smith: “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.”

Here are the some other points where learning top international languages can help productively in international education:

  • Immigration - On arriving on a foreign land, the knowledge of the local language will help you in communicating and integrating with the locals. Even if a local and you are familiar with a common language, for example the lingua franca – English language, your knowledge of the local language demonstrates your genuine interest and commitment to the new country.

  • Working while studying - A good knowledge of foreign language will help you in getting off-campus jobs in countries that have a different official language. If your work involves regular contact with local people as well as speakers of foreign languages, being able to talk to them in their native languages will help you establishing communication regarding any work-related endeavor with them.

  • Understanding the new culture - With the good knowledge of the country’s official language, you will be able to understand and enjoy the literature, films, TV programs, and music of that particular nation, and can step inside the context of the new culture that will subsequently let you relish getting education in abroad.

Now let’s discuss what are the top international languages to learn for an international education. According to the World University rankings 2015 conducted by the QSTHE and ARWU, the US and the UK are the top study abroad destinations. Apart from these two English speaking countries; RussiaFranceGermany and Spain are the most preferred international education hub, especially among Indian students. To study in these countries, one should have the proficiency in their official languages. Following are the top 5 international languages which you must learn if you are planning for international education:



The highly recommended top international languages to learn is English, which is a globally accepted lingua franca, and students belonging to non-English speaking nations have to achieve scores in English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in order to get admissions abroad in universities with English as a medium of instructions. An ELPT is designed for those whose primary language is not English. It is often used as a university admission criterion to check whether an applicant is fluent enough to pursue an English-medium study programme at the university.

However, there are certain universities in UK and Canada that accept high school English exam scores for undergraduate programmes. For Indian applicants, such universities accept CBSE and ISC English exam scores for UG admissions.


The major tests to prove skills for English, one of the top foreign languages to learn for international education, are as follow:


International English Language Testing System (IELTS) – IELTS is a test conducted to evaluate a candidate’s proficiency in English language. Those who wish to pursue education or career in English-speaking countries like the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Switzerland, etc., may sit for the exam. The test measures a candidate’s command over English language based on 4 different parameters viz. listening, reading, writing and speaking. For each of these parts of the test, the candidates are given a score from 1 to 9, and the average of which produces overall band score ranging from 0 to 9. The IELTS score requirement for international students from non-English speaking countries usually ranges between bands 5 to 8 and varies university wise and further course wise.


Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) - A test to determine a candidate’s proficiency in English language, TOEFL is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS) – a US based non-profit organization. TOEFL is for people whose native language is not English but they want to pursue education or do work in English-speaking countries. TOEFL is conducted in two formats - TOEFL iBT (Internet-based test) and TOEFL PBT (paper-based test). Most countries including India conduct the Internet based test. TOEFL is usually held on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year. Candidates may go for the test as many times as they want, but they have to maintain a 12 hours gap from the previous exam taken. A TOEFL test score is valid up to 2 years.


TOEFL is recognised by more than 9,000 universities and colleges in more than 130 countries, including the USA, the UK, Australia, Canada, and Singapore.


Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic – The PTE Academic is an English language test conducted by Pearson, a British multinational publishing and education company. This test is designed to assess the English language adeptness of non-native English speakers who are going to attend a university-level programme in English medium. Amongst other top universities that accept PTE Academic scores include London Business School, Harvard University, Stanford University and Yale University. Universities in other countries like Spain, France and China have also agreed to accept PTE Academic scores for English language proficiency.


Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB) - Created by CaMLA, Cambridge Michigan Language Assessments, MELAB is another standardized test to evaluate a candidate’s proficiency in understanding, writing and speaking the English language. The test includes three mandatory parts and one optional:

  • Written composition

  • Listening comprehension

  • Grammar, cloze, vocabulary and reading comprehension multiple-choice questions

  • An optional speaking test in the form of a one-on-one interview with an examiner

MELAB is conducted every other month and is open for non-native English speaker who is applying for an American or Canadian or British university.  

Apart from these, other commonly used English language proficiency tests include Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE) and Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE), both of them are conducted by Cambridge English Language Assessment.


There are certain country specific English proficiency tests; for instance, in Canada, many universities ask for the score of Canadian Test of English for Scholars and Trainees (CanTEST), which is a standardised English proficiency test used to determine the candidate’s language fluency for admissions to Canadian post-secondary institutions.  



One of the top international languages to learn, French language should be mastered if you’re planning to study in any top-ranked universities in France. No matter if you are going to take a course in French or English medium, the knowledge of French is must there. Even if you’re attending a degree with English as the medium of instruction and meeting all the English language proficiency requirements, you should have to have enough knowledge of the French language to at least speak/understand it for doing you daily post classroom or off-campus activities.


In some of the top French universities such as Ecole Polytechnique, passing an official French language test is mandatory to get your admissions finalized by the institutions. On the other hand, the Ecole normale supérieure, the highest ranked university in France, offers French as a Foreign Language (FLE), a one-week intensive course of French language and cultural activities, which is conducted before the start of term. This preliminary course helps newcomers from international front to build up their French before the start of the academic year.


The knowledge of French language is also imperative if you are going to attend universities in Québec, a predominantly French-speaking province in eastern Canada. For instance, to get admissions in Laval University situated at Québec region of Canada, candidates who have completed  their primary or secondary education in language other than French need to take the Test de Français International (TFI), which is a French Language proficiency test conducted by the Educational Testing Service (ETS).



German is one of the top international languages to learn for those seeking studying abroad, because if you have any plans to join a university in Germany then you should start learning basic skills of speaking, reading and writing of German language. According to German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), courses at the majority of top German universities are usually held in German, and to get admissions to such courses, international applicants will be required to complete a German language test in order to prove their language skills. International students can take any one of the following two German language proficiency tests such as:

  • the "Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang ausländischer Studienbewerber" (DSH - German language test for admission to university for international applicants), and

  • the German as a foreign language test (TestDaF)

While students can take the TestDaF in their home countries as it is offered in Germany as well as over 90 countries including India across the world, the DSH can be taken only in Germany.


Spanish is another one among the list of top international languages to learn while purusing international education. Universities in Spain host sufficient number of English medium degrees, after that in UK and Switzerland in Europe, and thus attract a good number of international students to their classrooms every year, and if they are from a non-EU country, they have to qualify the Official Spanish University Entrance Exam called Selectividad, which includes a paper in Spanish only. And, to be successful in this exam, students need to have the knowledge of Spanish language up to a minimum level of B2. But the good news for future international students aspiring to join universities in Spain is that in 2014, the Spanish government announced to scrap Selectividad for the international student community which should be in effect from the 2017 session.

According to Spanish regulations for university studies, there is no specific certificate requirement to prove language competence, but students need to attain a minimum knowledge level for Spanish language for it is mandatory to sit for qualifying exam – Selectividad. So, to demonstrate their level for Spanish language skills, students can show the results of the following language certificates:

DELE (Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera) - The English elaboration of DELE is Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language, and it is a Spanish language certification course, recognised by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport of Spain. The DELE is available in following levels:  

  • Diploma de Español A1

  • Diploma de Español A2

  • Diploma de Español (Nivel Inicial - B1) - Intermediate-mid/threshold level

  • Diploma de Español (Nivel Intermedio - B2) - High-intermediate level

  • Diploma de Español C1

  • Diploma de Español (Nivel Superior - C2)

CELU (Certificado de Español: Lengua y Uso or Certificate of Use of Language in Spanish) - The CELU is another internationally acknowledged Spanish language proficiency test for foreign students whose native language is not Spanish. Recognised by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Argentina, the CELU is conducted mainly by the University of Buenos Aires and National University of Cordoba.


Why we are considering Russian among one of the top international languages to learn for international education because an increasing number of overseas students are seeking admissions in top Russian universities every year, given the world-class education in science and technology they provide at very affordable tuition fees, and most of the universities in Russia require international students from non-native speaking countries to either enroll in a Russian language course at the university before the start of their academic session or to qualify the Test of Russian as a Foreign Language (TORFL). Also in Russia, the language of instruction for higher study courses is mainly Russian, which necessitates learning of this official language for international students in the country.

TORFLis a standardised Russian language proficiency test conducted under the aegis of the Russian Ministry of Education and Science. This test was developed by the Russian government to assess Russian language skills of international students whose first language is not Russian and they are seeking entry to degree programmes in Russia. 

However, with the increasing numbers of foreign students in the country, some top Russian universities in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the main education hubs in the country, have started offering some popular degree prgrammes such as medicine and engineering in English as medium of instruction.  

Stay tuned to for more news and updates on Foreign Languages

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