What to speak if you can't speak good American

Sep. 7, 2011 at 7:37 AM ET

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. And if you’re a European, or Asian, or ... pretty much anyone who is not a U.S. citizen, you’ve heard it before.

What do you call a person who only speaks one language? An American.

Certainly the U.S. lags much of the world in foreign language education.  So what’s a parent to do to prepare their young’un for a future where the United States, and all its monolinguistic citizenry, must compete in a global economy?

Learn Chinese? Good guess.

In a ranking of languages, other than English, that are useful in world business, Bloomberg put Mandarin Chinese as No. 1.

What is surprising is those French classes weren’t nearly as much of a waste as you thought. French came in second, according to Bloomberg, which ranked languages based on number of speakers, number of countries where the language is official and other factors including the population and the financial power of those countries.

Arabic ranked as the third-most useful language other than English.

What language do you think is most useful for the new generation of workers?