I've been away all day so wasn't able to put finishing touches on this morning's post. But on the way home I was asking myself this question. If a person was going to travel the world or be involved in the whole world in some way, maybe you were Secretary of State or something, what would be the most important languages to know? If a university had a "World Languages" major consisting of five languages, what would they be?
Here were my choices:
English seems the best single language to know. Not only is it the most important internet language, but it gets you North America, western Europe, Africa, and India better than any other language.
It may be of decreasing value in the days to come, but at the moment Russia will get you Russia, all the eastern European countries, and all the -istan countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union. It's the single biggest region covered by any language.
Spanish gets you most of South America and Latin America. You can usually make yourself known in Brazil, Portugal, and even Italy if you know Spanish.
I could be wrong but it seems to me that Chinese is the most important of the languages in Asia to know. It is also in the ascendancy and will likely take the place of Russian in the future as a lingua franca.
Arabic will get you around in northern Africa and the Middle East all the way to Pakistan. If you were going to travel the whole world, Arabic is your best bet throughout the Muslim world.
I wonder if any university has a degree like this. I doubt it, since the university way is to focus on one language at a time...