Interacting with others is a huge part of working in healthcare.

Hence, it’s important to be able to have interpersonal communication skills with people and any written and verbal communication skills.

If you’re in the medical field and working as a nurse (a doctor, respiratory therapist, etc.), below are some languages that will help you increase your patient care abilities and help you further your medical knowledge.

*Disclosure: This article on the best languages to learn for nurses and best languages for doctors to learn may contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. For more info, please see my disclaimer.

What’s the Best Language for Medical and Healthcare Professionals to Learn?

The best language for nurses, doctors, nursing students, and medical students to learn would be the foreign language spoken in the community where they’re going to take up residence in. If you’re still not sure you should probably consider learning medical Spanish or Latin.

Looking at the population or communities, you’re going to serve is important because immigrants tend to congregate in the same area.

For example, while there’s not a lot of Russians as a whole in the United States compared to other nationalities, you might be working a hospital that serves many Russians.

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Best Languages to Learn for Healthcare Professionals

1. Latin

Did you know most medical terms have their roots in Latin origin? Latin is widely considered the language of medicine, and it’s also the root of all English language!

The English language is comprised of approximately 80% Latin words. Because of that, learning Latin is beneficial not just to help you understand medical terminology but also to help you figure out some common words in English.

In medicine, for instance, the suffix “itis,” meaning inflammation, derives from the New Latin word it─ôs.

Other common Latin prefixes you can find being used in medicine includes “circum-,” as in circumcision, “trans-“ as in transcranial, and “supra-“ as in suprascapular.

If you’re in school and studying to be a nurse, Latin is an excellent way to boost your SAT scores to get into a good college program. Not to mention also to help you score high on your anatomy tests!

Related: Is Medical Terminology Class Difficult?

2. Spanish

According to Pew Research Center, Spanish is the second most common language spoken in the United States TODAY!

Spanish speakers in the United States have increased by over 233 percent from 1980 until today. This shows just how important it is to learn Spanish as more and more native-Spanish speakers seek help at hospitals.

Most Spanish speakers have Hispanic origins, with large populations of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Salvadoreans living in California and Texas.

The CDC recommends that medical professionals working with Spanish-speaking Hispanic and Latino communities learn to communicate effectively with this population and develop a cultural understanding that can help in providing care.

3. Chinese

Chinese and Chinese language variants include Mandarin, Cantonese, and Wu, among others.

All of these language variants combined are spoken by 16 percent of the world population, and Chinese is itself the most spoken language in the world!

This is important to remember if you want to work as a healthcare provider.

Although Chinese is one of the most spoken languages globally, it’s also one of the most difficult to master.

Fortunately, there are many apps and online college courses you can take to help you master Chinese.

Start Learning a Second Language Today

Learn your second language by using a Rosetta Stone. A company that’s teaching millions of people worldwide.

4. Khmer/ Vietnamese

In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau found that there are over 2 million Vietnamese citizens living in the United States.

Learning Vietnamese can help you interact with the Vietnamese population and provide them with sensitive care.

This is important since Vietnamese men commit suicide at a rate higher than non-Hispanic whites.

Sadly, suicide is the sixth leading cause of death in Vietnamese men, meaning you might have interacted with Vietnamese populations in your hospital’s medical and psychiatric emergency room.

Learning Khmer or Vietnamese can help you as a nurse, especially if you’re living in Texas or California, where there is a high population of Vietnamese citizens!

5. Tagalog

The Filipino community is one of the most vibrant and present in the United States.

An estimated 2 million Filipinos live in the United States, and out of all nurses in the United States, 4% of them are also Filipino!

Learning Tagalog can help you understand your Filipino patients and communicate effectively with them. On top of that, it can also help you interact with other nurses that speak Tagalog (get in on all their jokes)!

In all seriousness, Filpino nurses have been at the forefront of nursing care for decades, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

Learning Tagalog can be rewarding, and its written language is pretty straightforward!

6. Russian

There are an estimated 900,000 Russian speakers in the United States, and most of them live in densely populated communities such as California and New York.

If you live in an area with a dense population of Russian native speakers, it’s a good idea to pick up on this language to help the residents of your community.

Russian can be a difficult language to learn. However, many courses are available to help you in college and online.

7. Arabic

Arabic is a rich language that is one of the five most spoken languages in the world.

Around 422 million people in the world speak Arabic, meaning that at some point, you probably will interact with someone who speaks Arabic as a patient!

Arabic can be learned in about a year and a half if studied consistently.

Although this might seem like quite a long time, it’s worth it considering 30% of Arabic patients report that the language barrier posed a barrier in their understanding of non-Arabic speaking nurses.

8. Korean

Learning Korean takes about the same amount of hours as learning Arabic.

However, it can be one of the best languages to learn as a nurse, considering the Korean population in the United States is about 1.82 million people!

Learning Korean can lessen language barriers between you and your patients and help you interact with other Korean-speaking nurses!

Korean and other Asians make up about 5.2% of all nurses in the United States!

Start Learning a Second Language Today

Learn your second language by using a Rosetta Stone. A company that’s teaching millions of people worldwide.

9. French

French is an incredibly beautiful language and is fortunately offered by many high school and college courses alike.

Learning French can help you interact with patients who are French speakers and with French tourists!

In 2018, there were over 212 million French tourists in the United States. Chances are, some of them ended up in the hospital and needed to interact with a nurse just like you!

French is a language spoken in France and in other countries and states such as the Republic of Congo, Haiti, Canada, Cameroon, Belgium, The Ivory Coast, and Madagascar, just to name a few!

French is one of those languages that can help you interact with many different communities.

10. Armenian

If you’re a fan of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, you might already be familiar with the Armenian population!

Just like Russia, the Armenian population is located in densely populated areas around the United States, such as the suburban community of Glendale in Los Angeles.

Learning Armenian can greatly benefit you if you’re a nurse working in an area that has many Armenian speakers. Armenia is a small country located in the middle east, with a population of just 3 million people.

This makes it even more important for Armenian native speakers to feel comfortable in the medical setting, and having a nurse that speaks their language can help with that!

11. Japanese

Manga and Anime lovers, rejoice at this brand new excuse to learn Japanese!

Nursing students should be aware that, like French tourists, Japanese tourists make up a sizable portion of visitors to the United States.

An estimated 3.8 million Japanese tourists visit the United States every year. Accidents, illness, and other factors can drive these tourists to seek medical care.

When they do, you can be ready to use your new Japanese language skills! Japanese is a popular language to learn, and many online guides are now available to help you learn quickly.

12. Portuguese

Similar to French, many countries speak Portuguese, thus making this a valuable language to learn.

Some Portuguese countries include Portugal (of course), Brazil, Cape Verde, Mozambique, East Timor, and Angola.

Learning this language can help you provide care to residents of all these countries and help you next time you want to take a vacation (how bad can that be)!

13. American Sign Language (ASL)

Although this isn’t a spoken language, learning American Sign Language can make an incredible difference in the lives of your deaf and hard-of-hearing patients.

The basic medical language you would learn through ASL would involve getting information from patients about aches, pains, allergies, baby, address, help, breath, and much more.

Learning ASL is such an essential tool for healthcare professionals that some colleges offer ASL courses specifically for nurses and physicians.

Learn Something New Today

Learning a new language can make a difference to help you understand your patients better and help break down barriers to medical treatment.

When learning a new language, consider getting help from professional college courses, online guides, or pictorial guides if learning ASL.

If you already know a specific language in your community, search for nursing jobs on our job board, where you can put your skills to the test!

Start Learning a Second Language Today

Learn your second language by using a Rosetta Stone. A company that’s teaching millions of people worldwide.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Bilingual nurses, at times, may get paid more depending on the need of their employer. This is not always the case, as some medical facilities will argue that they have a medical interpreter hotline to justify not paying nurses who speak a second language.

Because the Spanish language is the most widely spoken language in the U.S. after English for American doctors, Spanish should be at the top of the list for languages to learn.

Because the Spanish language is the most widely spoken language in the United States after English for U.S. nurses, Spanish should be at the top of the list for languages to learn.

Because medical terminology is heavily influenced by the Latin language learning Latin will help you grasp medical jargon easier.