In this special issue, we bring together empirical research that takes a critical perspective on the relationship between language learning and individual aspirations for future success. In doing so we aim to initiate a debate on how neoliberal ideology and mode of governance permeate language learning as part of a wider neoliberal project that postulates the ideal of the competitive and self-responsible language learner. The four contributions illustrate how neoliberal desires about entrepreneurial selves play out differently within different social, political, or linguistic contexts. They do not only address different languages individuals supposedly need to teach or acquire for a successful future within a specific context, but also concentrate on the discourses and social relations shaping these entrepreneurial aspirations. Ranging from vocational training in Japan, early education in Singapore, healthcare tourism in India, to higher education in Switzerland, the contributions all illustrate the role of language as part of the struggle to improve either oneself or others. While the research sites illustrate that investments in language are simultaneously promising and risky and as such dependent on local and global linguistic markets, they equally highlight underlying language ideologies and reveal wider structures of inequality that are firmly embedded in local, national and global contexts.