Learning a second, third, or fourth language provides plenty of social benefits, but it’s also the perfect way to become more hirable. According to CSA Research, 76% of consumers prefer to purchase in their language, but what language you learn depends on who your customers are.
Learning a popular language is a good idea, but sometimes a niche language can make your skills more competitive. Regardless, learning the following languages will help you in business.
If you’re reading this article, then you likely have a decent command of the English language. Still, English is one of the most important business languages and is spoken by over 1.34 billion people around the world. Most top economies, like the US, UK, and Canada, use English.
Around 500 million people speak Spanish, and 40 million Spanish speakers live in the US. If you’re looking for a sales career in America, you’ll likely find “Spanish” in the “nice to have” section in the job description, especially if you’re doing business in South America or Spain.
Over a billion people speak Mandarin Chinese, and there will likely be many more speakers as China’s economic power continues to grow. Thanks to international trade ties, scientific advances, and cross-border treaties, China will likely be the world’s leading power by 2050.
It’s a good idea to study French for everyday situations, as nearly 300 million people would be able to speak it with you. French is also widely spoken in almost 30 countries, including France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Lebanon, and parts of the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, and Africa.
While Japanese is mainly spoken in Japan, that still means 130 million people speak the language on a regular basis. Japan is also a leading provider in the science and tech, fashion, software, pharmaceutical, automotive, and finance industry, so you’ll find a lot of business here.
Germany is a top country for entrepreneurs, auto manufacturers, and all things tech, and the German language is spoken by 100 million people. Plus, German is spoken in other countries that rank high on the quality of life and business openness scales, like Switzerland and Austria.
If you already know Spanish, switching to Portuguese will be a breeze, as both languages are similar. 200 million people speak Portuguese in countries like Portugal, Cape Verde, Angola, and Mozambique. It’s also a first, second, or popular language in Brazil and Latin America.
Most people are often surprised to hear that Russian is the eighth most spoken language in the world. As a technological and resource-rich hub, the over 250 million Russian speakers are valuable for global trade. Plus, most neighboring countries also have many Russian speakers.
Both India and China will soon overtake the US in regards to growth and significance, and Hindi will likely be one of our global trade languages when this happens. 600 million people currently speak Hindi, and if you know English, you’re in luck, as it’s easy for English speakers to learn.
Arabic is another language to watch for. With over 300 million native speakers, it’s right behind Hindi in popularity. Although Arabic isn’t as easy to learn as Hindi for English speakers, it’s still a great language to study if you’re interested in capitalizing on a new but fast-growing market.
Dutch may not be as popular as the other languages on this list (only 24 million people speak it), but the Netherlands has one of the world’s most open economies. Often seen as a great test market for new products, the Netherlands and the Dutch language can bring in a lot of business.
Spanish and French speakers won’t have a problem learning Italian, and that’s a good thing, too, as Italy has the second largest manufacturing economy in Europe. With nearly 65 million native speakers, Italian will help you make connections in Croatia, Switzerland, and Slovenia.
If you plan on doing business in Africa (specifically East and Central Africa), you’ll need to learn Swahili. Spoken by over 16 million people, Swahili, once a coastal trading language, is now an essential part of African business culture. The language is rooted mainly in Bantu and Arabic.
Known for LG and Samsung, Korea’s ideal geographical position and upcoming economy would make learning Korean worth your while. The Korean language, spoken by 80 million people, is considered to be the most logical language, making it really easy to learn for most people.