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What Are the Most Useful Languages to Learn for Business?

David Davidovic - Preply

What is the most used language in business? English, of course!

Luckily, that’s one you already know. It’s a language that most people in business have to know to some degree because it’s the business language of the world. However, it’s not the only language you need. With today’s increasing globalisation and inter-connectivity, it’s important to adapt to new ways of doing things. 

English may be enough to scratch the surface, but learning a second language can open up a literal world of possibilities for you. The only way to afford yourself these opportunities is to be proactive and learn something new. 

Then the question becomes: what is the best language to learn for international business?

What Are The Top 5 Business Languages? 
Naturally, the #1 answer to this question is English. English is the de facto lingua franca of the world; it’s spoken practically everywhere and the cultural impact of English-language entertainment and content is seen throughout all corners of the world.

It may seem like a given, but even the idea of brushing up on your English, especially business English training, can do you immense favours as far as yielding better career outcomes. It’s the reason why Preply corporate language training is readily used by companies looking to expand the English proficiency of their employees for all things business. 

But you didn’t come here to learn about how useful English is — you already knew that. So, what are the other most useful languages for business? 

If going by the number of native speakers alone, Mandarin is certainly poised to supplant English very soon. With over 900 million native speakers and 1.2 billion speakers in total, Mandarin will help pave the way to a completely new set of opportunities for you. It’s also important to keep China in mind. As the official language of China, Mandarin will provide you access to one of the world’s most rapidly expanding economic powerhouses. 

Spanish is no doubt the dominant language of the Western hemisphere. We all know that South and Central America are almost exclusively Spanish, with some exceptions (Brazil), but what about its prevalence in English-dominated North America? North America, too, is home to large numbers of Spanish speakers, with an estimated 50 million Spanish speakers in the United States. With its prevalence in such influential economic regions, it’s hard to downplay the importance of Spanish within the business world. 

Although Germany is a relatively small European country, it’s still an unmatched economic powerhouse in the world with a whopping $2.4 trillion GDP. On top of that, the German language is spoken throughout several neighbouring countries like Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Luxembourg, and other economically robust European nations. With over 210 million speakers worldwide, German is nothing to scoff at when it comes to business. 

French, much like English and Spanish, is widely spread throughout all corners of the world and is the official language of 29 different countries. The expansiveness of the French-speaking world also happens to include several growing economies in Africa, a relatively untapped economic market at the moment. For that reason alone, French is easily one of the most useful languages to learn for business. 

Portuguese is the second most spoken language in Latin America. Not only is the language spoken by over 215 million people worldwide, but it also happens to be the official language of one of Latin America’s largest economies: Brazil. Anyone seriously considering the business prospects of Brazil has to learn Portuguese if they hope to yield any success.  

Honourable Mentions:

Most Useful Vs. Most Spoken
To be clear, a language with the most speakers doesn’t necessarily correlate to being the most useful. Not in a business sense, at least. Although one should take into consideration the number of speakers a given language has, it’s not the only metric that ought to be looked at. 

For example, Hindi, as the tenth most spoken language on earth, has over 270 million speakers worldwide. However, it’s usefulness is not as clear cut. India is home to a multitude of languages outside of just Hindi, and in many cases, English may serve to be far more useful in branching out to Hindi speakers and non-Hindi speakers alike. 

Take another example: German. It’s far from being one of the most spoken languages on Earth. It ranks 16th in the world, behind languages like Turkish, Korean, and French. But that still doesn’t stop it from being one of the most important languages for business. The importance of German lies in numbers — not the number of speakers, but money!

All in all, it’s a nuanced discussion. Of course, the prevalence of a language is vitally important in determining its usefulness as a business language, but there are other equally important considerations to be looked at as well — primarily economic viability. 

As you can see, there is no shortage of useful languages to learn for business; even beyond those that were mentioned. Luckily, you’ve got yourself a firm grasp of English — the most useful language without a doubt — but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look to more than just that.

The world is brimming with business opportunities and English can only take you so far. 

If you hope to branch out and capitalise on business opportunities outside your current purview, you must take up learning a second language. Which language is completely up to you, and there’s certainly a lot to choose from, but what’s most important is that you recognise that English is not the only business language of the world. 

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