Which Languages Lead the Way in Business?

Learn more about languages that are most in demand for today’s business needs.It’s no surprise that the languages most in demand change over the course of a career. These changes are due to economics, politics, geography, or a combination of factors. The point is that businesses need to remain nimble when considering their language needs. The winds can shift.

Last year, we commissioned a survey of 500 executives of companies with more than 500 employees in offices all over the world. The results have been made available in a handy infographic entitled Business Value in Language. We sought to break down the language needs of organizations as detailed as possible, including which languages were most in demand for today’s business needs.

Although we hear a lot about Mandarin or German, English is still the international language of business. It has been for decades and there is no evidence of the demand slackening. Eighty-two percent of respondents identified it as their most critical language. That being said, 22 percent responded with German, followed by French and Spanish. Most companies said their companies have identified more than one critical language for their success.

In the organizations surveyed, you can get an idea of how widespread the usage of a language is. Ninety-nine percent of organizations surveyed used English, followed by:

  • French – 79 percent
  • German – 73 percent
  • Spanish – 62 percent
  • Russian – 46 percent
  • Mandarin Chinese – 45 percent

Not surprisingly, Mandarin is on the rise. China is the world’s most-emerging market, but Mandarin only seems to have use for a certain level of organization: those with more than 3,000 employees. These businesses tend to operate in sectors as diverse as professional services, government, energy, and pharmaceuticals.

Perhaps most interesting were the languages our executives identified as needing the most work among their employees. Skills have apparently gotten rusty with speakers of French, German, and Spanish. This might be because they are languages typically offered in high school language programs—which might have been decades ago for many workers. Luckily, there are easy ways to bolster employees’ language skills.

To see more results of the survey, click here to check out the infographic Business Value in Language.

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