The 7 Best Languages to Learn for Business

woman-happily-working-on-laptop
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Knowing more than one language isn’t just culturally enriching, it’s also highly sought after in the job market. 

Being able to communicate effectively in languages other than English is crucial for businesses, and that means there’s a big demand for multilingual employees. Learning a new language doesn’t just make your resume stand out; it can lead to opportunities for jobs in other countries, whether you want to travel on business trips or completely relocate.

If you want to give yourself a beneficial skill that can boost your career, read on to see the seven most valuable languages you can learn for business.

Chinese Mandarin

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#2 (1.12 billion speakers)
Number of countries that list Mandarin as an official language3
Economic ranking#2 (China)*
Ease of learningCategory V (88 weeks or 2200 hours)†

*This reflects the nominal GDP ranking of the highest-producing country that uses the language as an official or de facto language.
†This is based on reaching a “general professional proficiency in speaking and reading.” Most learners will feel comfortable with conversational speech sooner than this time period suggests. 

China’s economy has grown by leaps and bounds almost every year since the country’s economic reforms of 1978. It’s now home to the world’s second largest economy and the world’s largest middle class

That growth doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon, so Mandarin is only going to get more important as a language in the business world. English is the current top language of global trade, but Mandarin could give it some healthy competition in the coming years. Learning Mandarin is tough for most English speakers, but the difficulty is worth it.

Mandarin’s speakers are mostly located in China, but it’s also a useful language for communicating in neighboring Taiwan. As one of Taiwan’s major de facto languages, Mandarin would absolutely help anyone interested in the country’s powerful information and communication technology industry. Taiwan produces more microchips than any other country in the world, and in an increasingly digital future, that’s a good position to be in.

Spanish

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#4 (543 million speakers)
Number of countries that list Spanish as an official language20
Economic ranking#14 (Spain)
Ease of learningCategory I (23-24 weeks or 575-600 hours)

Spanish is, of course, useful in Spain, which has the sixth biggest economy in Europe and large tourism, automotive, and renewable energy sectors. 

Just focusing on Spain would undersell how useful Spanish is, though. Spanish is one of the few languages that can unlock opportunities across the majority of a continent, as most countries in South America use Spanish as an official or de facto language. Learning it can open doors to the region’s large agricultural and raw material industries. 

Spanish also has a lot of weight in North America, in countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, and Panama. Even if you live in the U.S. and don’t have any desire to work internationally, the U.S. too has a large Spanish-speaking minority that’s projected to get even bigger with time. Knowing Spanish can help you communicate more effectively with this growing customer base.

Arabic

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#5 (274 million speakers)
Number of countries that list Arabic as an official language23
Economic ranking#20 (Saudi Arabia)
Ease of learningCategory V (88 weeks or 2200 hours)

Like Mandarin, Arabic is a hard language to learn for most English speakers, but can open tons of opportunities for those who become proficient. 

Most Middle Eastern countries use Arabic, and Arabian Gulf countries such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates generally have booming economies. They’re most known for their huge oil and gas exports, but have made moves toward diversifying their industries

Arabic is also spoken throughout North Africa, and is a major language in some of the continent’s most prosperous nations like Egypt and Algeria. Like Middle Eastern countries, these nations have economies primarily based on the energy sector.

German

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#12 (135 million speakers)
Number of countries that list German as an official language6
Economic ranking#4 (Germany)
Ease of learningCategory II (30 weeks or 750 hours)

German has a reputation as a trade language in Europe, and it’s easy to see why. Germany has the largest economy in Europe and the fourth largest worldwide, exporting a variety of goods including vehicles, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and electronics. It’s also the third most prolific contributor to scientific research. All of these factors combine to make it a major hub for business.

Plus, German is an official language in other European countries with healthy economies such as Switzerland, Austria, and Belgium. If you can get the accent down, German is surprisingly easy to learn thanks to some shared roots with English.

French

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#7 (267 million speakers)
Number of countries that list French as an official language30
Economic ranking#7 (France)
Ease of learningCategory I (23-24 weeks or 575-600 hours)

French is a language with a wide reach. Of course it’s useful in Europe, as it’s an official language of economic heavyweights such as France, Belgium, and Switzerland. You might not be aware, though, that 21 countries in Africa also list French as an official language due to French and Belgian colonization. It’s also one of the more widespread languages in Morocco, which has Africa’s fastest-growing economy

French is even valuable in North America, as it’s an official language of Canada along with English. One of Canada’s provinces, Quebec, uses French as its primary language, so Canadian employers are almost always interested in candidates with French skills.

Portuguese

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#9 (258 million speakers)
Number of countries that list Portuguese as an official language9
Economic ranking#12 (Brazil)
Ease of learningCategory I (23-24 weeks or 575-600 hours)

For most people, the main reason to learn Portuguese isn’t going to be for doing business in Portugal, which has an economy that ranks around the middle of the pack for Europe. It’s going to be for Brazil, which has the largest economy in South America thanks to a diverse set of industries including agriculture, mining, petroleum, finance, and manufacturing. Additionally, Portuguese is useful in certain western and southern African countries including Mozambique, Angola, and Cape Verde.

Similar to Spanish, Portuguese is one of the easier languages to learn for English speakers. If you already know Spanish you’ll actually have a leg up in learning it, as many Portuguese and Spanish words look similar when written (even if their pronunciation can differ).

Japanese

CategoryRanking
Most spoken language#13 (126 million speakers)
Number of countries that list Japanese as an official language2
Economic ranking#3 (Japan)
Ease of learningCategory V (88 weeks or 2200 hours)

Japanese occupies a unique position on this list. While the other languages listed are useful partially because they’re spoken in multiple countries, Japanese is primarily spoken just in Japan. The only other country that lists Japanese as an official language is Palau, a Pacific island nation with a population of less than 20,000 people.

Japan’s mighty economy is enough of a reason to learn the language, though. Similar to Germany, Japan manufactures and exports a lot of vehicles and electronics, and it has major pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. The country also has a major demand for young workers, as its population is aging out of the workforce and labor participation rates are dropping. 

Learning a language for business

If you decide you want to learn a language for your career, you don’t have to do it alone. Rosetta Stone can help you learn faster and more intuitively with its Dynamic Immersion approach. Language immersion gives you the tools you need to hold meaningful conversations with other people, and help you step into the global market.

Author:

RELATED POSTS

Share This