While English is the most widely used language for business, academia and tourism, speaking only English can be a major disadvantage in today's competitive and globalized job market.
What does this mean for the job-seeking English speaker?
Well, not only does knowing a second language provide many cognitive benefits, but it can also help give you the competitive edge needed to get the job, promotion or raise you've always wanted. Employers are looking for well-rounded individuals who are able to cross cultural and linguistic borders - that could be you!
Let’s take a look at the 10 most practical languages to improve your resume.
The Best Languages to Learn for Business
1. Mandarin Chinese - The Business Language of the Future
Mandarin Chinese is the world's most spoken language, with over one billion native speakers - a 2:1 ratio to the number of native English speakers. It is also the most spoken language in China, the country with the second-largest economy in the world.
China’s economy was 12 times larger in 2020 than it was in 2000, and it continues to grow every year. Chinese-speaking business people are now found across the globe, and learning Mandarin Chinese is the perfect window into their impressively successful, rapidly expanding world.
Not only can learning Chinese give you a serious leg-up in the business world, it's also an extremely impressive language to learn. As one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn, Mandarin is a seriously challenging and rewarding language that will impress any hiring manager.
2. German - The European Business Language
Germany is currently the most thriving economy in Europe and has a promising future with a GDP of over 3.8 trillion Euros. Excluding the US, Germany is the largest single export market for British goods.
It's no surprise then that employers (and European employers in particular) are interested in hiring people with strong German skills. The German language is also the most widely spoken mother tongue among the Western European population, which ensures plenty of opportunities to practice.
3. Arabic - The Gateway to the Middle East
With nearly 300 million native speakers, the Arabic language is the world's fifth most spoken language. Learning Arabic is your gateway into a rich and prosperous part of the world where many business people only speak Arabic.
The oil, construction and real estate industries have led many Arabic-speaking executives to become the richest people in the world. In addition, investments from the Arabic world have played a crucial role in European markets, especially after the debt crisis of 2010.
Learning Arabic could help provide you with the competitive edge many employers are looking for. Much like Mandarin Chinese, it is also one of the most challenging languages for English speakers to learn, which makes it especially impressive and rewarding.
4. Spanish - America’s Language of High-Speed Growth
The prominence of Spanish in the Americas and Europe has led to it becoming one of the world's most spoken languages. It has over 475 million native speakers and another 95 million non-native speakers. It's an official, national, or widely spoken language in 44 countries, including the United States. In fact, the United States is the fifth largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, with 41 million Spanish speakers.
The United States’ Hispanic population is projected to nearly double by 2050 and reach approximately 30% of the population. The buying power of the Latin population in the US has been steadily increasing, and more and more businesses are aligning their services to suit the changing times.
Spanish is, by far, the most useful business language in the US second to English. It is an especially useful language in the fields of mass-media and management where communicating with the growing number of Latin communities and employees are of great importance to business.
5. Portuguese - The Language of Opportunity
The 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2014 World Cup brought Brazil and its national language - Portuguese - into the global limelight. Brazil's economy has been steadily rising in strength for years, and more and more businesses are looking for opportunities to enter this new market.
Portuguese is one of the top 10 most spoken languages in the world and the second most spoken language in Latin America. There are over 215 million Portuguese speakers worldwide in Brazil, Portugal and parts of Africa. According to UNESCO, Portuguese is the fastest-growing European language after English.
With its large population of native speakers, the wealth of untapped Brazilian natural resources and its presence on the internet (it's currently the sixth most spoken language online), you can bet that learning Portuguese is a great career move.
6. Russian - The Language of Diplomacy and Trade
Russian is one of the six official languages of the United Nations thanks to the historical power of the Soviet Union. It is often cited as the most influential Slavonic language in history. Estimating the number of Russian speakers around the world is tricky, but sources indicate there are somewhere between 250 and 260 million native speakers.
The importance of the Russian language is not only due to its large number of native speakers but also to Russia’s undeniable political and economic power. Russia is the third largest oil producer in the world, and the eleventh largest world economy. Russian is also still widely spoken in many post-Soviet states, providing access to fresh and up-and-coming businesses.
Russia is a huge, highly involved international player with a vast amount of energy and natural resources, which makes the Russian language extremely useful for international relations, diplomacy and trade.
7. French - The Former English
French is an official language in over 29 countries throughout the world and is the second-most widely spoken first language in the European Union. The colonial history of France helped to spread the French language throughout the world. In fact, French was the world's most widely-spoken dominant language before English stole the spotlight!
Although these days it’s mostly known for being the language of love, learning French can open the door to business opportunities on nearly every continent. It’s the seventh most spoken language on the internet and is one of the United Nations' six official languages.
8. Japanese - The Language of Technology
As one of the world's fifteen most spoken languages, Japanese is the most geographically concentrated language since over 126 million of its total speakers live in Japan.
Despite the size of the country, the Japanese economy is the third largest in the world and provides a wealth of innovative opportunities. Japan remains at the forefront of the cutting-edge robotics and electronics scene, and speaking Japanese is ideal for many opportunities in these fields.
Japan is the number one exporter for robots in terms of shipments and number of operating units, and the global robotics market is projected to increase to nearly $210 billion by 2025.
9. Korean - The Language of Trust and Growth
With over 75 million native speakers, Korean is one of the world's 15 most spoken languages. Korean is the official language of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). As well as being spoken in North and South Korea, there is also a large population of Korean speakers in China.
Besides helping you understand the next K-pop hit, learning Korean is your gateway into South Korea's vibrant and successful technology and automobile-based economy that includes multinational companies like Samsung, Hyundai, Kia and LG.
Korean culture places a lot of importance on building personal relationships with business partners, so learning Korean can take you a long way toward gaining the trust of your Korean partners.
10. Hindi - The Language of India
Hindi is one of India's official languages, and the fourth most spoken language in the world.
India is the sixth largest economy in the world and is ranked fifth among the world's fastest-growing economies. According to the US State Department, “as India's profile continues to skyrocket, proficiency in Hindi and the nuanced cultural knowledge gained through Hindi language study will be in high demand.”
Despite the tremendous growth of the Hindi population and Indian economy, very few students are studying Hindi as a second language, which makes it an even more competitive advantage for those who choose to learn it.
It's Time to Start Learning
Whether you hope to manage a business, improve your international relations, work abroad or simply set yourself apart from the crowd, learning any one of these languages can give you the competitive edge needed to improve your career.
So what are you waiting for? Start learning one of the world's most spoken languages today and open up a whole new world of possibilities.