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Rocket Languages Blog The 10 Most Useful Business Languages for English Speakers

The 10 Most Useful Business Languages for English Speakers



By Andrea Reisenauer, guest blogger.

While English is the most widely used language for business, academia and tourism, speaking only English is a major disadvantage in today's job market.

The job market is more competitive and globalized than ever before, and successful candidates must be able to cross cultural and linguistic borders. Not only does knowing a second language provide many different cognitive benefits, but it also can help give you the competitive edge needed to get the job, promotion or raise you've always wanted.

Today, we'll 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 not only the world's most spoken language with over one billion native speakers (a 2:1 ratio to the number of English speakers); it's also the most spoken language in China, the country with the second-largest economy in the world. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the country's economy was seven times larger in 2015 than it was in 2000, and it continues growing. Chinese businessmen and women can now be found throughout the world, 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 European country with the most thriving economy and promising future with a GDP of over 2.4 trillion Euros despite the European slump. Apart from the US, Germany is the largest single export market for British goods and remains Europe's largest economy.

It's no surprise that employers (and European employers in particular) are interested in hiring employees 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 and your gateway into a region of the world where many businessmen only speak Arabic.
The oil, construction and real estate businesses have led many Arabic 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 - The language of the fastest growing American market segment

The prominence of Spanish in the Americas and Europe has led Spanish to becoming one of the world's most spoken languages with over 420 million native speakers and a growing number of non-native speakers. It's an official, national, or widely spoken language in 44 countries, including the United States. Believe it or not, the United States has recently been cited as the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, only after Mexico.

The Hispanic population is projected to double by 2050 and reach approximately 30% of the population in America. The buying power of the Latin population in the US has been steadily increasing, and more and more businesses have been addressing their services to this. It is, by far, the most useful business language in the US apart from English.

Spanish is an especially useful language in the fields of mass-media and management to communicate with the growing number of Latin communities and employees. It was the most asked-for language in US job postings in 2014.

5. Portuguese - A continent of opportunity

The 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2014 World Cup have recently 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 into 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, and Portuguese immigrant communities can be found in nearly every large city. According to UNESCO, Portuguese is the language with the largest potential to become the international language of Africa and South America.

With its big population of native speakers, the wealth of untapped Brazilian natural resources and its presence on the internet (it's currently the fifth 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 an official language of the United Nations due to the historical power of the Soviet Union. It has often been cited as the most influential Slavonic language in history. Estimates of the number of Russian speakers around the world vary, but sources indicate between 200 and 260 million native speakers.

Russian's importance is not only due to its large number of native speakers, but also to the undeniable political and economic power of Russia. As the top oil producer in the world, Russia consistently ranks among the top ten international business leaders and an important market for US goods. Russian is also still widely spoken in many of the post-Soviet states, which provides access to fresh and up-in-coming business potential. It's an especially useful language in the fields of engineering and IT and is the seventh most used language online.

Russia is a big, highly involved international player with a huge 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 the official language of over 29 countries throughout the world and is the second-most widely spoken first language in the European Union. The colonial history of France has helped spread this language throughout the world and, as in the case of English, has led to a situation in which there are more non-native French speakers than native speakers.

French was the world's most dominant language before English stole the spotlight and learning French can open the door to businesses on nearly every continent. It has also been cited as one of the most spoken languages on the Internet and serves as one of the United Nations' six official languages.

8. Japanese - The language of robotics

As one of the world's fifteen most spoken languages, Japanese is the most geographically concentrated language since over 124 million of its total speakers live in Japan and the Okinawa island group. The dense population of these areas contributes to its large number of speakers.
Don't let its concentration fool you, though: the Japanese economy is actually 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. According to Wikipedia, Japan employs over 250,0000 industrial robot workers, and that number is estimated to jump to over one million as the expected revenue for robotics increases to nearly $70 billion by 2025.

Japanese was also one of the most solicited languages in US job postings in 2014.

9. Korean - The language of trust and technology

With over 77 million native speakers, Korean is one of the world's 15 most spoken languages. Korean is the official language of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic Republic of Korea, although each nation uses different forms. Apart from 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, among others.

The Korean culture places high value on personally knowing your business partner, so learning Korean can go a long way to gaining the trust of your Korean partners. In 2014, there were over 6,000 total US job postings asking for Korean.

10. Hindi - One of India's official languages

The standard and Sanskrit register of the Hindustani language known as Hindi is one of India's official languages, and the large population of Hindi speakers has led it to become the fourth most spoken language in the world.

India is consistently ranked among the world's fastest-growing economies, and some economic analysts expect it to overtake many developed economies in the coming years. As the US State Department writes, “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 chose 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.

Andrea Reisenauer is a language lover, ESL teacher Rocket Languages fan with a Master's degree in Translation. She speaks Spanish, Catalan, and Italian and is currently studying French.


A good list.  Something else I would like to add about Japanese though, is that it is also a very important language to know when it comes to media such as manga (Japanese comic books) and anime.  For example, some of the most popular programming in the world are Naruto, Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Saint Seiya, Pokemon, Yugioh, Bleach, One Piece, and a whole dozen of other animated programs and manga.

To also add on to Japan being "the language of robotics", Japan is also one of the prime leaders when it comes to video games.  At least half the video games that you play come from Japan, and often consist of storylines, culture, and writing based on the land of the Rising Sun itself.  Sometimes, there might be a sequel to one of your favorite series but its only released in Japan, so if you want to play it and understand the plot, gotta learn some Japanese!

Just my two cents.  Otherwise, I more or less agree with the list.
David K

David K

Excellent points about Japanese, trutenor. Japan is also still a major economic powerhouse, and technology leader -- not only in robotics and gaming but also all micro-electronics, televisions, automobiles, farming equipment, manufacturing systems, machine tools and many other industries. Japan is also one of our strongest diplomatic allies and trading partners in S.E. Asia.

Japan's is the world's 3rd largest economy with a population approximately 1/3 of the U.S. 
Projected GDP Ranking (2015-2020)
RankCountryGDP (Nominal) (billions of $) 2015
1.  United States       17968
2.  China                       11385
3.  Japan                        4116

Based partially on an earlier reprint of this same article last month, I am currently studying German, Chinese, and Spanish. After completing these to Level 2, I intend to study Japanese, Arabic, and review Latin. (Of which I've had three years in school.)

I appreciate your many thoughtful comments trutenor. You really liven up this place. I wish more people would share their thoughts in this forum.


Thanks David.  I basically follow the adage of  "you'll only get out what you put into something".  Since I picked up Rocket in June, I've been having a blast here not just studying my Japanese, but conversing with other members.  

Something else I'll also expand on with Spanish.  While its true that Spanish would arguably be the most important secondary language to learn for English speakers living in the United States, that is also a bit of a drawback IMO.  I know just enough Spanish to be able to hold a decent conversation and conduct some business transactions, but even if I knew more (which I intend to at some point), it would be very difficult to get a job for nearly anything Spanish related due to the oversaturation of the Hispanic/Latino population.

It has gotten to the point in the United States where almost everyone knows a little bit of Spanish.  One of my coworkers who is Korean knows some Spanish now.  The chinese carryout near my house has a couple of employees who know Spanish.  It all goes back to "supply and demand".  If a job pops up, I have an extreme amount of competition to choose from if I want to be selected for a job that wants an English/Spanish speaker.  And even if I make it into the "finals", some employers may not want to hire me because I am an American and would ask the question of "Why should I hire you when I can hire a Native who is desperate for a job and pay them three times less then what I would pay you?"

In the United States, Spanish has become mainstream.  And what happens when something becomes mainstream?  It loses a lot of its novelty, or it becomes ingrained into society to the point that nothing about it stands out anymore.  The gap between those who can speak Spanish and those who can't is quickly closing with each passing year, and eventually there will be a point where the only people who don't know Spanish are ones who have come into the United States from another non Spanish speaking country, or those who refuse to conform to the changes in society.

And that actually leads me into a question.  When the question "English Speakers" is asked, are we referring to any country or nation where English is the primary and dominant language?  Or more specifically the United States?

I still stand by what I said earlier with the importance of Japanese, and here is another reason why.

Nearly every day, I'm looking in the paper for job opportunities.  I'll often see the "need to know Spanish" job, but it will more often then not be a low paying job or a job that offers very little room for advancement (due to the oversaturation that I mentioned earlier).  Meanwhile, one day I saw an ad in the paper requesting someone who knew Microsoft Excel and Japanese (this was about a couple of months ago).  Now when I saw this job, my mouth watered and my eyes went wide, cause this was a dream job!  Essentially a Japanese translator in an extremely lucrative enviornment!  I wanted this job, but knew that applying would be worthless due to not having enough Japanese credintials at the time.

Long story short, supply and demand once again(Not to knock on Spanish or anybody who is learning it.  I still feel that knowing Spanish is one of the best things you can do for yourself in the United States.  Knowing Spanish really helps to open up a lot of doors, as I can do a lot of things now because of my Spanish speaking ability).  The other confusing aspect of Spanish is that not every Hispanic/Latino speaks the same Spanish!

When I was in high school, I learned that the word for so-so is "asi-asi".  Most of the Native Spanish speakers I converse with don't use "asi-asi."  It is considered "archaic".  Instead, "mas o meno" is the alternative.  Another example is one asking "How are you?"  Some will use "que paso", some will use "que tal", and some will use "como estas?"

I've mentioned this before several times, and I'll reiterate.  Mexican Spanish is different from Salvadorean Spanish.  And this doesn't even count Spanish from Spain.  So I guess the question that I'm asking is, which type of Spanish should one attempt to learn?


I am in a different place than you, trutenor. I have finished my first career and am ensconced in my second, so I have no need to learn a second language to be more attractive to prospective employers. I am learning Spanish simply because I want to learn a second language, I believe that learning a second language is good exercise for my aging brain, because I often travel to countries where Spanish is spoken, and because I think it is an elegant language.

Regarding your last paragraph, yes, Spanish differs a little in every country in which it is spoken. So does English. Since I am mostly interested in traveling to Latin American countries I am focusing on Latin American Spanish vs. that spoken in Spain. I chat via Skype with a woman from Madrid. Last week I used the word "manejar" in relation to driving a vehicle. She told me that in Spain they use "conducir," never "manejar." Interesting, but not critically important, since using either word in any Spanish speaking country will get the meaning across. Sort of like saying "truck" in England. They use the word "lorry," but know what the word "truck" means just the same. I think the important thing is learning "standard" vocabulary that will be understood anywhere, and not using too much slang from a particular country. For example, "¿Qué pasa?" is understood everywhere. "¿Qué bola?" is used in Cuba and gets you strange looks from speakers from other countries.


We might be a bit more similar then you think Dan.

I agree with pretty much everything that you said.  Learning another language is indeed good excercise for your brain, and I continue to learn Spanish for the same reason I've been learning Japanese, for the simple joy and passion.  It being useful as an "edge" for potential employers is merely a bonus, but ultimately not what drives me to learn in the first place, but as you put it, the elegance and culture .  With what I was saying earlier, that was more in the spirit of the topic, that being for business related purposes.  I suppose I should have clarified.

And I do agree with you in trying to learn the type of Spanish (or whatever language) based on which region you are most likely to visit in order to make things easier on yourself.  I still find it interesting how things can be so similar yet so different at the same time.  That I also find, is a kind of elegance.

Thank you for your comments.  It has reminded me to keep as open of a mind as possible.


Thanks guys for your most useful and interesting posts, especially Trutenor and Dan-H24.
I know I'm not really contributing any input for the particular topic but it sure is interesting reading about your language learning adventures.

I guess the only skill/job I could ever hope for in another country/at home is being an actual interpreter, (German) and that would be years down the track.
The thrill of learning and grasping another language is enough for me at the moment


Think about it this way Grant.  Its still an advantage that you can use that not too many people can!

I must concede something.  The Japanese I study purely for joy, but I do intend on using it for some of my artistic endeavors as well, the best of both worlds.  Why not have your cake and eat it too?  Being able to speak more then one language, and do it well can really do a lot for marketing yourself, even if the orignal intention wasn't for business.

And you are contributing just by voicing your opinion!  This is what the forums are all about!  Glad to hear from you!

Interpreter is actually something that I would consider doing as well, so I wish you luck on that!