Two weeks ago:
We board a train in Macchu Picchu, Peru. Two women facing us are speaking Japanese tiredly. My friend and I nod politely to them, but we don’t exchange typical pleasantries due to the language barrier. I decide to try out my 6 months of private online Japanese lessons and her eyes brighten as I say some words in Japanese to her. Immediately she discloses that she studied in California and is excited that I am trying to learn her language. She even claps from the glee of it all!

Mutual Knowledge of One Another’s Languages Builds Trust & Respect

This mutual knowledge of one another’s languages, even though elementary on my part, completely transforms our train ride. In those two hours we built trust, shared stories and laughed a lot. With just a few words in Japanese, I gained her respect and her trust much more quickly than if I had simply been an English-only speaker.

I tell you this story because this is how relationships are built from potential clients to a new hire. Too often I walk into international companies and I see the Spaniards eating with the Spaniards, the Koreans with the Koreans and the Americans with the Americans. This is human nature, of course! I hope we can begin to make more of an effort to get to know each other’s cultures. What better way to do that than to learn some of the language? These days it’s becoming more and more important in the world of business.

English is Not the Only Language of Business 

It’s a myth that English is the only language for business. Don’t get me wrong, English is a great language to learn for business. A couple of reasons why English is great for languages are:

  • It’s the most used business language.
  • More English language users exist online than any other language, so it’s the language of many popular websites.
  • Essential for many industries such as Shipping, Airline, Translation, Healthcare, Law, and Hospitality.

According to a Medium article about global languages for business, “English is the most influential language of academia and the business world, occupying the top in the field of languages, and spoken by over three-quarters of the world’s population.” The article continued to say that it’s the language for globalization and essential for entrepreneurs.

The fact that you’re reading this blog post means there’s a good chance you already know it. It’s time to learn some of the other languages for business so you can connect with people better.

Out of the 6000 languages spoken, there are actually many languages that are recognized as business languages. An article on American Express concedes that perhaps a few years ago, English was the only language you needed for business.

However, times have changed.

Learning the native language of others helps you to connect with them on a different level. According to American Express, “Speaking a native language allows you to understand technical references, acronyms, inferences, plays on words, jokes, slang and so many other things that are not conveyed through the written word along.”

Other Top Languages for Business

Here are 4 other top languages for business.

  1. Spanish– The Medium article called Spanish the “The Language of the Fastest Growing American Market Segment”. The same article also said that the United States is the second biggest Spanish-speaking country in the world. Yes, that’s right, the United States has more Spanish speakers than Spain. American Express also included Spanish on their list because they say the US has 35 million Spanish speakers. It’s pretty likely you’ll be working with someone who speaks that language.
  2. Portuguese– According to the American Express article, Brazil, a Portuguese-speaking country, is poised to be fuel independent soon, and so some of its dependencies would be reduced. The article says, “If you want in, you better speak the language.” Besides Brazil being on its way to becoming a superpower, as the Medium article pointed out, there are 215 million people in the world that speak Portuguese. These people are from Portugal, Brazil and some parts of Africa. The article dubbed Portuguese “A Continent of Opportunity.”
  3. Russian– With 160 million native speakers across central Europe and Eastern Europe, Russian has been called “The Language of Trade and Diplomacy” by the Medium article. The article also went on to say, “Russian is one of the best languages to learn for anyone who wants to grow their business into one of the most powerful countries on Earth.” Russia is said to have oil and gas reserves which makes them a powerful country. The American Express article also listed Russian as an essential language for business. Their article said that Russian may be a little harder for English speakers to learn but learning it will be advantageous because “you’ll be in demand and able to tap into that market.”
  4. Mandarin– No list of important business languages can be completed without Mandarin. There are 983 native million speakers and around 1.2 billion people can understand the Chinese Mandarin dialect. According to American Express, “China’s dominance in the world economy makes it an obvious source of business opportunities for decades to come”. In addition to that, Chinese could supplant English as the dominant language (although, Fluency Corp does not believe this will happen, based on current evidence and current levels of English already in China). China could become the world’s leading economy by 2050 according to the Medium article. That means lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs.

How to Pick a Language for Business

According to a Medium article, when picking a language to study for business, “your first assessment should be looking at your macro level business goals, core target audiences and think about how you see yourself in the coming years.” The article even suggests looking past some of the ones that are most dominant now and looking to languages that could be more dominant in the future. The article said, pick a language that “will open pathways for securing the most significant return on investments, and which ones will lead the way in the next 50 years.”

If you’ve decided to become bilingual or have your staff become bilingual to your business expand to the best of its abilities, contact us. Fluency Corp puts together curated language programs for 1 – 100 of your employees, anywhere in the world, in person or live online. Ask us about our communication improvement programs for your multilingual workforces, so that everyone can collaborate more efficiently, using effective words.