The Best Languages To Learn For Business

Updated: June 22, 2022
Fact-Check & Editorial Responsibility: Kris Broholm

When it comes to your career, speaking a foreign language can help set you apart from other candidates and provide you with greater opportunities, higher salaries, and deeper connections with business partners and colleagues.

The global marketplace allows trade to happen virtually anywhere in the world, which means that the ability to communicate in different languages can be the deciding factor in new job opportunities, raises, and winning contracts in the first place.

While English is still considered to be the international language of business, being able to understand and converse in a second language is an ability that is not to be underestimated. 

Most Useful Languages to Learn For Business

Here is the list of what we consider the highest value foreign languages you can learn to boost your career, make more money, and improve your networking.

  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese
  • Arabic

But, before we dive into these four languages to learn for business in greater detail, let’s take a quick look at how learning any kind of language can help you to advance professionally.

The Positive Impact of Languages on your Career

Cultural Appreciation

While English is still used as the main language in the business world, making the effort to communicate in another language can be seriously useful. 

Let’s say you want to work in a UK company that works a lot with German organisations. While the principal language used in European international business is English, the ability to speak German is nonetheless beneficial.

A big reason for this is cultural nuances. Learning a language is about so much more than just words: it’s about what the words represent too. Our language defines our reality, and the subtleties of each language are tied to a range of cultural norms. 

Let's look at an English native-speaker learning German, for example:

Compared to English, the German manner of speaking is generally more direct, which can cause miscommunications and even offence. 

Having an understanding of the German languages not only allows you to communicate, but you’ll better understand those cultural differences that can lead to smoother negotiations and an overall better working relationship.

PSST. If you’re thinking of giving German a go, check out our Bite-Size German Course that’ll have you listening like a pro in no time.

More Opportunities

We can’t all rely on English.

A huge proportion of the world population does not speak English well enough to operate in a professional capacity. 

This means that within the non-English speaking community, there is a wealth of opportunities that are only available to those who speak a second language. 

Countries like China, the UAE and Russia are all home to companies that play a huge part in the global economy, yet there are many people and organisations that speak solely in their native tongue. This is where knowing a second language can go a long way.

Travel

There’s no doubt that speaking a second language opens up a whole world of travelling opportunities in business.

Imagine a career in which the whole world is your office! I can’t imagine that commute getting boring any time soon.

Learning another language is your ticket to more international travel and the chance to work, negotiate and network in new and exciting places with new and interesting people.

4 Best Languages to Learn for Business

Now you’ve got to grips with the professional benefits of learning a new language, it’s time to decide which language to learn.

Below, we’ve picked out four languages that have proven to be extremely useful in the world of business, any of which would be a great choice for your next language learning adventure. 

Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese is thought to be one of the most important business languages of the future.

Firstly, there are one billion native Mandarin speakers in China alone, and secondly, China’s economy is the second-largest in the world. 

The country’s position as a leader in the world economy is here to stay, and it’s becoming increasingly necessary for companies in other countries to develop business connections in China.

When it comes to career opportunities for the future, learning Mandarin is one of the smartest decisions you can make.

Not only because there are so many successful Chinese companies to work with, but also because Chinese investors are increasingly looking for places to spend their money abroad. 

Learning to speak Mandarin can also help to bridge the cultural gap between the East and the West. 

Even if you apply to jobs where Mandarin isn’t required, it’s a skill that can look super impressive on your CV, as it’s one of the most difficult languages to learn.

Nevermind the fact that it involves memorising a whole new set of characters, but it’s also a tonal language. A language is considered to be tonal when one syllable can have several different meanings depending on its pronunciation. 

But don’t let the supposed difficulty of Mandarin put you off!

Experts say non-native speakers can get by using Mandarin by learning 1,000 of the most basic characters, and, as the most spoken language in the world, you’ll never run out of people to practice with!

Spanish

Spanish is a heavyweight in the world of business languages.

With an estimated 420 million native speakers, Spanish is an official, national or widely-spoken language in 44 countries across the globe.

The USA is actually home to the second largest population of Spanish speakers in the world, and having the skills to converse in Spanish is becoming essential in some parts of the country. As well as the national population of Spanish-speakers, the physical closeness of the US to Central and South America makes trading with Spanish-speaking countries inevitable.

With economic giants, Argentina and Mexico still experiencing growth, and smaller nations, Chile, Peru and Colombia developing slowly, but steadily, into serious financial contenders, the future is bright for Spanish speakers. 

If you’re looking to learn a second language for business, Spanish is not only a smart choice professionally, but it’s also one of the easier languages for English natives to pick up.

Once you’ve picked up the basics of Spanish, it’ll also be easier for you to give other similar languages a try, like Portuguese, French, Italian and even Romanian and Catalan.

Psst. If you're looking for a quick and easy way to improve your Spanish, our Bite Size Spanish Course may come in handy.

Portuguese

It might surprise you to learn that Portuguese is spoken by over 215 million people all over the world, from the former Portuguese colonies to the Portuguese ex-pat community, which can be found everywhere from Canada to Geneva. 

Rapidly developing lusophone countries (those that consider Portuguese to be their native tongue) such as Angola, which is incredibly rich in oil, and Macau, which has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, represent a wealth of business opportunities. 

That’s not to mention Brazil, a country whose economy has a huge amount of weight on a global scale and is becoming an increasingly important player for US trade opportunities. 

Culturally, learning Portuguese is also a big win. Traditionally overlooked in favour of Spanish, the lusophone community is generally very impressed with foreigners who make the effort to communicate in Portuguese. 

Although many Portuguese natives have an excellent standard of English, this isn’t the case in Brazil. Considering that the Brazilian economy is the largest in South America, you can be sure that taking the time to learn Portuguese will give your career a helping hand.

Arabic

With almost 300 million native speakers across 22 countries, the Arabic language is your gateway to the Middle East.

A great incentive for learning Arabic is the fact that the number of non-native speakers is extremely disproportionate to the high demand for Arabic-speakers in almost every industry.

With the US and the Middle East relations at a significant point, and Arabic investment flooding into the UK and Europe, there’s never been a better time to put some time aside to learn Arabic. 

Another interesting fact is that Arabic is considered to be one of the fastest-growing languages online, with its content growing exponentially over the last decade. 

Culturally, Islamic countries tend to place a high emphasis on trust when it comes to business, much of which is cultivated through language. Equally, foreigners who speak Arabic are regarded with supreme respect in Arabic cultures, which can do wonders for business relations and negotiations.

Like Mandarin, Arabic is also an impressive language to have on your CV. Getting the hang of it may prove a little tricky to begin with, but it’ll be worth it! Plus, you only need to learn one version of the standardised Arabic to a communicate across the 22 Arabic-speaking nations, despite the fact that they all have their own dialect. 

Our Final Thoughts

Learning another language is a great way to augment your personal and professional development. A good workout for your brain, an impressive skill with which to wow employers and a key tool in business relations, there’s really no negative side to expanding your language skills.

Our breakdown of the four best languages to learn for business will allow you to make an informed decision as to which will be the most beneficial for your career or business. 

Start your language journey now and not only will you see new opportunities materialise in your career path, but you’ll also be preparing yourself to hold your own in an increasingly globalised future.