by Keavy Slattery
When establishing a presence in world business, it's important to be able to communicate effectively with other nationalities. That's why we offer specialist translation services for global companies.
However, it's a useful skill to be able to know at least some of the basics behind the most important languages within international business. It enhances your knowledge base, gives you the ability to understand commonly used phrases and colloquialisms, and is far more interesting than relying solely on translation services.
English is widely seen as one of the most most widely spoken and fastest spreading world languages, but there's plenty of scope for learning other languages in order to impress potential future clients.
We thought we'd offer a few suggestions on key languages to learn for improving your international business practices, so that you can enjoy being able to communicate more readily with global colleagues.
Standard Chinese, otherwise known as Mandarin, is the official language of both China and Taiwan. With around 955 million native speakers, according to Wikipedia, it accounts for just over 14% of the world population. That's a significant number of people that you would be able to communicate with.
China's economy is expected to overtake the USA's as the world's largest before 2030 [source], so this is a pivotal time to study Standard Chinese.
Expect to be challenged during your endeavour, however. Standard Chinese is considered a very difficult language for English speakers to learn, due to each of its characters having an unique meaning, and numerous regional adjustments and tweaks.
Modern Standard Arabic is considered the standarised version of Arabic, which has 30 different modern varieties. With around 295 million native speakers, it's the fifth most commonly spoken language in the world, and a substantial in-road into the fast growing economies of the Middle East and Africa. It's the official language of over 27 different countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Dubai - each rich and fast growing areas of the world.
Much of this is thanks to a commodity based economy with exports of oil and natural gas being a substantial help [source], but such countries have also been making investments within the tourism and financial sectors, with Dubai in particular establishing itself as a popular holiday destination.
Internet usage is also growing within the regions, ensuring that Arabic is an ideal language for expanding a variety of different business interests.
The largest native language in Europe, Russian is also the third most widespread language on the internet after English [source]. With over 144 million speakers in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, there's a hefty user base already available for you to converse with.
More importantly, since the Russian economy overcame a recession in 2014, it has gone from strength to strength. It's considered an energy superpower, has a large arms industry, and a tremendous amount of wealth amongst its businesspeople. Traditionally seen as a country where few of its businesspeople know much English, this is the perfect opportunity for you to stand out from potential competitors.
The recent World Cup has also shone a positive light on the country, providing the perfect timing for getting more involved with the region.
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Spanish is the world's second most spoken native language after Standard Chinese. It's in use in Spain, many Latin American countries, and also parts of the United States.
Through its regular use across the world, it's an ideal language to learn if you're diversifying across many different regions of the globe. In recent times, the British Council has referred to it as a language of high growth markets, including places such as Argentina, Chile, and Colombia [source].
Spanish also happens to be one of the easiest languages to learn, so it doesn't take long to understand the basics and more of its vocabulary.
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French might not have the most native speakers out there (at about 75 million) but it's a language that's frequently used as a second language across the world. 29 countries across five different continents, to be exact. By understanding French, you expand your horizons to include France, Belgium, Canada, and much of Africa and Asia, due to past French and Belgian colonialism.
Considered a popular language to do business in, it's effectively a middle ground language, much like English, enabling many to understand what you're trying to explain, even if it's not the first language for either of you.
It's also one of the working languages for many international organisations, including the United Nations, European Union, and the Red Cross.
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