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5 Top Business Languages You Should Know to Get Ahead

5 Top Business Languages You Should Know to Get Ahead

The future of business is global, and there’s no getting around learning top business languages to survive.

By 2025, almost 50% of the world’s biggest companies will be based in emerging markets. This is up almost 10-fold from only 5% in 2000.

CareerBuilder.com’s 2010 hiring forecast showed that 39 percent of U.S. employers said they plan to hire bilingual candidates, and half said that if they had two equally qualified candidates, they would be more inclined to hire the bilingual one.

What’s more, salary bonuses vary depending on which languages you’re able to speak. Here’s a quick breakdown of a few different secondary languages and their annual bonuses as reported by The Economist:

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  • Spanish — 1.5 percent bonus
  • French — 2.3 percent bonus
  • German — 3.8 percent bonus

This means that you can make an additional $50,000 to $125,000 just for knowing how to speak a foreign language!

5 Top Spoken Business Languages You Should Know To Get Ahead

To arrive at our 5 top spoken business languages, we took a number of factors into account.

The first one is the number of native speakers. While this shouldn’t be the only factor you take into account when choosing what business language you should learn, it has a noticeable correlation with how much impact your new language will have.

The second factor is a comparison of countries with the largest GDP’s in the past (2010) and where they will be in the future (2020).

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While there are smaller variables to take into account, these two factors can help us narrow down the languages of the world to the 5 top spoken business languages you should know to get ahead in your career.

1. English
365 Million Native Speakers

English is the obvious first choice when it comes to top business languages. With economic powerhouses like the U.S, the U.K, and Australia, there’s no getting around English.

Even when you’re speaking with native speakers from other countries, it’s likely that they speak English as their second language. Since most of the readers here are already English speakers, we’ll move on.

2. German
92 Million Native Speakers

German is a perfect example demonstrating that the best languages shouldn’t be based on the number of native speakers in the world.

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Not only is it Europe’s largest economic powerhouse, with a GDP of 2.4 trillion Euros, but it’s also the largest export market for British goods.

For anyone seeking a job in the U.K, Austria, Germany, or anywhere that’s doing business with the companies in Germany (nearly everyone), understanding the differences between ‘danke’ and ‘Ihr willkommen’ is critical.

3. Russian
160 Million Native Speakers

Germany may have the largest export market for the U.K, but Russia is the U.K.’s fastest-growing major export market. While there are fruitful opportunities to work with companies in Russia, there aren’t as many fluent English speakers living in Russia, and knowing how to speak Russian comes with a big advantage.

4. Spanish
406 Million Native Speakers

Recognized as one of the most popular European languages, Spanish is a beloved language not only in terms of usefulness in business, but in many areas of society.

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It’s the leading language that fuels many of the fastest-growing Latin economies in South America, Central America, and North America (Mexico).

Given that it’s the second most spoken language in the U.S, with over 20 countries around the world that use Spanish as their official language, 37% of American employers prefer hiring people who know how to speak Spanish.

5. Mandarin
935 Million Native Speakers

With just under a billion native speakers around the world, Mandarin has more native speakers than English and Spanish combined. This makes Mandarin-speaking countries some of the most attractive places in the world for businesses to target, and learning Mandarin a great investment for any professional to make today.

Bloomberg has also ranked Mandarin as the number one business language to know after English.

What Business Languages Are You Learning?

We’ve given you the 5 top spoken business languages, but it doesn’t mean they’re the only ones you should learn. What language are you learning or aspiring to learn?

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Sean Kim

Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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