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5 Top Business Languages You Should Know to Get Ahead

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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.

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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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