The Most Important Languages for International Business

Businesses that do business internationally need to work with individuals and organizations who speak a diverse range of languages. If you want to grow your presence abroad, it’s important to appreciate the key languages used by your target demographic. This will help you tailor your written and spoken material to new audiences.

Post preview the most important languages for international business

Businesses that do business internationally need to work with individuals and organizations who speak a diverse range of languages. If you want to grow your presence abroad, it’s important to appreciate the key languages used by your target demographic. This will help you tailor your written and spoken material to new audiences.

What are the top 5 languages in the world?

The average number of languages spoken in the world is 6,500, but some are rarely used; approximately 2,000 are spoken by fewer than 1,000 speakers. The average number of languages spoken by individuals varies by country. For example, the typical UK resident speaks 1.6 languages, whereas Swedish and Finnish people speak an average of 2.5 and 2.6 respectively.  

The top five languages spoken in the world are Mandarin Chinese, English, Hindustani, Spanish, and Arabic. According to American Express, the top 5 business languages are currently Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, and English.

Why are these top 5 business languages so important?

Let’s take a closer look at each:

Mandarin Chinese: China is a significant force in the world economy, and Mandarin Chinese is spoken by over 1 billion people worldwide. There are two variations of the Chinese language – Mandarin and Cantonese – but the former is recognized as the country’s official language.

The Chinese government is eager for Westerners to learn Mandarin, even providing low-cost language learning software to American schools, in an attempt to strengthen their global influence.

Although many Chinese people in Shanghai and other big cities speak English, many in living in less developed areas do not. This means that businesses looking to expand to more rural Chinese areas will benefit from learning Mandarin.

English: English remains a leading business language. Over 1.75 billion people worldwide are capable of holding a useful conversation in English, and many international companies, such as Nokia and Airbus, have chosen it as their official corporate language.

Portuguese: Portuguese is the primary language spoken in Brazil, a country which is beginning to emerge as a major economy. Those fluent in Portuguese are at an advantage because, thanks to Brazil’s ambitions to become fuel independent, more businesses look set to establish themselves in the country.

Spanish: Over 577 million people around the globe speak Spanish, and the number is set to carry on rising. The number of speakers isn’t just increasing in countries traditionally associated with Spanish speakers; it is also the fastest-growing language in the USA. Over 37 million Americans now speak it as their first language.

If you find learning foreign languages difficult, Spanish might be a good choice – it has a reputation as being quite easy for English speakers to pick up.

Russian: Russian is among the top 10 most widely spoken languages in the world, with a reach that extends to Israel, Ukraine, and the USA. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Russia has been expanding its economic and political influence. Having enjoyed an upward economic trend, the country welcomes business owners and workers from abroad who have learned the language.

Learning any of these languages will put you at an advantage if you hope to work in international commerce. By making an effort to communicate with coworkers and business partners in their native language, you will generate goodwill and strengthen relationships. Although it can take years to master a language, you can reach business-level proficiency within a few months. Why not start learning one of these top 5 languages today?

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