Today, our world has shrunk to a global amalgamation of different nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities. We are living in a world where we are no longer separated by oceans and mountains.
Globalization is accelerating at a substantial pace to the extent that around half of all customers for U.S. businesses will come from overseas by 2025. Back home in Singapore, the employment of foreign professionals from all around the world is here to stay, whether one likes it or not. At the same time, up to 75% of Internet users already speak a language other than English. This percentage of bilingualism is expected to grow.
A few decades ago, you only need one language to get around in business, which is English. Times have changed. Today, new economic superpowers are falling into place. As business operations have gone beyond national borders and continents, one key facilitator in smoothening this process is none other than languages.
Being bilingual or trilingual opens you up to a whole stream of customers. Not only that, speaking a foreign language other than English allows you to understand their acronyms, inferences, technical jargon, slangs, and jokes, as well as many other non-verbal cues not conveyed through words.
According to The Economist, nearly half of 572 senior executives interviewed said that misunderstandings and “messages lost in translation” have stalled major international business deals for their companies. More than 60 percent of these executives also said that poor communication skills have negatively affected their plans to expand internationally.
In this article, I will list the top 5 most useful languages for business by the year 2025. Although it is still premature to foresee exactly which languages will be the most useful ones for businesses and corporations, the following five languages have somewhat proven their usefulness out of all other languages in the world, enabling international communications and trade.
Mandarin, or the Chinese language, is spoken by up to 1.2 billion people, including Cantonese and other Chinese dialects, mainly in China and other parts of the world where there are Chinese communities. China has gone through a huge economic shift in the past 3 decades. China’s dominance in the world economy makes it an apparent source of business opportunities for decades to come. Although a little more than half of China’s population is proficient in English, there is still a large percentage of people in China who would prefer doing business in Mandarin. Hence, according to Bloomberg, Mandarin is the top language worldwide for business.
French is currently ranked as the sixth most widely spoken language after Mandarin. It is the second-most-widely learned foreign language in the world, with more than 120 million students. French is the language of more than 400 million speakers worldwide, which is a huge number. This huge number can be attributed to the fact that there are many African countries speaking French. As a result of population growth in the African continent, it is estimated that the number of French speakers will rise to over 700 million by 2050. Some data suggest that French could be the language of the future, which is not surprisingly so since France is the sixth largest economy in the world and it continues to be the epicenter of all major international businesses.
Germany is where many numerous international companies originated from, and these companies are also seeking fluent German speakers. Over the decades, Germany has earned its place as the fourth largest economy in the world and it is the economic powerhouse of the European Union. They gained the reputation of being the frontline of new technologies, therefore, learning German can increase your business opportunities with them.
Brazilian Portuguese will become one of the more widely learned languages in the years to come because of Brazil’s stable and growing economy. With its global GDP ranked at ninth position, Brazil is emerging as one of the world’s most significant superpowers. For the last decade, Brazil has succeeded in maintaining stable economic growth and low inflation, although it is still facing challenges in steering interest rates. With more businesses operating in Brazil, the country has certainly benefitted from the rise of employment levels, income, and consumption power.
To increase your business opportunities in Brazil, you need to start learning Brazilian Portuguese. The differences between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese are in the use of grammar, pronunciation, spelling, and slangs. There are also some vocabulary differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese.
The Arab world is one of the wealthiest regions on the planet with a GDP exceeding $600 billion. This region is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, which includes countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the city-state of Dubai. Around 435 million people around the world speak Arabic, and it is one of the fastest growing languages in the U.S. with more than 1 million native speakers. Learning Arabic certainly gives you the golden opportunity to conduct your business in the Arab world.
Of course, there is no problem with you sticking to English for business and professional dealings, but by learning a foreign language, you are more likely to out-compete your competitor as you are able to build better rapport with clients of different nationalities and cultures. Remember, in business, it's all about building relationships.
Do you have a language I missed? Tell me which language you think will become the most useful in the near future in the comments below.