Here’s our round-up of the ‘best’ foreign languages to learn:
Arabic is the official language of over 20 countries and there are well over 375 million native speakers of the language. It is already the fifth most powerful language according to the World Economic Forum. The region provides a huge export market and numerous potential new business opportunities in the Middle East and Africa.
If you are travelling to France, Quebec or sub-Saharan Africa, learning French is valuable. More than 220 million people speak French on all the five continents. French is a major language of international communication. It is the second most widely learned language after English and the sixth most widely spoken language in the world.
Around 130 million people speak German as their mother tongue. It is an official language in four countries in the EU: Germany, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg. German is also an official language in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. German is a commonly used scientific language and Germany is the third largest contributor to R&D and offers research fellowships to scientists from abroad.
One of the main reasons that most people want to learn a second language is to be able to communicate with more people around the world. Over half a billion people around the globe speak Hindi! Despite the prevalence of English in India, Hindi is the most commonly spoken language. Learning Hindi will give you access to the rich and fascinating cultures in South Asia.
By 2050, Chinese could be the largest economy in the world, accounting for around 20% of the world GDP. One fifth of the planet speaks Chinese. Mandarin Chinese is the mother tongue of over 873 million people, making it the most widely spoken first language in the world. In addition to the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese is also spoken in the important and influential Chinese communities of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines and Mongolia.
Spoken by about 230 million people, Portuguese is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world. It is the official language of eight countries. Portuguese is spoken all over the world – in Europe (Portugal and Portuguese islands), in Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tomé and Principe and Cape Verde), in Asia (East Timor Macau and Goa) and of course in South America (Brazil). Brazil is considered by many to be an emerging superpower, whose progress will impact the world.
Spanish is the second most spoken language by native speakers in the world, with more than 400 million Spanish speakers in 21 countries. There are also forecasts that predict that the USA will be the largest Spanish speaking country by 2050, making Spanish a key language for doing business with the States. Mexico is seen as one of the fastest growing countries in the world, with a booming consumer market - knowledge of Spanish is essential to ‘tap-in’ and access this market.
Ranked the fifth most prevalent language in the world, 300 million people around the world speak Russian. Russia is one of the largest producers of petroleum, diamonds, copper, uranium, silver, graphite and platinum. It is the second largest producer of timber and is one of the largest producers of natural gas, oil and coal. Furthermore, the number of publications in the sciences is highest for English with Russian second.
To learn foreign languages, whatever they may be, is always culturally enriching. However, on a practical level, understanding these future economic drivers reinforces that in the business world it is not enough to get by with just English. Learning a foreign language also gives you an insight into that country's culture which can substantially improve your success in global roles. And when to start? The best time to start learning is the sooner the better! To reach a good level of competence will take time to achieve.
Need support? To find out how we can support you with your straight forward or complex language training needs, please call Sue on 020 8295 5877 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, alternatively visit our Foreign Languages page. Inspired? Read our latest case study on Business English Training for Global Teams or do the test What sort of language learner are you?