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The best languages for international business

  • Entrepreneurs
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Published last month

Whether you are moving abroad to start a new job, start a new business or expand an existing business, chances are your native language may not be the language most commonly used in your new destination. If you are a business-minded individual wanting to broaden your linguistic capabilities, we've come up with four of the best languages to learn for international business.

 

Nisha Sawon

Editorial staff

English

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The language of business across numerous countries, the English language is widely used among those with different mother tongues, as it is often preferred as a second or third language. Some surprising countries list English as an official language, including India, and some predominantly French-speaking jurisdictions, such as Mauritius. As a result, some knowledge of the language will help take any budding entrepreneur to make their business more global. Furthermore, knowledge of English can even create job opportunities, as many expats choose to teach English abroad as a way of discovering more of the world.

English is often used on the internet and widely understood, so if your business has an online presence, English is a good choice as the primary language or the first alternative language (if your audience is local). Big financial centres such as London, New York, and Singapore favour English, though these culturally diverse hubs often have the capacity to deal in numerous languages.

Chinese (Mandarin and Catnonese)

Hong Kong
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China has grown its economy over the last few decades to see it emerge as a global leader. Once known as a member of the BRIC emerging markets, China has jumped ahead to become a clear frontrunner in the group. As a result, knowledge of Mandarin has become almost essential for those hoping to expand into this vast market.

The language spoken in mainland China is often preferred as it gives businesses greater access to the centres of Shanghai, Beijing and the growing Shenzen. Shanghai is also increasingly known as a start-up hub, making it popular with investors and entrepreneurs. It is also used further afield and is, for example, an official language in Singapore.

However, if you are moving to Hong Kong for work or as an investor intending to do business there, Cantonese may be a more useful language to learn. Bear in mind, though, that this is spoken in a smaller part of China, namely Hong Kong, the gaming and gambling centre Macau, and the province of Guangzhou.

Spanish

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Regarded as the global language with the second highest number of native speakers, Spanish is a useful language to learn if you are hoping to work abroad or expand your business to Spain, Latin America, or even the US. Though Spain was one of the European countries to suffer greatly under the effects of the 2008 economic downturn, its economy has returned to pre-crisis levels. Furthermore, a startup scene has developed in Madrid and Barcelona.

In Latin America, numerous countries are Spanish-speaking, such as Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. Although there are notable differences when it comes to pronunciation and words used between the Latin American countries and Spain (and, in many cases, differences amongst themselves), knowledge of Spanish will certainly give you an advantage in the business world as well as with communicating with consumers and clients.

German

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Despite being primarily spoken in Europe, it is an important language for several countries on the continent, including Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Switzerland, for example, is an important financial centre, with numerous institutions handling accounts for high net-worth individuals, as is the case in Liechtenstein.

Germany is one of the EU's leading economies, with Frankfurt positioning itself to benefit from the exodus of companies intending to leave London for another EU capital following Brexit. Berlin is one of Europe's leading startup capitals, which is attractive thanks to a reasonable cost of living and a thriving tech scene. As a result, the small locale covered by the German language may be somewhat misleading when it comes to its significance on a global level.

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