It might seem a hard notion to grasp that the Microsoft founder and prolific philanthropist regrets not learning a second language. Gates, 59, should now have plenty of time to pursue that passion. In 2008 he retired from his day-to-day role at Microsoft and only last year he handed over his role as chairman of the company. We think learning a language is imperative to gaining recognition in the overseas workplace and mastering a local language is a step in the right direction at developing deeper business relationships and winning the hearts and minds of target markets.
Here are the top 7 languages to boost your employment potential
1. Spanish Of all the languages in the world, Spanish is the language our online translation agency works with the most, reflecting an enormous market the world over. Aside from the huge potential of almost all of South and Central America with emerging economic powerhouses such as Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela -- not to mention the significant market in Spain itself -- learning Spanish is worth it if only to reach the Hispanic speaking community in the U.S., whose purchasing power is already more than a trillion dollars and growing.
As opposed to its spoken dialects, Spanish written forms are more uniform than other languages which makes them simpler to learn. As a Romance language, with the same letters and roots as English, you’ll probably twist your tongue a lot less than when learning Chinese.
2. French French is a very important language to learn for those who are looking to succeed in the world of business. Many people do not know is that French was considered the international lingua franca – a common language with which people all around the world can converse – for quite some time, until the rise of the British and American empires brought English into prominence.
There are still many companies and individuals around the world that prefer to do business in French, and many African and Mediterranean countries that were once French colonies or territories. Because of this, French is spoken widely throughout the world, with about 335 million total speakers.
3. Chinese There are dozens of different languages and dialects spoken in China, and while Mandarin is by far the most widely spoken -- in fact, it’s the most prevalent language in the world with 1.1 billion native speakers -- other Chinese dialects are spoken by hundreds of millions of people.
Wu, for example, used in the financial hub of Shanghai, is spoken by more than 80 million people -- that’s a potential market the size of Germany! Depending on what area of China you're targeting and the fact that written dialects in the country are basically uniform, learning Wu, Jin, Min or Yue will certainly be worth the effort.
4. Russian Russia has a market nearly 150 million strong, seemingly endless natural resources and a burgeoning IT sector. Plus, the language is also spoken to varying degrees in post-Soviet states (for almost 300 million speakers in all) -- many important emerging economies themselves -- making it number nine on our most-translated list. Knowing Russian will go a long way toward winning the trust of local business leaders. And you can read Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky in the original.
5. Arabic Hundreds of millions of people around the world speak Arabic -- the fifth most-spoken language in the world -- so it comes as no surprise that Arabic is number 10 on our list. The Arab world, with a growing online culture, doesn’t have its own Amazon or Alibaba, making it a market with huge potential, not to mention the deep petro-economies of the region. Executives who speak their language are going to have a leg up in this cross-continental market. The drawback? With dozens of distinct varieties of spoken Arabic, choosing the right one will be a daunting process.
6. German German is the second most-translated language at our agency, reflecting the country’s status as Europe’s largest economy and one of strongest economies in the world. Enough said.
Learning a foreign language may be a major investment of time and energy, but speaking even a rudimentary level of a country’s native tongue goes a long way to breaking down walls.
7. Japanese Long at the forefront of the world’s technology, Japan is the hub of the robotics that is poised to upend the way we think about business, and even society, in the coming decades. If companies are looking to break into this up-and-coming scene, knowing how to speak Japanese would be very useful.
According to Wikipedia, “Japan employs over a quarter of a million industrial robot workers. In the next 15 years, Japan estimates that number to jump to over one million and they expect revenue for robotics to be near $70 billion by 2025.” Robotics or anything else, revenue of that size might be something to consider being a part of.