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September 2015

Top languages to learn for success in an international career

Five global languages to consider learning today

Learning a new language for business and career purposes is an excellent reason, as fluency in foreign languages adds a major tool to one’s CV. For those working in international business, government, and travel, mastery of an additional language is a must-have ability. It is something that will put you leaps and bounds beyond a similar candidate who doesn’t speak an additional language, placing you ever closer to that job you set in your sights. Today we’ll look at five of the most desireable languages one should consider learning to succeed in an international career. Of course, any language is worth learning, and the language best suited for you depends on the specific industry in which you work. Regardless, these languages will benefit you no matter who you are.


China is not only the world's most populous country, it's also arguably the most vibrant economy in the world. Its GDP has already surpassed that of the United States, and industries in China are innovating in sectors from robotics to genetics to manufacturing. The world's fastest computer exists in China, as well as many of the most profitable technology companies. While other dialects of the Chinese language, such as Cantonese, are very popular, Mandarin is the official dialect of the country, spoken by approximately 14.5% of the world’s population (that’s 955 million people!). It should come as no surprise that China should start this list; Mandarin Chinese is a language that will only grow in business importance, as even President Obama has shifted his focus toward the Pacific.


Many of the world's top growing countries are in the Middle East. Rich with oil, cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi are built as elegant mega-cities, hubs open for business with the entire world. Arabic is the fifth most-spoken language in the world. Western governments also require individuals with proficiency in Arabic for diplomatic reasons: with the turmoil happening in the Middle East, workers who know Arabic are growing in demand. With many dialects, however, you'll have to find the right one to learn. Either way, you’ll find Arabic, like Mandarin, is not such an easy language to learn.


Germany is the most economically powerful country in the European Union. It's also the home of the European Central Bank. German is especially useful for those living in the UK, as Germany is one of the country’s most important trading partners. The language is also useful for conducting business in affluent Switzerland, home of the Geneva United Nations regional headquarters and an incredible banking industry. Add to that the German-speaking countries of Luxembourg and Austria, and German seems mighty useful. Luckily, for English speakers, the language is not too difficult to learn.


No language is more ubiquitous in the world than Spanish. That alone is a big reason to study the language. With the immigration of Hispanic peoples into the United States, Spanish is growing in importance in the world's most powerful country. Around the world, 405 million people speak Spanish as a native language. They live in countries from Spain and Mexico to Central America and South America. Spanish is also one of the top languages students learn in the United States. It will only continue to grow in global importance.
(Read: “Top 5 languages that American students learn”)


In Portugal, Brazil, and parts of Africa, Portuguese is spoken by approximately 215 million people as a native language. And while many of these countries aren't faring so well at the time of writing of this article, they each pose as a significant economic power. This is particularly true of Brazil, whose inhabitants do not often speak English fluently. Portuguese is an important language to learn if one wishes to do business in South America's largest and most populous country.

Have you ever learned a language for career reasons? Which language was it and why did you choose it? Let us know on our Facebook page and be sure to “like” TELC English for more fun articles on cultures and languages from around the world!

Picture: (c) ezoom, Fotolia