Which Language Should I Learn? For Career Growth, Probably Spanish
When considering how best to best develop your career for the modern global marketplace, it is vital in this day and age to consider the ever more demanding needs of international business.
We’ve discussed specific language learning for sales reps as well as teachers here on the blog before, but this article takes a look at how to fit into the global jobs marketplace.
Companies around the globe are becoming increasingly dependent on foreign relations to help ensure a competitive edge.
This happens through the sourcing of cost-effective goods and services and by serving foreign markets directly. This need for effective communication across borders and cultures has driven up the demand for language skills in the job market.
The result being that having a second language is no longer an added bonus, but a nailed-on must for anyone hoping to land that job on the next rung of the career ladder. Many jobs on Zoek, a top UK job board, prefer a second language, for example.
Which Language is Right For Me?
Which language will serve you best and help you cover the requirements of your dream post? Well, you will need to consider a number of factors before embarking on your language learning journey, including the following:
a) The country you live in: Each country has more established economic ties with certain territories than others, meaning the demand for language skills for those particular nations will be greater.
b) Your chosen industry: Similarly, it is also of paramount importance to understand the industry you are working in, the countries which are core for your customers or suppliers, and how the language you offer will benefit your employer.
c) Long-term career aspirations: Laying down objectives and goals early on and accruing the skills that your future role will need will always provide a good foundation on which to advance in your career. You may want to make regional manager or head of operations in Latin America, perhaps.
d) Existing language skills: You may already know two or more languages, so consider which one to add to help complement your skillset. You might be fluent in English and French, but want to gain fluency in Portuguese to help with future communications with contacts in Europe or Africa, for example.
Best Languages to Learn for Career Growth
Ultimately, there are two predominant strategies to selecting the language you wish to add to your skillset.
The first one is to opt for a language spoken as a second language by a large number of people, like English. The availability of jobs that require English are vast so there is greater opportunity to use your expertise.
The downside here is that many people speak English as a second language so the competition will be tough.
The second angle is to choose a language that is perhaps less widely-spoken as a second language, or that is known to be more difficult to acquire. Take Arabic, for example.
Jobs requiring this language may be fewer but the risk may pay dividends as you would stand out by having a skill that few others offer.
Additionally, the job market in places like Dubai is very international, and speaking Arabic will make daily life there much easier.
Top Five Languages to Learn
- Mandarin Chinese
Top Ten Languages to Learn
We broke down the top ten languages to learn for career growth below.
Based on current markets that are in the ascendency and global projections for development going forward, the following languages will definitely ensure your C.V. sits near the top of the pile and maximize your career potential:
With over 480 million native speakers worldwide, Spanish is the official language in 21 countries. It can really be the gateway to employment opportunities in growing markets in Central and South America.
Read our complete guide to boosting your career with Spanish here.
It is commonly used in Media, Retail and Banking as well as being in high demand closer to home in Medical, Social, Education, and Marketing areas. And you can see why!
According to 2018 figures, there are 60 million Hispanics in the United States of America, that’s almost 20% of the total population. No surprise then, skilled people with Spanish language skills are in high demand, with 85% of American employers listing Spanish as the most in-demand foreign language.
Another factor worth considering is the ease with which one can learn a language. For non-natives, Spanish is often found to be easier to acquire than English, especially for anyone who speaks French, Italian or Portuguese as their mother tongue.
Kind of a no brainer given that it is the most common language to be learned as a second language around the world.
The international language of business continues to be a requirement in many professions and industries. It is also the official language in over 50 countries so don’t think that it is not a language that can provide ample opportunity for employment on foreign soil.
Perhaps the only downside is that so many people already speak it that it may not set you apart from the crowd when it comes to career development as it is so often assumed that candidates would have a good command of English.
If you have already attained proficiency in English, really up your game by adding a second foreign idiom to your arsenal!
- Mandarin (Chinese):
China’s economic growth in the last two decades has made learning Mandarin a very challenging but hugely beneficial undertaking.
Manufacturing and exporting on an epic scale mean there are employment opportunities aplenty that can take advantage of skills in Mandarin; from Engineering, Finance, and Logistics, among other industries.
Mandarin Chinese is the mother tongue for over 800 million people in China and Taiwan, and is used widely in Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Mongolia, and the Philippines.
Adding Mandarin to your C.V. would really set you apart given that it is a very hard language to learn, especially for native speakers of European tongues.
If one of your career goals involves conquering Europe then learning German may well be key to your success. Germany has Europe’s economy and is the 4th largest in the world.
So for any professional looking to make their mark in Finance, Engineering, Manufacture, Design, or Pharmaceuticals German might be the answer. It is also a language spoken by over 100 million people across Germany and is widely spoken in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Switzerland as well.
German could also pack a punch economically as for English speakers learning German can help boost their wage packet by an estimated 4%, according to The Economist.
Surprisingly, for a relatively small country Japanese is spoken by over 120 million people. Somewhat different to Spanish, which is spoken in many different countries, Japanese’s use is concentrated solely in Japan.
Japan is the world’s third-largest economy, boasting highly advanced levels of Technological Innovation, Consumer Electronics, and Automobile industries. So if you are a gadget-geek looking to become a gismo-god you should better consider Japanese as a skill you will need to impress.
Job opportunities in Research and Development, Manufacture and Engineering as well as logistics would be available to proficient Japanese speakers with the relevant industry-standard skills.
If you are looking to enter the realm of Politics, International Relations and Diplomacy, or see yourself working in industries based in or working with contacts in Africa, then French would have to be first on your list.
French is spoken in 29 countries and in total by over 220 million people and due to population growth in Africa, it is a language that is showing signs of rapid growth.
It is also used in Canada of course, and is the language adopted by many diplomatic organizations and governing bodies such as the United Nations (UN), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), World Health Organization (WHO), and International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), to name but a few.
If you are working in the Oil Industry, Energy sector or High-end Construction, then you may want to consider adapting your skillset to include Arabic.
With around 300 million speakers across 27 countries, Arabic can really unlock the door to the Middle East and the promise of fortune.
English would be a good complement language as business relations with the United Kingdom and the United States of America are very strong. Relatively few candidates will have acquired Arabic due to its complexity so stick with it and it will pay off when you submit your application.
Russian is estimated to be used by 250 million people worldwide, the great majority of them in Russia and a great many others in former Soviet Republics, such as Ukraine, Latvia, and Kazakhstan.
Russia’s economy is developing and showing signs of a prosperous future along with it fellow BRICS counterparts China, Brazil, and India. Russia is strong in areas such as International Trade, Logistics, Mining and the Oil and Energy sector.
As with German, it is popular in Scientific and Technical professions, so for any budding scientist or technology professional Russian may be your chosen idiom.
And then, coming out from the shadow of other more common European languages comes Portuguese.
Portuguese is the second-most spoken language in Latin America. Estimated to be spoken by over 200 million people, its use is not limited to Brazil and Portugal as many assume.
It is taught in schools and is widely used in African countries including South Africa, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, as well as Senegal.
Bolstered by Brazil’s economic development, over the last two decades the demand for skilled Portuguese speakers is on the increase. Demand is not as high as for Spanish language skills, but the competition is way less, so if you aim high, Portuguese could be your ticket to the top in areas such as Translation, Interpreting, Finance, and Technology.
It is spoken in India and Nepal, and other parts of the world such as the islands Fiji and Trinidad and Tobago. India is a developing market and has the 5th largest economy in the world. The type of jobs you could find there would be in Medical and Health Services, Technology, and Sales, amongst others.
Enhance your prospects even further
Knowing any foreign language to a reasonable degree of proficiency can be advantageous in the search for gainful employment. But why stop there?
Add an extra string to your bow by taking specialized courses for your industry or business sector. Think English for Technology professionals or Spanish for Business, for example.
We all know there are certain nuances to understand when doing business. You necessitate the right vocabulary and you need to understand the etiquette required for your business meeting or even how to address a client in an email.
These details will help ensure your next step in your professional journey is a leap!
How To Learn A New Language
Gone are the days when your language skills are a side note on your resume.
These are skills that are not acquired easily or quickly, so give it the recognition it deserves by emphasizing how you have applied language positively in your projects and previous jobs and what it will bring to the new role.
Start enhancing your employment prospects and make learning a new language a priority today. Always choose native qualified instructors who can provide additional cultural insight that will set your language abilities apart.