Undoubtedly, learning a second or third language is extremely beneficial. It helps you connect with people from around the world and becomes a great resource to have while travelling, studying, or highlighting on your resume for better opportunities.
Once you are convinced about the benefits these languages have to offer, the questions arise: Which are the best foreign languages? Which has more demand? Which offers a better salary, career prospects and job opportunities? And, which matches your interests?
So, while picking a language, you need to look at your interests, travel, education, and career goals.
For you, we have enlisted ten top foreign languages that are widely in demand, followed by the opportunities these languages offer.
Spoken by more than 75% of the world’s population, English is the official language of many countries, including the Philippines, South Africa and Singapore. Around 400 million people around the world speak English as their first language. It is the most influential academic language and a business language and a must operate in the business world. Rapidly growing globalization means that English has become the principal language of business today – the world’s lingua Franca.
It is also worth noting that more than 50% of all websites are written in English. Entrepreneurs looking to launch a new business successfully should have a decent grasp of conversational English and corporate phrases in English. Needless to say, having sound knowledge of English is more important than ever; countries with better English skills are more competitive and more open to new business opportunities.
Mandarin/Chinese language is considered an important language to improve business prospects globally, especially because of its dominating global business landscape. According to Ethnologue, Chinese (and all of its varieties, such as Mandarin and Wu) are the most spoken language globally, with 1.31 billion speakers, nearly 16 per cent of the world’s population. Also, according to the latest statistics released by China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC), the rise in trade, specifically Chinese exports to India, rose sharply between April and May. Until April, the bilateral trade in goods between China and India in the first quarter of 2021 grew, with the total trade volume reaching $27.7 billion, a year-on-year increase of 42.8%.
Further, as per the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) claims, in the past 15 years, over 150 Chinese companies have made investments of more than $30 billion in India in various automotive and consumer electronics sectors. This means that there are enormous employment opportunities in Chinese firms in India and around the world.
Furthermore, Mandarin is the second most popular language amongst Internet users. And, as the Asian markets are expanding their Internet and e-commerce businesses, many analysts consider that by 2050 China will be the world’s leading economy; Mandarin may soon overtake English and become the most influential business language in the future.
The importance of having sound knowledge of Spanish continues to grow. Surprisingly the US is the world’s second-largest Spanish speaking country. It is the first language of over 37 million people and 50 million Spanish speakers across the globe. As per the predictions, the Spanish population in the US may double in the next three decades, which is one major reason to learn Spanish to take advantage of the US marketplace to understand Spanish and business English.
After Mandarin/Chinese, Spanish is the official language of over 21 countries spoken by over 530,000,000 speakers worldwide. Additionally, many Spanish companies are rapidly increasing their presence in many countries in various industries like translation, travel and tourism, teaching, interpretation and international business & communications.
German is among the five most widely used languages in the world and is the second most popular language in Europe and Japan, after English. There are about 110 million native speakers. German companies represent 700,000 jobs in the US, and for those looking for a job in the US, learning German can give you great job offers.
Additionally, Germany’s advancements in technology, coupled with its political and economic strength in the European Union and worldwide, make knowing German extremely valuable. Also, many business analysts find that many industries and companies pay workers who know German 4% more.
There are over 220 million people on five continents who speak French. French is the second language spoken by the EU and the official language of 29 countries, including many African countries. It is often referred to as the “ancient English”.
France has also played an important role in history. Over the course of colonial history, France has been a major force across the globe. Its influence resulted in an unusual situation where there are more non-native speakers of French than native speakers.
Learning French can open up opportunities to study at well-known French universities and highly rated business schools in Europe. In addition, students who have a good knowledge of French are eligible for grants from the French government to enrol in graduate courses. Learning French can also be extremely beneficial to land employment in the fashion, hotel industry, visual arts, and theatre anywhere globally, as French is the most spoken language in these sectors.
Spoken by around 230 million people, Portuguese is one of the world’s most widely spoken languages. Portuguese is far ahead of German, French and Italian in popularity and is the official language of eight nations. However, as a result of India’s growing relationship with Brazil, demand for the Portuguese language is growing phenomenally. There is an increasing demand for Portuguese-speaking experts in various sectors such as accounts, technology, technical support, finance, exports, tourism and education. So students should go for it.
Known to all, Arab-speaking nations are among the fastest-growing economies in the world. This is the official language in 28 countries. The Arab-speaking countries are major export markets for the United Kingdom and the European Union, and there is no stopping either. The British Council recently named Arabic the second language of the future.
More than 300 million people speak Arabic as a native language.
With proficiency and stronghold in the Arabic language, you can expect many opportunities are opening up in government, business, non-profit, education and beyond in the Middle-East countries like Dubai, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, etc.
About 125 million people speak Japanese, and it is also one of the most widely used languages on the Internet, second only to English and Chinese. Further, because of the country’s great performance, investments, technology, robotics, innovations in research and development, cutting-edge electronics and the ability to speak this language is a bonus for those looking for a career in related fields. Japan is also an important importer of Western merchandise. Japanese-speaking Internet users make over 88 billion dollars in online sales each year.
In addition, many Japanese businesses extend their Indian operations with technologically advanced products. Many large Japanese brands like Sony, Toshiba, Honda, Toyota and Mitsubishi have already become familiar names, and several others have infiltrated the Indian market. Therefore, the ability to speak the Japanese language can present great opportunities in India, as well.
Russia is a politically and economically important power and one of the official languages of the United Nations. It ranks second only in English as the primary language used for Web site content.
Russian is also widely spoken in the former Soviet states. Because of the number of Russian speakers and the potential for business and investment, Russian is seen as one of the languages useful for learning in the future.
This foreign language is spoken by more than 300 million people worldwide and is the largest native language in Europe.
Moreover, India maintains good economic and social ties with Russia. Due to this historical significance, Russia has many job opportunities for Indians in engineering, science & technology, oil & gas, defence sectors. Hence, learning Russian can add and boost up your resume.
Last but not the least, the Korean language also has its place in the top ten foreign languages in demand; it is spoken by nearly 75 million people that divide into 48 million in South Korea, a total of 24 million in North Korea, nearly 2 million in China, and more than 1 million in USA and 500,000 in Japan. Korea is doing very good in the business landscape worldwide. It has also made investments in India with companies like LG, Samsung, Hyundai and many more. There is enormous demand for Korean language experts in many of these Korean companies.
What opportunities do foreign languages bring to the table?
- Become a translator
- Get a career as an interpreter
- Apply for a foreign language intelligence role
- Serve as a foreign language teacher
- Work at client service professional position which requires foreign languages
- Take a linguist job in the military
- Become a full-time language online content creator or blogger
- Foreign languages will make you more competitive at your job
Which foreign languages make the most money?
According to the language specialist recruitment agency Euro London having a hold on foreign languages increases your salary by 10–15%.
However, the bonuses vary depending on the exact language you are proficient at. As per a report, here is a quick breakdown of a few different secondary languages and their annual bonuses:
- Spanish — 1.5 per cent bonus
- French — 2.3 per cent bonus
- German — 3.8 per cent bonus
German is known to be the top language to help earn the most by over 125,000 (Euros) in bonuses, followed by French, Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic.
Here is a brief list of pointers to consider when picking a foreign language to learn
- Number of speakers across the world
- Growth in the number of native speakers
- Consider the cost
- Check job prospects
- Identify your goals
- Difficulty level
- Personal preference
- Your interest in a language
- Target country
- Sectors or Industries
- Possible immigration
- Future goals
- Decide Your Motive
- Consider Studying Abroad
- The economic power of countries that speak the language