Second Best

With English as the top business language, what would be the next best one to learn?

Written by Suzanne Hite, former publications editor serving the technology services sector.

You cannot go wrong with a second language, but with so many to choose from, it can be a daunting prospect. From a business or career point of view, fluency in any language besides English will take you a long way in specific fields or for particular companies with ties overseas. Some languages can give you a greater advantage than others in working life as we are about to find out.

Knowledge and proficiency in a second language will expand your network, open your mind to different cultures and countries, and give you an advantage over those with only one. From a purely business point of view, the booming region at the moment is China. Learning some Chinese would therefore be a huge asset to any company doing business with the People’s Republic. There are so many aspects of international business beyond just imports and exports. Countless companies in the U.S. are working with Chinese counterparts in finance, outsourcing, engineering such as a supplier of pipeline equipment in the oil and gas industry, manufacturing, the list goes on.

Mandarin is by no means an easy language for Westerners to learn with three times the effort needed compared to a language with a Roman script. The huge volume of work involved in a Chinese course requires a lot of dedication, so you may need to balance your other classes to make room.

Another top choice of a second language would be Spanish, with around 40 million speakers right here in the U.S. Unlike Chinese, Spanish is a language that is quite easy to learn online and there are countless resources to choose from. According to experts at Gritty Spanish, it is important to supplement textbook learning with videos so you can retain it better and familiarize yourself with the exact pronunciations. It would be considered one of the most useful languages you can learn, with 500 million speakers across the globe. It is not only handy for domestic communication, but also across Central and the entire South American continent.

French is another widely spoken language with a lot of African nations using it as their primary method of communication. Your choice of language should be linked to your choice of career and industry. German and Italian are used heavily in manufacturing and can be helpful if you are aiming to work at specific companies with connections to those countries.

Back in the 1980s, Japan was a booming high-tech economy, and the popular language of the period was Japanese. Like Chinese, there is a steep learning curve, and the demand for Japanese speakers is not as high as some of the other languages we have mentioned. Likewise, with Russian, it is very useful if you intend to work there or for a company with Russian connections, but again, not an easy language to master.

There are no real disadvantages to learning another language. It will expand your cultural knowledge and open a new world of opportunity in another land.

The more you speak more languages, the more you understand about yourself. – Sandra Cisneros.

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