While English is certainly the most preferred language of the business world, there’s no need to be arrogant about it. Business students can’t just be good students anymore — we live in an age where a successful businessperson must also be worldly to be a success. Learning a foreign language can be difficult, but ultimately supremely beneficial to a student’s credentials. And using Google Translate won’t do; you’ve got to know the ins and outs of an idiomatic language in order to really make your point. If you can do business in several languages, especially with written communication, there’s a host of jobs open to you that wouldn’t normally be on your radar. And that’s not all. Studies show that bilingual folks have better brain function. The limits of your world are the limits of your language, and it’s long past time to make your world as large as it actually is. Learn one of these seven relevant languages for business, and you’ll be one giant step closer to a truly global career.
The age of globalization and worldwide marketplaces are upon us, and China is the world’s second-largest economy. Don’t miss a host of opportunities available to you by skimping on learning this language — there are almost 850 million people who call Mandarin their mother tongue. With a fascinating culture and ancient heritage, learning Mandarin is also a proper way to experience part of China.Social Life Bonus: If you know as many characters as you should, you could be correctly translating people’s Chinese character tattoos in no time. They can’t all actually say “friendship” and “faith.” (Another social life tip? Don’t hang out with people that have Chinese characters permanently tattooed on them, yet have neglected to incorporate the language respectfully into their lives.)
There are more than 300 million Arabic speakers around the globe, and if you’re in the oil and gas or defense industries, knowing this language could prove to be more than just a bit beneficial. And that’s not the only place you’ll find opportunity. Those fluent in Arabic are in high demand in and across many fields, and knowing the language can be a great resume (and salary!) booster. The Arab world’s GDP is more than $600 billion, and that’s nothing to shy away from just because you didn’t take the time to learn a second language.Bonus: Once you’ve mastered the language, you can translate the Arabic sections in Busta Rhymes’ controversial hit “Arab Money” for all of your friends. (OK, fine. You should still learn Arabic, but that won’t really help you here. The rapper earned some flack for substituting the Muslim call to prayer sample in the song with Arabic-sounding gibberish. Who would’ve ever thought that an arrogant American rap star would take a derivative artistic shortcut? Sounds crazy, we know. But it’s true. And maybe why we prefer Luda.)
If you’re looking for a positive move for worldwide collaborative projects, knowing French might be your best bet. French is spoken in two of the G8 countries, and is curiously (and laudably) bereft of many of the debt problems that face other first-world countries. It’s the second most popular language on the Internet, and — next to English — perhaps the most important tongue in the business world. Spoken in more than 40 countries throughout the world (with many of these being key or fledgling economies), French is more than just baguettes and bon bons. It’s serious business.Bonus: How many earnings reports have you read in English on a date? (Any number other than zero will net you a major loss on the dateability scale, by the way.) Not that it will get you laid, but even generally accepted accounting principles sound sexy when spoken in French.
Although Spanish wasn’t selected as one of Bloomberg’s top three foreign languages that business students should know, it is spoken by more than 300 million people, and it’s the official language of 20 countries. Students are signing up for Spanish courses in record numbers, and it’s the most popular foreign language taught at American universities today. Whether you just like Teresa, or you’re trying to up your marketability, Spanish is a good choice for any prospective businessperson. Also, it’s not too terribly hard to learn, and there are lots of free resources to help you get started. And if you’re trying to be trilingual, Spanish should definitely be in your top three.
Whether it’s HTML, Java, Perl, PHP, C++, or any variant of ones and zeros, today’s business student should definitely be proficient in some type of programming. It’s a no-brainer — these languages are (somewhat) easy to learn with study and lots of focused practice. It’s methodological, and you don’t have to speak it! And coding can be fantastically fun. Plus, if you’re a business student rather than, say, a computer science student, knowing how to work on the web as well as tweak it will only improve your marketability.
With the fate of the European Union so unsure, Germany continues to be a good economic performer. If you didn’t have any luck with French, and you’re not into Arabic or SQL, learning German could be a good first foray into bilingualism.
If you’re into love hotels, non-stop rocking (via karaoke, of course), or robotics, Japanese is the language that you should take up. And if you’re a fan of anime (you probably are, aren’t you?), you already know some words and concepts that can help get you started. Although “flame of fireball … LAUNCH!” in Japanese might not get you anywhere in the business world, it’s nice to know that you at least already have a command over how the language looks and sounds. (If that phrase does get you somewhere in business, you’ve probably earned plenty of street credit as a bringer of vigilante justice, and for this, we applaud you.) If you’re interested in international stocks, finance, and especially America’s national debt, a working knowledge of Japanese can fling you far.