Since I began studying business in high school, I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard individuals say how important it was to learn another language. Over a decade later and I still cannot hold a conversation in another language (Oh how my mother, the Spanish and French teacher, would be proud). In my defense, I must say that personally I hated being ‘forced’ to learn a foreign language in school (isn’t English hard enough); and I was determined that if and when I decided to learn a new language it would be under my own terms. While I am years late to the party, I have finally started teaching myself Spanish using one of those audio tutors (since they are not paying for the free publicity I won’t say which program), and I must say that although a challenge it is rewarding.
The moral of this story – learn a new language. The earlier the better! Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be in a classroom. While I will admit that some people need the extra push that being in a class provides; it is my belief that the added classroom pressure of comparing your progress to others and being ‘graded’ makes the task more daunting than it needs to be. So whether you wish to be a fluent speaker in a foreign tongue or just conversational here is a small list of languages that should be on your radar.
1. Portuguese – This language should definitely be on your radar to learn. Why? One word, Brazil! The largest country in South America, Brazil is fast becoming a major player in the global economy – especially in the fields of manufacturing, energy, and most recently mobile technology. A recent Forbes article described the Latin American powerhouse as being the next big mobile market as data prices are dropping within the country. Also, the Apple manufacturer Foxconn which has a plant in Brazil plans to ramp up iPhone production there as well. As if the business prospects were not a good enough reason, consider that Brazil is scheduled to host the next World Cup Soccer Finals (2014) and Olympic Games (2016).
2. Chinese – Whether you choose to learn Mandarin or Cantonese, the Chinese dialect should definitely be on radar (that is if you haven’t learnt it already). In my opinion,China is slowly moving away from the stereotypical manufacturing based economy that we normally associated with the country and becoming more financial and tech savvy. Not to mention that for various reasons numerous companies are bringing manufacturing based jobs back to North America. Arguably one of the hardest languages to learn it will definitely be worth it in the long run.
3. Spanish – This should come as no surprise, since as of recent the Latin American population within the U.S has grown considerably. Don’t believe me? Just call your favorite customer service hotline; look at the host of recently launched Latin themed television shows and networks; or ask my niece and the droves of toddlers in the U.S about Dora the Explorer. All jokes aside, the Hispanic dialect has forever been touted as a key marketable trait amongst business students/professionals for years (especially those in Marketing) and its importance is still relevant today as it was years ago.
4. Hindi/Urdu – The recent power outage aside, India is still slated to become a major powerhouse in the global economy – especially in the fields such as technology, communication, and manufacturing. Also, with many companies like Nike, Coca-Cola, Daimler, and even Krispy Kreme seeking to gain a firm foothold in the country often described at the next big emerging market, it may be a good idea to learn what ‘Namastey’ means.
5. English – Many people will agree with me when I say that the English language is very hard. However, it is the number one spoken language in the world and the official language for business in most countries. Therefore, whether it’s your first or second language be sure to pay close attention to grammar and word choice on cover letters and resumes. Also, when speaking always keep in mind that it’s not what you say but how you say it!
Notable Mentions: Russian, French, and German.
According to one of our recruiters, the language you choose (Arabic for example) can lead to many job offers – even unwanted ones from agencies like the C.I.A. So whether or not you plan on being the next Jason Bourne, just make sure that the language you choose to learn reflects where and what you see yourself doing in the near to distant future. Be sure to comment below and tell us what language that you think is important for being more marketable today’s global economy.