Do you want to set up your organization for success and competitiveness on an international scale? Take advantage of global opportunities by learning a language (or two) of business.

In an increasingly integrated global business community, the ability to communicate in multiple languages is becoming very essential by the minute. From academics to a more professional setting, communicating to others in their native language is the first step to founding a lasting partnership or relationship. Language is a key aspect to propelling an individual (and even an organization) to success as being bilingual or better, multilingual, comes with many advantages. Especially nowadays when diversity in the workplace is of much value, understanding the meaning behind the words to emotionally connect with clients and colleagues can boost your company, making it more competent in the global market. But before delving into learning a language, you may find yourself thinking “what language should I learn?” or “what language will be the most useful or practical for my profession?”

Out of over 7,000 living languages there are in the world, what are the most important to be knowledgeable of, putting you and your business miles ahead of the competition? Here’s a list of the most useful languages of business that you should learn:

English: The universal language

It’s no surprise that English is one of the most important languages a person should know, given that it’s commonly a second language in 55 countries. Moreover, 400 million people around the world speak English (although only 10% speak it natively) and use it for various types of content— may it be for traditional means or on the internet.

Why English? Because most people speak in English, it’s easier to communicate with different people. Knowing English increases your chances of working in a multinational company or abroad. English is easy to learn as it has a simple alphabet and structure. Last but not least, it is the foremost global language of business. Being able to speak the language helps professionals in attending international business meetings, in customer service and sales-related matters, and in marketing a product/service to a client.

Portuguese: The language of emerging superpower

Portuguese is the primary language of Portugal, Brazil, and seven other countries. In actuality, it is considered to be the major language of the Southern hemisphere wherein approximately 215 million are natives speakers. Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world with the eighth largest economy, is home to the Portuguese language. Today, Brazil is considered by many to be an emerging superpower, whose progress will impact the world. Brazilian imports and exports have practically doubled since 1995, thus reasonable to expect that trade between the US and Brazil will continue to increase, further stressing the importance of studying the language.

But don’t get confused as there are variations to Portuguese: Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese. Although both are essentially the same language, it has evolved over the years from historical and cultural factors. The key differences are basically pronunciation, formal and informal speech, grammar rules and vocabulary. For example, Brazilians speak sounding the vowels longer and wider while Portuguese don’t pronounce the vowels so much.

Why Portuguese? It’s included in the American Express list of the most essential languages for business, which makes sense since Brazil has the ninth-largest economy. Like Spanish, Portuguese is not difficult to learn.

Spanish: The most widespread language

Spanish is one of the most widespread languages with over 470 million native speakers, only second to Mandarin Chinese. Learning Spanish opens doors to not only Latin American countries but also the United States. In fact, many organizations also have Spanish as their language for business. According to the British Council, 34% of UK businesses said that Spanish was “useful to their organization.” This is because Spanish is a language of high growth markets and other developing countries in Central and South America. As for the US standpoint, Spanish is also of the essence since over 30% of the US population are Hispanics today, and over 60 million Hispanics are projected to live there by 2020. This means that even without going beyond America, Spanish can be very useful in daily life.

Why Spanish? Being able to communicate in Spanish is also highly transferable in learning other languages, such as Portuguese, Italian, and French. Speaking to a more connected language such as Spanish will make it easier to spread your idea, message, or impact. It also opens up more opportunities for travel and immersion, from Central and South America to Europe. Spanish is the third common language on the internet.

Chinese: The world’s most spoken language

Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken language in the world with over 955 million native speakers and 200 million non-native speakers, that’s about 14.4% of the world’s population. It’s no surprise that this language proves to be useful today as China will become even more influential in the coming years, going out of Asia and on an international scale.

Why Chinese? According to Bloomberg, as of November 2017, the Chinese economy is projected to overtake the United States economy in 2028 and has the potential of challenging the supremacy of English, especially in business circles as China pips the United States out of the top spot as the nation with the world’s highest GDP. Meaning, if you want to work in international trade and the digital market, then you should really think about learning Chinese as China’s digital market is presently the largest today. Although known for being challenging to learn, knowing Chinese pays dividends as China is truly transcending globally.

German: The European business language

As of 2018, an estimate of over 105 million are German native speakers, and about 80 million people around the globe use it as their second language. Not only does learning German pave a way to communicate with those who reside in Germany, but also for those in Central and Eastern Europe, as it is the most widely spoken language there.

Why German? On a global scale, Germany has earned its place as the third-largest economy in the world and is the economic powerhouse of the European Union; also, they are innovators and deemed as the frontline of new technologies, meaning learning their language can increase multinational business opportunities with them. Given the power of this country as numerous international companies also originate there, many companies are also seeking out fluent German speakers. In addition to this, German is very similar to English in structure thus it is easy to learn.

French: The international language of reference

French is currently the second most widely learned language in the world and is one of the working languages of the United Nations as it has a foothold on five continents, namely Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. How is it a language of reference? You see, French is the official language of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the sole language used for the deliberations of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and is widely used in global communication channels. So, from diplomatic realms to international media, French is of great importance.

Why French? France has the fifth largest economy in the world, thus a key economic partner and is the third chosen country for foreign investors and Europe’s foremost investor abroad. French is also a major language of high tech and business as well as in retailing, automotive, luxury goods, and aeronautics.

Italian: The language of heritage, history, and the arts

In more than 34 countries, around 75 million people speak Italian; including minority communities in a number of countries such as Malta, Libya, Somalia, Slovenia, Croatia, as well as by expatriate communities in the USA, UK, Argentina, and Australia. Italy is known to be a country that is rich in music, theater and literature thus making Italian the main language of many famous art-related pieces. But beyond the world of the arts, Italian is also useful in the business world since Italy is one of the top economies in the world today.

Why Italian? Many employers are seeking out people who speak Italian since over 7,000 American firms do business with Italy and over a thousand US companies have offices in Italy and as do Italian companies have offices in the US. Italy is one of the top economies in the world, and many employers are seeking people who speak both Italian and English. Knowledge of Italian is definitely an advantage as it is one of the official languages of the European Union.