Besides English, You May Want to Learn These Other Business Languages

It’s high time you start thinking of yourself as a global mobility leader, and not just a global mobility specialist or manager. In case you haven’t noticed, your executives are relying on you to help them out with their decision-making, and not just when it comes to recruitment and talent management. They like you to speak the language of your clients, literally.

But how do you choose the foreign language you appropriate as your own? Does it depend on the most common and popular ones in your state or your home office’s? For example, according to Languages of the World, next to English, the most spoken languages in northern California are Spanish, Chinese (or Mandarin, to be exact), and Filipino, which is actually the Tagalog dialect. Do you base it on the largest number of assignees that you’ve hired?

But why bother? Well, you could be the go-to person when it comes to understanding the complexity of international affairs, identifying which global markets your company should get into, and the skills that your employees should upgrade themselves on, if your firm is to remain competitive.

In your rise up the career ladder, and the development of your own skills, adding a foreign language (or two) to your portfolio and resume is a game changer. Of course, learning a few choice sentences and idioms in a third or fourth language is well and good, and will help you navigate during your negotiations with foreign partners or persuading a foreign national to sign up as your new assignee. But what if you also learned to speak a foreign language fluently–the way Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks Mandarin fluently.

Moving toward the future, you and your company’s interests might be better served.

A study by the British Council says some “languages” will apply to most business establishments and their personnel. Fluency in them can help you assist your company in opening the next growth area, or in pinpointing the next international hub spot of the most promising assignees:

Spanish: More than 400 million native speakers can have a conversation in it and document them through email and letters. Spanish is regarded as the second most widely used language in the world, next to English.

Arabic:  More than 230 million native speakers are fluent in it, and a further 100–200 million people across northern Africa and western Asia regard it as their second language,

French: More than 100 million people speak it as their first language. Like Arabic, more than 100-200 million more regard it as their second language.

Mandarin Chinese: 800 million speakers use it as their first language in Mainland China. Another 1,200 million who speak it as a second language are based all over the world.

Chances are you would have tried your hand (or tongue) in any of the abovementioned languages. You could also have checked a few words in their dictionary. But given their influence on millions of people across the world, it may be time to move beyond a cursory knowledge to a functional one that will expand your company’s presence in the international arena while also adding more to your cache out there.