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You’ve probably heard that English is the international language for business communication. Lucky you if you speak English, but it’s not enough! Nowadays, speaking English has become common in the business world. So if you want to make a difference and be a global leader here are the top 5 languages you should speak to be successful anywhere in the world!

5French | You can learn it approximately in 22-23 weeks!

More than 200 million people speak French on 5 continents! Knowing the French language can give you access to one of the biggest markets in the European Union, France. Moreover, it doesn’t only give you the opportunity to make business with French companies, but also with companies from other states and governments such as Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, and North and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Some good reasons to learn it! First, you need to know that French people are very proud of their language. A common feeling shared in France is that people don’t want to learn French when in France, and instead would rather speak English. So, when doing business there, speaking French is a huge advantage as it shows that you want to understand them and be integrated into their market. By demonstrating your interest, your business French partners will probably be impressed and be more likely to sign contracts with you. Finally French is the international language for culture like cooking, fashion, theatre, dance, architecture and the arts. So let’s learn it!

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Expressions you have to avoid! If you’re going to meet with a French company, please don’t use the following expression or you’ll sound very awkward.

  • Les anglais sont arrivés” (“The English people arrived”), which means that you’re having your period.
  • Je suis chaud” (“I am hot”), which means you’re very attractive, so please note the good translation: “J’ai chaud”.

4PortugueseYou can learn it approximately in 22-23 weeks!

Over 230 million people speak Portuguese. It is the official language of eight countries such as Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, and São Tome and Principe. It is also widely spoken in other countries such as South Africa and Andorra.

Some good reasons to learn it!  Speaking Portuguese opens the door to a number of countries and market places. In fact, you can easily be part of one of the fastest growing world markets: Brazil’s economy. When doing business there, a knowledge of Portuguese is useful so to understand the market’s expectations since consumer behaviour evolves quickly. Moreover, in 2016 Rio de Janeiro will host the Olympic Games after hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Thus, a lot of preparations and labour force will be needed for this event, so again, speaking Portuguese will be a great advantage for your business to catch these opportunities.

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Funny Portuguese expression:

  • For a Portuguese, you don’t “give up”, you “take your little horse away from the rain” (Tirar o cavalinho da chuva)

3. Arabic | You can learn it approximately in 88 weeks!

Arabic is the official language of over 20 countries! There are more than 300 million native speakers of this language. In addition to them, millions more know Arabic as a foreign language.

Some good reasons to learn it! There is a high demand and a low supply of Arabic speakers in the Western world, so you should take advantage of this trend! In fact, knowing some Arabic will definitely make you a very interesting business person for this market. Arabic speaking nations are a fast growing market for Trade and the rapidly growing population provides a huge export market opportunity for goods and services. Consequently, speaking Arabic when doing business, shows that you implement initiatives to integrate within the Arab world. This can lead to good negotiations when conducting your trade!

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Some basic expressions that could be useful:

  • Marhaban’ for ‘Hello’
  • ‘Kaifa haluka?’ for ‘How are you?’
  • ‘Shukran’ for ‘Thank you’

2Spanish | You can learn it approximately in 22-23 weeks!

Spanish is the second most spoken in the world in terms of native speakers and the third language by total behind Mandarin and English! There are more than 400 million native Spanish speakers in the world. Such a large Latino population in the U.S. and booming Latin economies outside the U.S., employers are desperate for people who speak Spanish.

Some good reason to learn it! Learning Spanish can allow you to trade with an emerging economy: Mexico. This country has 14 free trade agreements with over 50 countries including, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, the European Union, and Japan, putting more than 90% of its trade under free trade agreements. Let alone Mexico, Spanish is spoken all around the world, Wouldn’t it be it nice to be able to offer your products or services to the 400 million people whose mother tongue is Spanish? Finally, Learning Spanish is fun! Spanish is really easy to learn. It has the same alphabet as English and its spelling is phonetic so you pronounce it as it is spelled.

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Some funny expressions:

  • Con el dinero baila el perro. – With money, the dog will dance; meaning: With money, anything is possible.
  • Como una cabra‘–  like a goat ; which is used to describe someone that is crazy.

1. Mandarin (Chinese)You can learn it approximately in 88 weeks!

Mandarin is the first language spoken in the world! More than a billion people speak Mandarin Chinese as their first or second language. China is a fast growing economy and is the second largest just after the United States. But this rank is very likely to change. China might be in a few years the first economy in the world.

Some good reasons to learn Mandarin Chinese: China is a land full of business opportunities. Thanks to China’s growth, a lot of western companies open or expand there. Unfortunately a lot fail within two years. In order not to make the same mistake, speaking Mandarin will allow you to understand the specifics of the Chinese culture. Knowing the differences and language, you’ll impress your audience, and you’ll know how to target it. Speaking Mandarin will definitely give you the keys you need to be a successful leader in China.

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Funny Chinese expression:

  • 你算哪棵葱  ‘ni suan na gen cong’ the translation would be ‘which onion are you?’

This expression is used to refer to someone who you look down upon.

In brief, if you want to become a global leader, you can choose to speak English like everybody or choose to speak one of the languages above in order to differentiate from other businesses! Speaking these languages will allow you to understand and reach almost any customers in the world! Don’t wait, get started and become a global leader!

Written by Anais Laget

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  • Geoff

    An interesting article and, in general, I for one would go along with the general idea – (though being biased, maybe Japanese should be in there in view of Japan’s world rankings in both GDP and GNP, if not by number of speakers alone). However, both as a life-long language learner (7 languages ‘learnt’ formally or informally, all with their individual challenges) and as an applied linguist and language trainer, I am more curious as to the claims made above when you say you can learn so and so language in XX weeks. What (empirical) research is this based upon? How do you define ‘learn it’ – i.e. to what defined level of proficiency? And does this mean the Global Leader would actually need full job-release – i.e. give up work for the entire period of time suggested? Very interested to hear.

    • admin

      Hi Geoff, thanks for the comment and for reading the article! Glad that you enjoyed it.

      The approximates are an amalgamate of some research done by the writer, Anais Laget. The basis of the research used was considering someone who was first-language English and how they could adapt to other languages. As you can imagine, the European languages share similarities and would be easier to pick up, whereas languages like Mandarin and Arabic require a lot more education due to there being little similarity to the English language. The approximates also point towards proficiency rather than fluency – that would take years as you are aware.

      Anais gave me this link (http://www.effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty), but I do know there were a lot more to which she adjusted accordingly.

      Feel free to provide us with any information, of course. We are always looking to learn and considering your education of 7 languages (incredibly impressive), we would love to know your thoughts on adapting from one to the other and the difficulties of translating them.

      Thank you again for reading. I hope you read more of our articles and always feel free to get involved in the comments.

    • Wolfestone

      Hi Geoff, thanks for the comment and for reading the article! Glad that you enjoyed it.

      The approximates are an amalgamate of some research done by the writer, Anais Laget. The basis of the research used was considering someone who was first-language English and how they could adapt to other languages. As you can imagine, the European languages share similarities and would be easier to pick up, whereas languages like Mandarin and Arabic require a lot more education due to there being little similarity to the English language. The approximates also point towards proficiency rather than fluency – that would take years as you are aware.

      Anais gave me this link (http://www.effectivelanguagelearning.com/language-guide/language-difficulty), but I do know there were a lot more to which she adjusted accordingly.

      Feel free to provide us with any information, of course. We are always looking to learn and considering your education of 7 languages (incredibly impressive), we would love to know your thoughts on adapting from one to the other and the difficulties of translating them.

      Thank you again for reading. I hope you read more of our articles and always feel free to get involved in the comments.

  • Very nicely portrayed as well as described how a leader needs to be smart in terms of making the process flows of guiding someone as well as making the most out of their particular issues in the world. This is very much important and worth for all to make the language smoother along with dissent for the especial ability to make the progressive nature precise and productive.