Which Language to Learn? What the Experts Say

Declan Mulkeen

29 Jun 2016

The position of English as the world’s lingua franca may be facing challengers in the most unlikeliest of places – the business world. Although we all rely on it heavily to communicate when working internationally, it may not be long before we say ‘adiós’ or ‘zai jian’ to the dominance of English in business.

The need to take Spanish or Mandarin seriously and start attending a training course is becoming increasingly important due to the emergence of two powerful trading areas – China and the Americas. Read on to find out which language to learn – according to the experts.

Which language to learn?

As businesses look for that competitive edge, they are turning to Spanish-speaking markets in North and South America and Mandarin Chinese speaking economies in Asia.

Spanish

The Hispanic population is the fastest growing market segment in the US and has grown by 60% in just one decade making Hispanic buying power an impressive $1,000 million

The influence of the Spanish language in the US is one contributing factor to this change. The Hispanic population is the fastest-growing market segment in the US and has grown by 60% in just one decade making Hispanic buying power an impressive $1,000 million.

wikimedia

Some people even assert that the main language spoken in the US in 2060 will in fact be Spanish

This combined with the level of influence Hispanic culture has on US history and the economy makes the Spanish language a candidate for becoming an international language of business. There are currently more Spanish speakers in the United States than there are in Spain.

The most recent figures indicate there are currently 41 million native speakers of Spanish and 11 million bilingual speakers.

Some people even assert that the main language spoken in the US in 2060 will, in fact, be Spanish with more than 130 million speakers. The predominantly Spanish-speaking and increasingly influential continent sitting just below the US makes the Spanish language even more attractive to global businesses.

With a combined population of more than 600 million people the Spanish-speaking markets of North, Central and South America cannot be ignored.

The Index of Human Development ranks Spanish as the second most important language on earth (after English of course…)

Finally, some interesting statistics on Spanish internet usage:

  • Spanish is the second most used language on Twitter in London and New York (after English)
  • Spanish is the second most used language on Facebook

Mandarin 

There are approximately one billion Mandarin speakers across the globe

Another challenge to English as the international language of business is the increasing importance and influence of the Chinese economy. There are approximately one billion Mandarin speakers across the globe making it the largest linguistic group in the world.

Recently, China has spread its economic and business interests beyond its geographical borders and, in a world riddled with economic crises, China seems to be coming out on top.

The Chinese are also expanding rapidly into the African continent through government funding for construction and other schemes.

Source: Renaissance Capital

Although Chinese workers in Africa are generally housed in compounds away from local populations, their increasing involvement in Africa is likely to influence the cultures and economies there and Mandarin Chinese will become even more widespread across the globe.

Investing in Mandarin language training courses for your employees can open doors to one of the most powerful countries of the present – and the future.

Are we witnessing a critical moment in linguistic history?

This is the first time we actually have a language spoken genuinely globally by every country in the world

Although there are other languages such as Spanish and Mandarin Chinese which at times appear to be major contenders for the business lingua franca, there are many who believe that English, as the world’s lingua franca, is here for the long run and that we might even be witnessing a critical moment in linguistic history.

Which language to learn for many will be – English! The linguist David Crystal states ‘This is the first time we actually have a language spoken genuinely globally by every country in the world’.

The long term bet – Spanish and Mandarin 

Investing in Spanish language training or Mandarin language training courses will open international doors

Despite this viewpoint, perceptive business leaders around the world know that investing in Spanish or Mandarin Chinese will open international doors and help organisations to gain a significant competitive edge, especially in these difficult financial times. This edge will undoubtedly benefit your global organisation both today and in the future.

So next time you ask yourself the question – “which language to learn”? Perhaps the question should be “Should I learn Spanish or Mandarin first”?



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