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Which Languages Should You Learn for International Business?

May 2023

Language ,

Does international business hold big interest for you? You might not know it yet but languages will play a huge part in that.

All the online translation tools in the world won’t help you pull off the all-important pitch in person, no matter how many business buzzwords you translate. Learning languages is a time investment, for sure. However, it will pay you dividends if you learn a little of the languages most relevant to your field.

English is arguably the most important language (at the moment) for international business, but just speaking English alone won’t cut it in the international business world.

Ultimately, the language you choose to learn will depend on your individual circumstances. However, we’ve picked out a few major languages to consider learning if you aspire to make it big in international business.


10 Languages for International Business


international business which languages 2018


Mandarin or Cantonese

Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in China, with Cantonese coming in second. However, Mandarin is also considered one of the hardest languages for native English-speakers to learn. Whilst that makes it a big challenge, it also means that those who have learned Mandarin will really stand apart from the crowd.

Cantonese is spoken in Canton, Hong Kong, and often in overseas Chinese communities. Cantonese is harder to learn in comparison to Mandarin, with differences in tone, pitch and writing style – but still incredible beneficial to learn.

China is the second-largest economy globally, with the biggest population in the world . If you plan for your business aspirations to take you there, then now is the time to start practicing your Mandarin or Cantonese!


Japan is known, loved and appreciated as being one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. Therefore if you’re technologically minded or have a business that you feel would excel within Japan’s economy, Japanese is certainly worth learning.

Additionally, out with a business setting knowing Japanese can be extremely extremely beneficial, as you can fully emerge yourself in their rich, artistic culture.


South Korea is steadily becoming one of the strongest, and most established economies in the world for trade and exports. This makes it a hot bed for international business opportunities.

Its ideal geographical location is also a key point to learning Korean for business! But keep in mind that features in our Hardest Languages to Learn for English Speakers piece alongside the previous two languages. So to find out just how tricky it will be to learn Chinese, Japanese or Korean we suggest reading this first.


As one of the biggest manufacturing economies in Europe, Italian is well worth learning for those who are looking to expand their horizons within the international business world.

As one of the Romance Languages, Italian is deep rooted in Latin origins, much like Spanish, Portuguese and French. So if you already know a little of one of these or are fluent, picking up the other’s will be a breeze, meaning you can expand your international horizons even further.


Is your business plan pitching to millenials? Then you might want to consider learning Portuguese for your global expansion. Brazil has one of the youngest populations: 62% of Brazilians are younger than 29 years old. In fact, before you jet off to Brazil for that big pitch, we suggest exploring some common Brazilian phrases that are sure to help you out.

Learning Portuguese would set you up for business in Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe. Macau in China also considers Portuguese an official language, so it could take you further than you’d think!


Germany has one of the most stable economies at the moment. It is also a relatively easy language for English-speakers to learn. It has the same alphabet and is pronounced in a way that makes sense to Anglophones.

German is the most widely-spoken mother tongue in Europe, so brushing up could be the recipe for success in those international pitches.


They may not be one of the biggest European economies, but, the Dutch are known for being one of the earliest adopters of new technologies and innovative ways of working. So, on the topic of international business, knowing Dutch is certainly going to be beneficial.

The Dutch market is appreciated as being one of the best test markets in the world for testing new products


On the outside, Russia may appear to be closed minded and shut off from the rest of the world. But as a resource rich country, they have always been big on international trade and business.

With nearly 260 million speakers worldwide, Russian would certainly be a good language to pull out your back pocket in the world of international business.


Arabic is the fastest growing language on the internet by a long shot – its use has increased by 2500% in the last ten years.

The online marketplace is vast, and whilst online translators might get you so far, taking the time to learn Arabic will also result in a better understanding of other cultures and target markets who speak Arabic. It is predicted to be one of the most widely spoken languages in 2050, so a little practice now will pay off in the long run!


India has English and Hindi as its official languages, and it is another continuously growing economy. With the second biggest population globally, knowing Hindi would put you in conversation with an eighth of the world.

Indians speak several languages, depending on the region, although Hindi is the official language. An understanding of both English and Hindi would be an excellent advantage to have when going into business with Indian companies.

We narrowed it down to just ten, but there are several other countries to explore. Which languages are you learning for international business at the moment? Let us know in the comments!

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