Best, Most Useful Languages to Learn for Business (2023) 

The demand for diverse language skills grows in today’s increasingly globalized and multicultural business landscape. Learning a foreign language can significantly enhance professional opportunities and help stay ahead of the competition in both new markets and job opportunities.

According to a study by Economic Mobility Corp, U.S. residents who participated in an employment-focused English class increased their earnings by an average of more than $7,100 annually 2 years after the start of the program. However, it’s not just about English. In Canada, multilingual immigrants earn 10-12% more. And according to a 2019 survey conducted by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), 9 out of 10 employers rely on employees who can speak languages other than English. As the need for bilingualism increases in the corporate world, we’ll explore the top languages that offer the greatest value for business owners, employees, entrepreneurs, and students.

Why invest in learning a language for business?


1. Enhancing DEIA

If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, offering language programs allows staff to immerse themselves in a new language and culture. As more staff can connect and communicate with colleagues from diverse linguistic backgrounds, this helps to break down cultural barriers, creating a more inclusive and culturally-sensitive workplace. If you’re an employee, it is worth mentioning this to your company. A language program is an excellent DEI strategy for a company. 

2. Entering new high-potential markets

Mastering a language spoken in an emerging market ensures you can communicate with the leaders of new markets and facilitate market entry. It also allows for a better understanding of local consumer preferences and business customs. This is applicable for both someone who is growing a business, as well as an individual hoping to jump into new opportunities before competitors. 

3. Improved communication skills

When it comes to learning a new language, it isn’t just about vocabulary words and sentence structure, especially in Romance languages or a language like ASL, where facial expressions are a big part of the language. Understanding tone, cultural relevance, and colloquialisms enhance how you communicate with others. You’re learning empathy and perspective. There are so many ways to say one thing in a language, but which one will convey your intentions the best? 

4. Understanding cultural differences

Language and culture are intertwined. By learning a language, you gain insight into cultural nuances, norms, and customs, enabling you to navigate cross-cultural interactions with respect and sensitivity. As an example, most linguists probably know about the famous Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which states that the limit and structure of a language determine their user’s thoughts and actions. Learning a new language can help form a new mindset and bring about a fresh perspective.


Businesses are increasingly operating on a global scale. The ability to engage with international markets and communicate effectively with customers from different backgrounds has become paramount. According to a report published by the New American Economy, the demand for multilingual workers more than doubled from 2010 to 2015.

More specifically, the demand for bilingual employees who speak Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic has increased, particularly in the finance, healthcare, legal services, and customer service sectors. Due to these demands, language learning is becoming one of the fastest growing markets in the U.S. In 2021, the language learning market was valued at $59.60 billion and is expected to reach $191.06 billion by 2028 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.3% over the forecast period. The demand for multilingualism is increasing more than ever, at a steep positive trend.

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Return-On-Investment (ROI)

Learning a language for business has a direct impact on profitability. Companies with multilingual employees often experience improved customer satisfaction, increased sales in foreign markets, and enhanced brand reputation. According to a study by Common Sense Advisory, 72.4% of online consumers are more likely to purchase products with information in their language. In fact, 30% of respondents said they never buy on English-language sites and another 29% rarely do. Language skills enable businesses to penetrate new markets more effectively, negotiate better deals, and build lasting relationships with international partners.

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Most Useful Languages to Learn for Business in 2023 & Beyond

1. Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese is the most spoken language globally, with 1.28 billion people, and the official language of the world’s largest consumer market. From 2022 to 2030, S&P expects China to grow at a rate of 4.4%, and as China’s economic influence continues to rise, proficiency in Mandarin becomes a valuable asset for any business. Difficulty-wise, Mandarin Chinese poses challenges due to its tonal nature and complex writing system. However, numerous resources and language programs are available to support learners.

2. Spanish

Spanish is the second most spoken language globally and is widely used in international business. It grants access to vibrant markets in Spain, Latin America, and the United States. It’s projected to continue growing as a global language due to population growth and increasing economic importance in Latin American countries. From 2010 to 2020, research showed a 30% global increase in Spanish speakers worldwide. English and Spanish share many linguistic similarities, making it a common choice for English speakers to pick up as a second language.

3. Arabic

Arabic is the official language of numerous countries and an essential language in the Middle East and North Africa. Proficiency in Arabic provides a competitive edge in the energy, finance, and international relations industries. The importance of Arabic is growing as businesses expand into the Middle East and North Africa and as international organizations engage with the region. It has also become the eighth most taught language in U.S. universities, and according to surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau, it is the fastest-growing language in the U.S. Arabic poses challenges due to its unique alphabet and complex grammar, but dedicated learning efforts can lead to proficiency.

4. German

Germany is a powerhouse in the global economy, known for its engineering, technology, and manufacturing sectors. Proficiency in German can unlock business opportunities in Europe’s largest economy. By research, 1 in 10 books worldwide are in German, the second-most commonly used language (after English) in science. Germany’s economic stability and innovation-driven industries continue to attract international business, creating a demand for German-speaking professionals. Difficulty-wise, English and German share linguistic similarities making it moderately easy for English speakers to grasp.

5. French

French is spoken on multiple continents and is the official language of international organizations. Proficiency in French facilitates business connections in diverse industries, including fashion, arts, and diplomacy. While the growth rate of French-speaking countries is moderate, the language remains influential in business and cultural contexts. Difficulty-wise, English and French share many words and grammatical structures, making learning more straightforward for English speakers.

6. Japanese

Japan is a significant player in the technology, automotive, and finance industries. Proficiency in Japanese strengthens business relationships and enables a better understanding of Japanese corporate culture and etiquette. Japanese language skills are in demand due to significant economic contributions and the global popularity of Japanese pop culture. They are also great innovators: each year, around 420,000 patent applications are filed by Japanese inventors. Difficulty-wise, Japanese presents challenges due to its complex writing systems and honorific language. However, dedicated learning efforts will lead to proficiency.

7. Portuguese

Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, a rapidly growing market. Proficiency in Portuguese opens opportunities in the energy, agriculture, and tourism sectors. Brazil’s economic potential and its position as a regional leader in South America contribute to the increasing importance of Portuguese in business—Difficulty-wise, English and Portuguese share some similarities, easing the learning process for English speakers.

8. Russian

Russia boasts abundant natural resources and offers energy, technology, and aerospace opportunities. Proficiency in Russian creates valuable business relationships in this vast market. The evolving economic landscape and its presence in global affairs make Russian language skills an asset for international business. When learning Russian, there are challenges due to its Cyrillic alphabet and complex grammar. However, proficiency is within reach for those determined to learn.

9. Korean

South Korea is known for its technological advancements and globally-recognized brands. Proficiency in Korean can provide an edge in the electronics, automotive, and entertainment industries. South Korea’s economic influence continues to grow, creating opportunities for those with Korean language skills. Difficulty-wise, Korean has a unique writing system and grammar structure, requiring commitment and practice to become proficient.

10. Hindi

India is a rapidly expanding market with diverse industries, including technology, manufacturing, and services. Proficiency in Hindi can facilitate business interactions and negotiations in this dynamic economy. India’s economic growth and increasing presence on the global stage contribute to the importance of Hindi in business. Difficulty-wise, Hindi shares some vocabulary and linguistic features with English, making it within reach for English speakers to learn.


Learning a foreign language can provide a significant competitive advantage in the business world as the world becomes more interconnected, from improved DEIA to business expansion to high rates of return on investment as companies tap into the global market. Investing in language learning for business allows you to position yourself and your organization for success in an increasingly interconnected and multicultural world. As said by Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” Embrace the power of language, expand your horizons, and seize the opportunities that await in the global marketplace.

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Irma Cedeno



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