5 Languages American Entrepreneurs Should Learn For International Business

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The world is changing, and the days of speaking one language are over. As I travel the world, I frequently spend time in places where locals speak English as well as several other languages. I once spoke with a girl in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia who was learning Japanese — her seventh language — just for fun. While it may present some challenges, learning another language is more than possible.

In fact, I believe any Millennial looking to be a global businessperson can benefit from speaking another language. So, how do you decide which language is best to learn for business? If you study international business trends, it is easy to figure out which languages are worthy of your time.

While people in many countries do indeed speak English (and many emerging nations are pushing their youth to learn it), many of these countries also have official or unofficial second languages other than English, which can help you broaden your horizons. Here are the five best languages to learn for international business, finding opportunities in other countries or just improving your qualify of life while living overseas:

5. Portuguese

While Portuguese may not seem like an obvious language to learn for business, it is the official language of Brazil's growing 200 million-strong population. Despite recent financial stumbles, Brazil still has a lot of promise, especially with its large domestic population.

Portuguese is also the official language in a number of African nations. When it comes to business, investing in an African country can be a smart play with high potential for long-term returns as the region develops in the coming decades. Portuguese is, of course, also the official language of Portugal, where investors can obtain a second residence through the country's Golden Residence program for offshore real estate investment.

Where in the world is Portuguese spoken?

  • In Europe: Portugal, small communities in Spain, France and Luxembourg
  • In Africa: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe
  • In the Americas: Brazil
  • In Asia: East Timor and Macau

4. Russian

While Russia isn't exactly a fast-growing economic superpower, it does have a number of wealthy oligarchs who are spending big money around the world. I have friends who have made a lot of money selling Western real estate to Russians by speaking their language and understanding how they do business.

Speaking Russian is a first step to doing that, and it's an easier language to learn than some others on this list. The Russian language is also an important second language in a decent number of emerging and frontier economies in the CIS states and Eastern Europe.

Where in the world is Russian spoken?

  • Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, breakaway regions of Georgia
  • Second language in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia, Turkmenkistan and Uzbekistan

3. Spanish

Long a popular language taught in North American schools, Spanish is the easiest language to learn on this list and is useful for any Millennial wishing to live or do business in the growing Latin world. As countries like Mexico begin to turn the corner economically, Spanish will be more useful for doing business with rising nations. Not to mention, it's a great language to learn for doing business in the US.

South American nations also offer promising markets and countries like Paraguay and Ecuador offer cheap agricultural land for those seeking business opportunities or a self-reliant lifestyle. Plus, both South and Central America offer great expat living at cheap prices.

Where in the world is Spanish spoken?

  • In Europe: Spain
  • In the Americas: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Venezuela
  • Second language in much of the United States
  • In Africa: Equatorial Guinea

2. Arabic

Arabic is the primary language of some of the world's up-and-coming nations, wealth centers and frontier markets. The Middle East is becoming a formidable player in global finance and investment, and those who can speak Arabic will have an advantage in this often insular market.

Areas like Dubai and Abu Dhabi have become emerging international financial centers, but Middle Easterners will also look to diversify their wealth outside of the region, creating opportunities for those who speak their language to tap into lucrative business deals. Beyond wealthy oil states, Arabic is also the official language of ultra-frontier markets like Iraq and much of Northern Africa. Countries like Tunisia are an example of more developed markets that speak Arabic.

Where in the world is Arabic spoken?

  • In the Middle East: Bahrain, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen
  • In Africa: Algeria, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Tunisia

1. Mandarin Chinese

It's no secret that China is the world's new dominant economy, with a growing influence in Africa to the Americas. Barely 10 million Chinese speak English, a small number when compared to the nearly 1.4 billion people in mainland China. That's why speaking Mandarin can be helpful in business.

As mentioned, the Chinese influence has expanded into Africa and beyond, and Chinese consumers are desperate for energy and other resources. This requires more communication with Chinese buyers and investors. While Chinese businessmen have been very pragmatic and have gone to great lengths to communicate in English, I believe they will be more demanding as their spending power grows. Millennials who speak their language will have a leg up on the competition.

Where in the world is Mandarin Chinese spoken?

  • Mainland China
  • Second dialect in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan

Do you agree with these best languages to learn? Why do you want to learn a second language? Is there another language you feel is important? Leave a comment below.

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