Launching a business requires hard work, organization, and the right tools in your startup belt. But one overlooked component is which language will be spoken at your company. Selecting the right common language, or lingua franca, can help employees collaborate more efficiently and increase productivity since it will make hiring, training and evaluating talent easier. More importantly, you’ll be able to connect with your customers through listening to their feedback and being able to properly market your company to them – you don’t want to have any miscommunication and offend your potential customers.
For the business world, English is the lingua franca. Not only is it the fastest growing language in the world; it’s spoken by approximately 1.75 million people on the planet and will grow to over 200 million by 2020. That would come out to every 1 in 4 people. Additionally, 69% of people who do not speak English as their mother tongue reported that it was the most important language for them to learn.
As Tsedal Neeley notes in the Harvard Business Review, “English is now the global language of business,” and that “More and more multinational companies are mandating English as the common corporate language
There are over 400 million native Spanish speakers in the world. Spanish is also the official language in 20 countries – predominantly in the Western Hemisphere, along with Spain and Equatorial Guinea. For business owners in the U.S., Spanish should be learned if you want to tap into this rapidly growing market.
With 229 million German speakers in the world, businesses should not overlook the German language. While German may not be an official U.N. language, it is the official of European economic powerhouses like Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, and Poland.
Spoken by more than 250 million people globally, as well as being the official language of one the world’s emerging economies, Russian is an important language for businesses – especially those involved in the science technical industries.
France is one of the world’s largest economies with a GDP of $2.5 trillion. France is spoken by some 130 million people living in Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia. It’s also very influential in the European Union.
Besides having around 213 million speakers, Portuguese deserves special mention since it is needed for emerging markets like Brazil.
Hindi and Bengali
These are both official languages of India, which is one of the most important economies in the world. Combined they are spoken by more than 600 million.
For those in the petroleum industry, Arabic is a necessary language to learn. It’s also the fifth most spoken on the planet with over 230 speakers.
It would be foolish to overlook the importance of Mandarin in the business world. Not only is it the most spoken language in the world with a whooping 1 billion plus speakers, it’s also the official language of the second largest market in the world China.
Japan is the third largest economy in the world; with an impressive GDP that’s expected to grow to $4.9 trillion in 2020. Japan is also spoken by approximately 130 million people.
Final Words of Advice
When selecting the language for your company, you need to take into consideration several factors that include which languages are spoken in your target market and the difficulty of learning the language. For example, if you’re based in the U.S.and don’t plan on spearing beyond the Western Hemisphere, it wouldn’t make sense to take the time and resources to learn Mandarin since it’s a difficult language to learn and isn’t spoken by customers. However, learning Spanish could be an assist. It’s relatively easy to learn and there’s a large demographic of people who speak Spanish in the Western Hemisphere.
After selecting the language that could be most beneficial for your business, you should turn to resources like language centers, tutors, free online instructional sites, movies, TV shows, and literature. The best way to learn though is by directly interacting with the people who speak the language.