Top 10 languages for business growth

Posted: 11 Sep 2023

The benefits of going beyond English

In today’s world, business is truly international. While English may retain the top spot, knowing other important international business languages can open doors to new markets, contacts and opportunities. Considering the number of native speakers, world economies and key industries, we’ve listed the ten best languages to learn for business overseas. Some may be obvious choices, but others may surprise you.

Best International Business Languages

1. Mandarin

Rated the top language for business after English, Mandarin is an obvious choice for international business. China has the second-largest economy in the world with a gross domestic product (GDP) value of almost 8%. While per capita income is below the world average due to its high population, the dollar value of China’s agricultural and industrial output is second only to the US in the value of services it produces.


With 1.118 billion native speakers in China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, the huge potential of Mandarin as an international business language is well-known. Learning the language is sure to create stronger relations with contacts in China as well as open business opportunities in areas outside of Beijing and Shanghai, where English is spoken less.

2. Portuguese (Brazilian)

Not as popular as Spanish but with great potential, Portuguese is a valuable language for international business. Brazil is a newly industrialised country with substantial GDP growth. Currently ranked as the 11th largest economy in the world, Brazil’s business capacity is soaring, and opportunities have only become more frequent since the 2016 Olympics.


Portuguese is also one of the best languages to learn for business in Europe. Portugal has crept up the world economy rankings to claim 50th place with a GDP of $252 billion, expected to grow by 2.4% in 2023. But remember that European Portuguese varies from Brazilian Portuguese.

3. Korean

South Korea is a great economic success story, attracting international trade and investment. Famous home-grown names like Samsung, Hyundai and LG prove that the country is ideal for the manufacturing, automotive and electronics industries. More than 150 British companies including Standard Chartered, Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley and Burberry have opted to do business in the South Korean market, which is currently the 13th largest world economy. Business opportunities are diverse since South Korea is also a major player in the beauty market as the world’s third-largest exporter of cosmetics. Korean is definitely one of the best languages to learn for business now and in the future.

4. French

There are more than 76 million French native speakers across countries including France, Belgium, Canada and Algeria. As the official language of 29 nations, French is one of the best languages to learn for business – particularly in Europe, which accounts for 40% of all Francophones.


France is placed at number 21 in Forbes’s ‘Best Countries for Business’ for its diverse economy and strong tourist market. Canada is rated even higher at number 6 thanks to its trade with the US. French has long been recognised as a truly international language, and this certainly holds up today. Don’t forget there are some differences between French and Canadian French.

5. Polish

As the only country in the European Union to avoid a recession through the 2008-09 downturn, Poland is an important international language for business in Central and Eastern Europe. Around 40 million people speak Polish as their native language, while more than a third of the population also speaks English. Poland’s geographical location in the heart of Europe, bordering prosperous countries such as Germany, the Czech Republic and Lithuania, offers great advantages for international business.


While Poland was impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s still number 22 in the world economy rankings. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Polish is the second most spoken language in England, highlighting its importance not just on the continent but here in Britain.

6. German

Germany is a leading exporter of vehicles, machinery, chemicals and household equipment, Its economy is the largest in Europe and ranked fourth in the world for GDP. While this in itself underpins the importance of German for international business, it is also spoken in other strong business countries, including Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and Luxembourg. Switzerland, ranked number 10 by Forbes’ ‘Best Countries for Business’, boasts a prosperous and modern market economy with a highly skilled labour force. The German service sector is highly developed and its manufacturing industry specialises in high-technology production. Although don’t forget there’s a difference between Swiss German and German.

7. Spanish

Spanish is an official language in Spain, Andorra and much of the Americas – including the United States territory of Puerto Rico. Around 486 million people worldwide speak Spanish, giving it the second-largest population of speakers after Mandarin. Almost 42 million people in the US speak Spanish as a first language, while 15 million people speak it as a second language.


Mexico is the world’s 14th largest economy but is set to become the 7th by 2050 if it continues to grow at its current rate. With a $1.41 trillion GDP, Mexico is a huge regional exporter and also welcomes 18 million tourists a year. Mexico’s cultural ties and physical proximity to the largest economy in the world, the US, make Spanish a language to watch – and learn!

8. Japanese

Japan is the third biggest economy in the world. It’s a technological and manufacturing powerhouse that is home to some of the world’s largest corporations including Toyota and Honda. It has a well-educated and industrious workforce known for efficiency, as well as an affluent population. Considering Japan’s business links across the globe and the relatively low percentage of the population speaking English, learning Japanese as an international business language could be a savvy career move.

Of course, the Japanese language and work culture differs from Western workplaces so you should do some research to avoid any embarrassing blunders. To learn more about doing business in Japan, take a look at our webinar Exploring business cultures and opportunities in Japan.

9. Arabic

Around 368 million (3.5%) people speak Arabic globally. Native speakers are spread across 25 countries and territories including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt and Israel. The United Arab Emirates comes in at number 32 on Forbes’ ‘Best Countries for Business’ list due to its high per capita income and sizable annual trade surplus. While Arabic is commonly considered most useful for the oil and gas industries in the Middle East, internet-based businesses are also huge in the region, making translation services essential. Known for having the biggest export markets, the region’s consumer market continues to grow, making Arabic an increasingly important international business language.

10. Turkish

Turkish may not be the first ‘business language’ that comes to mind, but the country is one of the world’s fastest-growing emerging economies. It has a young, dynamic population, a largely free-market economy and rising automotive, construction and electronics industries. While the country has recently suffered severe earthquakes, they’re expected to have less than one percentage point of impact on economic growth. Due to aggressive privatisation in basic industry, transport, banking and communication, coupled with the emergence of middle-class entrepreneurs, Turkey’s economy is expanding with GDP growth of 2.7% in 2023.

Need Help With Your International Business Language of Choice?

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