Economically Key Countries and the Languages That Go With Them

There are probably as many reasons to want to learn a second language as there are second languages to learn. I personally focus more on the humanistic aspect of language-learning, and have studied languages in the past so I can appreciate art and literature better, so I can have more options to converse with people than English, and also just for the fun of it. While I’m aware of the fact that knowing Spanish will lead to better job opportunities, that’s just a perk, not a primary motivator. However, for more pragmatically-minded people, the economic side of language-learning is a key factor in their choosing which language to learn.

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Knowing a second language can give you a great advantage in the workforce.

The main way of gauging whether a language will reap business opportunities in the near future is to look at countries that have had a steady GDP growth of at least 5% in the past year. While Europe and the United States have been struggling with the recent economic crisis, countries like China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Iraq have been quite successful. In the west, Venezuela, Chile, and Peru have seen similar GDP growth, while in Africa, Nigera, Angola, and Libya have progressed in terms of economy and infrastructure.
In light of these countries which will soon, if not already, be acknowledged as key players in the world economy, China is the most obvious contender for dominance in the global market. With 848 million speakers, Mandarin Chinese has been a favorite second language in the business world for many years now, serving as the primary language in China, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Singapore. However, for the student wishing to learn something more alternative, China is a large country with many different dialects that the west needs interpreters for, such as Sichuanese, Cantonese, and Min Nan.

Knowledge of Chinese languages is rapidly gaining importance in the west.

Knowledge of Chinese languages is rapidly gaining importance in the west.

In dealings with South America—primarily Venezuela, Peru, and Chile, but other countries are developing quickly as well—knowledge of Spanish will provide business and diplomacy opportunities in nine countries. Even in the United States, where more than one-tenth of the population speaks Spanish, people fluent in both Spanish and English will find themselves highly recommended for jobs in all fields, with that much more of an edge over competitors. Cosmopolitan cities like New York and areas in the southwest of the country will be particularly glad to hire a Spanish-speaker.
India is also a country that has seen tremendous economic growth in the past decade, and while its primary language is Hindi, other key languages include Urdu, Telugu, Marathi, and Tamil. While India is certainly a strong player in the world economy, there are also large Indian immigrant populations in many western countries, making knowledge of any of these languages a useful asset anywhere. And, of course, given the difficult relations the United States has had with the Middle East, the scarcity of Arabic offered in conventional language education, and the huge amount of wealth and new businesses concentrated in countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, speakers of standard Arabic are highly in demand. It’s the first language of 206 million people, and translators or interpreters in this area are invaluable.
While there are many reasons to take into account when you set out to learn a language, career-advancement possibilities are certainly at the top of the list. Do you have experience finding a job or working with any of these languages?