Would you learn German in exchange for $128,000? What about French for $77,000? Or Spanish for $51,000? In this article, we'll share some data that explain the benefits of multilingualism for your career.
Multilingualism Leads to Earning More
According to MIT Economist Albert Saiz, bilingual employees enjoy a premium that accumulates over the lifetime of their careers. Salary.com places that premium differential at 5 to 20 percent per hour more than monolingual colleagues.
A Korn/Ferry International poll reports that 31% of executives speak two languages. An additional 20% percent speak three languages, 9% speak four languages, and as many as 4% speak more than four languages.
How is Multilingualism Good for Your Business?
Multilingualism isn’t just great for your career as an individual though. If you’re a business owner, hiring multilingual employees has far reaching benefits.
Today with an internet presence, almost every business is global, and it is easier and easier every year as so many more business solutions become available to help smaller businesses get up and running online. With an internet presence, a business is truly global with the potential to service customers anywhere in the world.
This is where multilingual employees shine.
Not only can they help liaising management (translation and interpreting), but multilingual individuals are in high demand in areas such as marketing, advertising, customer service solutions, localization of the company's image, etc. Your multilingual experiences bring a wealth of knowledge about cultural norms and practices from around the world. In addition, this enables you to build more objective perspectives into your own native language or the language of the majority through. This objectivity is a lens that enables you to identify insensitive rhetoric or the blindspots of monolinguals.
Learning a language, after all, isn’t just memorizing vocabulary and grammar patterns, it means immersing yourself in a new culture. Becoming multilingual and being more objective about cultural norms means you provide localization not just as a verbatim translation, but you're able to localize deeply in addressing the psychology and concerns of another culture.
There are additional skills that multilinguals bring to the workplace that make them model employees, regardless of the language they speak. To illustrate the points above, here are some interesting insights published by researchers in this area:
“Bilingual Brains Better Equipped to Process Information”, a study out of Northwestern University, found that bilinguals are better information processors than monolinguals.
A study from Penn State “Juggling Languages Can Build Better Brains” showed that the way bilinguals can easily slip in and out of both languages relates directly to enhanced multi-tasking skills and prioritization.
NCBI’s journal Cerebrum featured an article “The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual” that showed bilinguals are often better at conflict management.
“’Piensa’ Twice: On the Foreign Language Effect in Decision Making” published by Cognition, found that knowing a foreign language reduces personal biases in decision making
What Languages Should I Learn? 10 Most Important Languages for Business
Let’s take a look first at the ten most important languages for business.
English is everywhere. 20% of the population of Earth (about 1.5 billion people) speak English. It is the language of business, tourism, and academia around the world. If English is your native language, it is important to be aware that when speaking globally the slang and cultural references used in your local variety of English may not always be understood universally. It's equally important to become aware how to code-switch between global English and your own home English or national English. In other words, we should all strive to become multilingual with our use of English.
Check out our interview with Ariel Koren to get her perspective on multilingualism:
If the 1.4 billion speakers of Chinese don’t convince you, the ever-expanding economic dominance of China should. China has seen huge growth in the last 4 decades and, if trends continue, is projected to grow to double the US economy by 2050 as the world's largest. The huge Chinese diaspora communities and incredible tourism segment also add to the appeal. Today, more than ever, even just a smattering of Chinese ability will be of high interest to any employer in the US or Europe. Not to mention that Chinese is quickly becoming one of the most popular languages learned in southeast Asian and African countries.
Chinese is a tonal language, and its written system has two versions, traditional and simplified. Don't let its pronunciation or writing discourage you. You can easily have conversations in Chinese with just a few hundred key vocabulary words that is very similar to English word order, without any inflection of verb tenses or nouns. You can change verb nuances by easily adding a few common adverbs into the sentence. Chinese characters are much more easily remembered through visual recognition than by writing them, and most people rely on technology to spell characters out as pronounced and letting the system automatically convert to characters. There are few barriers holding you back from reaching a good level in Chinese today.
⭐️ On Glossika you can choose to learn Chinese by just listening and speaking, or completely through romanization. If you're a hard-core learner, then Glossika will indulge you with characters galore. Either way, you're bound to become very good at recognizing characters and speaking full sentences right from the beginning. You can try out Glossika's Chinese course for free by signing up for an account: Chinese (Beijing, Simplified) | Chinese (Taiwan, Traditional)
The official language of 21 countries with more than 572 million speakers (according to the Cervantes Institute), Spanish is definitely an opportunity-rich language. And don’t forget, the second-largest Spanish speaking country in the world? The United States is where your Spanish is definitely sure to give you an advantage in career opportunities. If you’re planning to do business in the Western Hemisphere, this is the language for you.
There are quite a lot of learning materials online, but one of the biggest issues is that most of them focus on grammar, spelling and reading. Glossika's approach is different: it gives you structured learning content with high-quality audio files allowing you to focus more on communicating in full sentences with all the grammar intact rather than the grammar being the point of focus.
Even though a majority of Germans can hold a conversation in English (56% according to an EU study), learning German is still a great option. After all, learning a language is not always about simple communication, it’s about connections. And with Germany being the most populous country in the EU with a strong and stable economy of over 2.4 trillion Euros, there’s plenty of connections to be made. If you're looking for a higher return on your educational investment, you may want to consider getting that science, engineering, or even vocational degree in Germany, which takes less time and money than in the U.S. and gives you access to European work opportunities. And don’t forget that German has influence beyond just where it is a national language: you'll find use of your German in economic powerhouses like Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Czechia, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and even in parts of Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, and Romania.
⭐️ Give Glossika's German course a try! Simply sign up for an account and enjoy 7-day free access with unlimited practice.
Speaking Portuguese opens up opportunities in three incredible markets: Europe, South America, and Africa. Brazil in particular, being the largest economy in South America and the 8th largest in the world, is a great prospect for business opportunities. Brazil is a huge consumer of online media and online purchasing, is actively engaged in developing new technologies, and has a vast workforce who wants to engage with advanced economies.
Portuguese has two main dialects that differ mostly in just accent. You'll find Portuguese easy to learn if you already know Spanish since much of the vocabulary and grammar is similar, but we've heard that it's harder than if you already knew Portuguese first because picking up Spanish later can happen with little or no effort. Many of the hurdles is just getting used to the pronunciation as Spanish never pronounces 't' or 'd' like 'tch' or 'dj' nor does it have any nasal vowels whereas Portuguese does.
If you plan to be able to communicate with all of South America, we recommend learning Portuguese before Spanish. It may be a little bit more challenging, but it will pay off greater in the long run.
Arabic is one of the top 5 most spoken languages in the world and it’s spoken all throughout northern Africa into the Middle East. It’s not only huge geographically, it’s also the fastest growing language on the internet. If your interests take you into business, politics, or religion, then Arabic could definitely be the way to go.
Since Arabic is an old language spoken across many countries, it is not like Spanish which is a much younger language. Arabic has already changed into many different modern varieties so that Middle Easterners can't understand what Moroccans are saying. If you want to learn Arabic for fun and for making acquaintances, then we recommend learning one of the regional varieties like Moroccan or Egyptian. But if you want to learn Arabic for professional use, such as in business, politics, or religion, you're better off training in the Modern Standard language which is considered acceptable and formal across all Arabic-speaking countries. You'll just need to prepare yourself to understand different dialects and how people respond in their own accented version of standard. You'll find not everybody can pronounce standard Arabic properly, especially emphatic letters, or specific letters like 'j' or 'th' or 'q'. But it's not hard to learn to understand what people mean in context when you listen to whole sentences.
Arabic has a reputation for being hard when it really shouldn't be. With the right amount of exposure, everything starts to make sense. The grammar is much simpler when compared to various European languages. Perhaps its writing system creates a barrier in your mind. But if you approach Arabic and respect its beauty, you'll find at its core vocabulary-generating system, an amazing way to build up your vocabulary systematically and understanding of the world due to how words are connected to each other through the same roots. The sounds and the interweaving of the vowels drive a wealth of nuance in meaning. These things are just not apparent in languages like English, so you gain a much deeper understanding of humanity, thought, and spirit, through learning Arabic.
If you're still unsure whether you should learn Standard Arabic or a dialect, why not check out our article: Learn Modern Standard Arabic or Egyptian Arabic?
Only two languages are spoken on all 5 continents: English and French. Due to the history of French as a language of international commerce, diplomacy, and academia, French speakers can be found around the globe. French is the second most studied language in the world and is the second most spoken language in the EU. After Brexit, we're sure that French will continue to grow in influence and prestige in Europe.
As one of the major languages of the Romance branch of languages, we're sure you've made up your mind and there's very little we need to say to convince you in learning French!
⭐️French is the most popular language on Glossika! If you are interested in learning French, be sure to try it out!
At the cutting edge of science and technology, Japan has been one of Asia’s strongest economies for decades. The second largest investor in research and development, Japan provides many opportunities for business-minded bilinguals. Add to that Japan’s global cultural reach, and you have countless reasons to study Japanese.
Japanese belongs to its own language family: Japonic. It is apparent that structurally and grammatically, extremely similar to Korean. The hardest thing about either of these languages is simply wrapping your mind around the word order, where it seems a lot of things just feel backwards from English. So if you want to learn an Asian language more similar to English word order, stick with Chinese.
Part of the reason why Japanese is in its own language family is because its vocabulary is quite unique. What we can call truly Japanese vocabulary only makes up a small portion of the language as it has imported many influences over the centuries. Most apparent to everybody is its use of Chinese characters, called kanji, and perhaps less apparent is its important of so many words from English and a few other languages. Japanese writes these three kinds of vocabulary in different scripts making it easy to identify the history of a word, but also making reading and writing just that more difficult.
⭐️Is it possible to learn Japanese without learning the writing system? Sure, you can do it either way with Glossika's hands-free audio training! Try Glossika's Japanese course for free by signing up for an account: Learn to Speak Japanese
Spoken in the largest country in the world, as well as a majority of the former Soviet republics, Russian speakers will never run out of people to talk to. And not just in person, where it’s the 8th most spoken language in the world, but online too. Russian-language content is the second most common for website content.
Like many other languages on this list, Russian has a reputation for being one of the hardest out there. But the fact is, a language is not hard just because of its grammar or vocabulary. If a lot of people speak it, a lot of foreigners learn it, and there are tons of resources for learning it, then how hard could it really be? I can think of 6000 other languages that don't have resources and rank as much harder to learn. The fact is, you make it as hard as you want it to be. If you're in love with Russian, then you need to make your relationship last, and that takes a little bit of care and attention on a daily basis. All that attention will reward you with fluency.
How much harder are we talking about? It's true that you have masculine, feminine, and neuter genders. But frankly, the last letter of (almost) every word gives away the gender. You've heard verbs conjugate in a million ways, but frankly, there are fewer verb tenses than Spanish or French. There are no compound tenses, instead you switch a vowel in the root to get the equivalent. You've heard that nouns decline in six grammatical cases, sure, but no need to memorize all of them because most nouns statistically only use two or three, and once you know three common cases for a few nouns and three common cases for other nouns, you can pretty much deduce all of the variations for all nouns. Memorizing those tables will slow you down more then just learning how to use the cases in pre-prepared sentences like you get on Glossika. And if you want to sound at least half intelligent in Russian, pay better attention to your pronunciation and stress! Get our free download guides to Russian here!
⭐️ It's possible to learn how to speak Russian with or without knowledge of the alphabet on Glossika. Try Glossika's Russian course for free by signing up for an account: Learn to Speak Russian
Learning Hindi gives you access to countless business opportunities. The 10th most spoken language in the world, climbing rapidly in the top 100 hundred online languages, and mutually intelligible with Pakistan's Urdu (combined with Urdu the language can be called Hindustani). India is expected to become a major economic juggernaut in the next couple decades and your knowledge of at least one of, if not the most important, regional language, will give you lots of career opportunities as businesses seek to gain more acceptance into the market. ('Juggernaut' comes from Odia, a language similar to Hindi, spoken on the east side of India.)
Be aware that Hindi is not the native language of all Indians, nor do all Indians like to be spoken to in Hindi. It's important to be culturally sensitive to how locals feel. Sometimes an accent and other visual cues can give away someone's region of origin once you gain experience with this. The southern "triangle" part of India is almost completely occupied by languages of another language family, Dravidian, also home to the tech hubs of India, and known for disliking use of Hindi. You're better off speaking English or learning one of the Dravidian languages which we're working on rolling out on Glossika soon.
Likewise, in Pakistan, despite being politically designated as the national language, Urdu merely serves as a lingua franca and is not the native language used in most homes for the majority of the country, and it seems now that English is gaining more and more support as a lingua franca.
⭐️ Try Glossika's Hindi course for free by signing up for an account: Learn to Speak Hindi
And don’t forget, the most important language to learn is the one that will help you further your goals. Often times, that can mean a smaller regional language that is off the popular track of most language learners.
Take Swahili for example.
Swahili is by no means small. It's a massive well-understood regional language for all of East Africa covering several countries. Even though it never makes the list of most important languages to learn for business, and rarely at the top of people’s lists of languages they’d love to learn, but yet Rwanda is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies. The regions surrounding Rwanda are also experiencing population booms unheard of in recent history.
Often labeled the “Singapore of Africa” Rwanda has had annual GDP growth of between 6-8% since 2001. It is a wonderland for entrepreneurs with a 48-hour turnaround time for business licenses, with technology initiatives like Smart Kigali and partnerships with Korea Telecom providing free internet access to all citizens. If not already, Rwanda will soon be the tech hub of Africa.
If you've ever wished that you were born a few decades earlier to get in on the new businesses that were started then that have now grown big, then maybe this is a place seriously consider as they go through the same transformations. Now imagine that you become bilingual in Swahili. You could be at the forefront of this new economic and technological push.
You can get started with any language, big or small, on Glossika without limit to what you choose. If one language doesn't suit you, try another, but at least stick to reaching 10,000 reps where a lot of the magic starts to happen as your ears understand more and more. And ideally, you should be doing at least 10,000 reps every month.
With this approach, you can start speaking a new language in a few months. Focus on sentence patterns, and spend more time on listening to the native recordings. This is probably the most cost-effective approach. Start planning and act on it!