Thanks to our increasingly global economy, foreign language skills are not only an incredible asset in obtaining a job, but may even be deemed a necessity in certain fields. Countless sources constantly debate about which are the best and most valuable languages to learn. Some languages are valuable because they are difficult to learn and the scarcity of fluent secondary speakers makes them particularly valuable. Other languages are fueled by an especially strong connection to a certain booming industry. Still, others are simply very widely spoken making them carry weight across a large audience.
With so many beneficial tongues to choose from, the real question is which should you pick? And where should you go? (After all, not all language destinations are created equal—you should pick one of the best). Language learning is a lot of work, so you may as well choose a language and a destination that will love you back! Here are the best foreign language to learn for jobs.
A Word to the Wise: Immersion
Before jumping right in, we need to take a moment to first mention the benefits of direct immersion on language learning, like at international language schools. Immersion has an earned reputation as arguably the most useful tool in language acquisition. Being fully immersed in your chosen language will create an increased motivation to learn, a sense of familiarity, plenty of opportunities to practice, practice, practice, and a more dynamic experience.
Therefore, unsurprisingly, the best place to learn a foreign language will be anywhere it is natively spoken.
Plus, if you are at all considering relocating your career to another country, or chasing after a given position, consider choosing your language and location to reflect your goals. Not only is it beneficial for immersion purposes, but studying in a relevant country will likewise offer the opportunity to build a network to aid in your job search and acquisition.
Optimize Your Language Learning
Luckily, amid all the varying opinions and research, the following five make up the consistent handful of languages that repeatedly top lists compiling those deemed most beneficial. So there is no doubt that learning any of the following five languages will boost your shot at getting HIRED.
Congratulations, if you are reading this, you already possess the nearly undisputed #1 most useful language for getting hired, English. Although English is a solid third-place-holder when it comes to native speakers - not even coming close to the forerunner, Chinese - it stands firmly in first place when it comes to the total number of speakers worldwide, roughly 1,500 million. The vast number of speakers and number of countries in which it is spoken help to make English the most widely used international language in business, tourism, and academia, and essential in connecting countless other areas of expertise across the globe.
Additionally, Dutch sociologist Abraam de Swaan classified English as one of 12 “supercentral languages” which are calculated according to how widely spoken a language is and how effectively it can serve as a link to other languages. While all five of our top languages for getting hired fall under de Swaan’s “supercentral language” list, English was furthermore dubbed the only “hypercentral language” that bonds all supercentral languages.
Unfortunately, despite its widespread use, being a monolingual English speaker simply won’t cut it when it comes to getting hired. With so many non-native English speakers out there, acquiring a second tongue is a near necessity just to measure up to the competition. So, if English is the only language you speak and/or you want to significantly increase your chances of getting hired, consider learning any of the following four most influential languages to add to your repertoire.
Top Places to Learn English Abroad: For a full English immersion experience, consider Australia, England, or the U.S. For more budget-minded folks, South Africa is a great option too. Be conscious, however, about how your chosen location will influence the accent with which the language is commonly spoken.
2. Mandarin Chinese
Mandarin is one of five major Chinese dialects, the official language of China and Taiwan, and boasts the second-highest number of total speakers worldwide. Since China is the world’s second largest economy, Chinese has been dubbed the single most important language for business, excluding English. Possessing Mandarin language abilities will not only open doors throughout Asia, but Chinese is actually required for more jobs than any other foreign language besides Spanish.
Despite its undeniable value, Chinese is only the seventh most studied language by American undergraduates, according to the Bloomberg Rankings. It is not that surprising, then, to find out that Chinese is also considered to be one of the most difficult languages for native English-speakers to learn. So while one should be prepared to put in the miles that learning Mandarin requires, it also promises to prove an impressive and unique skillset sure to catch employers’ attention.
Due to its overwhelming influence and use, yet scarcity among students, Chinese language abilities will not fail to set you apart from and far above competing job candidates.
Top Places to Learn Mandarin Abroad: The vast majority of Mandarin-language learning opportunities are found, obviously, in China. As a result of Chinese emigration, however, Taiwan is also home to a large number of Mandarin speakers and offers another option for language learning; although the majority of the population speaks Taiwanese Hokkien.
Germany makes up Europe’s largest economy, is the second largest exporter of British goods, but German is the official language of two additional economic European powerhouse nations. Therefore, there isn’t a much better choice for those entering the worlds of international trade and investment than German. Not to mention the longstanding reputation for scientific and technological influence that German-speaking countries hold.
Though it is the only one on this list not an official U.N. language, German does have the highest median U.S. salary for jobs that require its language ability. So while learning German is generally more difficult than most other European languages, those aiming to break into the western world of work won’t find a much better edge in getting hired than adding German to their resume.
Top Places to Learn German Abroad: Germany will offer the purest accent to German-language learners, though that of an Austrian is not far off (though the Germans may beg to differ) and any difference can be tough to discern by non-native speakers. Switzerland also technically qualifies as a native-German-speaking country, though German is only one of four official tongues.
French has a long and influential history. Previously the world-dominating language (until bypassed by English) and the official language of the U.N., NATO, and the Olympic Committee, French is currently spoken in over 40 countries, including several rapidly-developing African economies. The French language is definitely not going anywhere, so Bloomberg alots it the second place spot, after Mandarin, on his list of useful languages for business (which excludes English). The most common professional positions with a demand for French language abilities include: service, sales, and education positions.
For those panicked at the prospect of studying the previous two rewarding yet especially challenging tongues, take heart! French is considered somewhat similar to English making it much easier to learn for those that can already understand this (English) article, and remains a favorite among American college students as the second most-studied foreign language.
Top Places to Learn French Abroad: Aspiring French teachers may most benefit from learning French directly in France. There are, however, countries accounting for several different continents to choose from when seeking a native-speaking spot to learn the language of love, including Canada and various African countries.
Spanish is the fourth most spoken language by both native and non-native speakers worldwide and is the leading language of all Latin American economies. Therefore, it is a suitable choice for both international and domestic jobs on numerous continents. It is especially beneficial as a second language for those looking to hold jobs in the U.S. as evidenced by its standings as the language most-studied by U.S. undergraduate students and most in-demand by U.S. employers.
Despite its obvious usefulness and relative ease to learn, Spanish comes in last place on our list of top languages that will get you HIRED largely because it is already so common, making it more of a perk and less of a wow-factor to potential employers, and also because jobs requiring Spanish have the lowest median salary when compared to jobs requiring the other languages on the list. However, many fields do require Spanish language abilities in order to even qualify, so if you plan on pursuing a career in healthcare, banking, or retail, learning Spanish may just prove the tipping point in getting yourself hired!
Top Places to Learn Spanish Abroad: Spanish enthusiasts must likewise decide between multiple areas of the globe. Professionals desiring to spend time in the EU may opt for Spain, while those preferring a more laid back vibe will enjoy Mexico, Guatemala, or several of the other Spanish-speaking Central and South American countries.
BONUS: Language Alternatives to Get You $$$
While they didn’t make our cut of the top-five, Arabic, Japanese, and Portuguese, consistently make up the remaining familiar faces frequenting myriad useful language lists. So if you have your heart set on one of these three alternatives, don’t feel compelled to disregard them just yet; unless you find obvious evidence that another higher-ranking tongue will prove more beneficial in your chosen field.
When it Comes to Learning Foreign Languages, Don’t Forget...
The tricky part with language learning is keeping it up once you no longer have the excuse to use it everyday. Upon your return home, don’t forget to continue to practice your newly acquired skills regularly during your period of job-seeking limbo. You don’t want to miss an opportunity or waste the first few weeks at your foreign-language focused position because you are shaking off the rust!
Each of these languages are incredibly influential worldwide and all will undoubtedly increase your chances of getting HIRED. However, it is still worth noting that what makes a given language important will likely in turn influence which is the most valuable for you personally. So choose a language you are not only excited to learn and fall in love with, but one that will in turn love you back by landing you your dream job!