The Most Spoken vs Most Useful Languages for Business

There is no doubt that Chinese is the widest spoken language in the world and that Spanish ranks above English in the world in terms of the number of speakers. But what you might not know is that Arabic is bigger than Russian and that Javanese or Indonesian are in the top 10 most spoken languages.

Here’s the complete list

Language – approx. number of speakers

  1. Chinese – 1,197,000,000
  2. Spanish – 414,000,000
  3. English – 335,000,000
  4. Hindi – 260,000,000
  5. Arabic – 237,000,000
  6. Portuguese – 203,000,000
  7. Bengali – 193,000,000
  8. Russian – 167,000,000
  9. Japanese – 122,000,00010
  10. Javanese – 84,300,000

After reading this list though, you might be left wondering why everyone seems so keen on learning English if it is only the 3rd most spoken language in the world. Well this is for one simple but enormous reason: English is considered the number one language for international business.

Maybe it is the impact of Hollywood movies and TV series, maybe it is social media, maybe the internet itself. Whatever the reason, English has become the dominant language of business around the globe.

But that doesn’t mean it’s the only language you need for business. In fact, there are of course places where English is not going to get you very far at all. So what are the biggest languages from a business perspective? This list looks a little bit different

  1. English
  2. Mandarin
  3. French
  4. Arabic
  5. Spanish
  6. Russian
  7. Portuguese
  8. Japanese
  9. German
  10. Italian
  11. Korean
  12. Turkish

While French doesn’t even make the top ten of the most widely spoken languages, it is number 3 for business languages. Also, mainly due to Brazil and the ex-Portuguese African colonies, Portuguese also appears in the list.
The lesson from these two lists is clear: it’s not about which language MUST you learn, it is all about what languages you need for where you do business.

TalenInstituut Language Learning Tip:

Learning any new language is difficult. To make it easier on yourself, make sure that you can actually use your new language while you are still learning it. That can be through work or at home. But if you have that practice going on outside of your lessons all the time, you will learn quicker and get better faster.

Here at TalenInstituut Nederland (The Dutch Language Institute) we understand the needs that companies face as well as the fears individual learners feel. This is why we offer flexible, fully customised Business language courses to businesses and individuals. Through a process of interviews and meetings we establish the unique needs and competence of our clients and design each and every course around those. To find out more about our Business Language courses, visit our website and ask us for a quote:

© Taleninstituut Nederland

By: David Chislett
Trainer Business English