Apart from English, what are the best languages for international businesses?

Currently English language is used in many global communications, however, there are numerous regions in the world where English is not the default international language, such as Africa or South America. So, what are other languages worth learning or translating into?

The Telegraph had covered what are 10 best languages to study, you can read the article here. The results are based on answers from UK businesses when asked what languages are most important to their business. Therefore the following list is based on real business examples rather than academic research.

The results quoted in the Telegraph are:

  1. German
  2. French
  3. Spanish
  4. Mandarin
  5. Polish
  6. Arabic
  7. Cantonese
  8. Russian
  9. Japanese
  10. Brazilian Portuguese

We don’t think there are any surprises in this top 10 list coming from UK businesses. Germany has been the strongest economy in Europe for some time now. French has been high on the list for years, so no surprise there.

There has been huge influx of Polish workers to UK, so it’s fully understandable why it could be classed in the top 5. Russian might be a bit of a surprise as the political relations have not been that great since the end of the Cold War, but according to Trade & Investment website, at the time of release of the list the Russian market was the fastest growing export market for the UK.

It is interesting to see two versions of Chinese in the top 10. Mandarin is the official language of mainland China. Chinese market has been growing at a very fast rate and as it’s the most populous country in the world so it definitely helps businesses if they have Mandarin capabilities within the business. The other version of Chinese, Cantonese which is the main language of Hong Kong made it to the 7th position on the list.

By the way, Chinese is a fascinating language and there’s an ongoing debate whether Mandarin and Cantonese are dialects of Chinese or are they two separate languages. This blog post on the Economist website is a perfect example of this debate.

If you are thinking about taking your business overseas, communication in target language is crucial and you have three options to securing the required resources:

  • Hire multilingual staff, but that option might be expensive. In addition, the language demand is hardly ever constant, so it might still be difficult to efficiently manage translation projects.
  • Partnering with in country distributors, but you would be distancing yourself from the target audience and would not have total control over the consumer experience.
  • Partnering with a translation agency is most likely the most cost effective option of tapping into foreign language resources and certified translation services. All cost are project based, so you limit the cost when you don’t have any requirements and at the same time you could manage high volume demands when they arise.

If you’d like to explore partnering with us, do get in touch to discuss your requirements.

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