In today’s economy, it’s difficult to get any kind of edge in the job market. It seems like the only way to get some experience is to get a job, and the only way to get a job is to have a tonne of experience.
While trapped in your grandma’s basement, waiting for your ship to come in, it might help to pick up some marketable skills, such as learning an incredibly difficult language. Why? Well, there are some languages that will give you an edge when it comes to business. And if that doesn’t pan out, then at least you’ll have cool new ways to pick people up at your local watering hole.
Here are three incredibly sought after languages in the business world. They’re difficult to learn for English speakers, but learning them would definitely pay off!
Number of Speakers: 1.2 billion native speakers (Whoa!).
Why you should learn Mandarin and why it’s difficult:
Mandarin is a tonal language, meaning slight tone changes can alter the entire meaning and structure of what it is you’re trying to say. As a native English speaker, you’re going to struggle with that because you use tone and intonation to communicate feeling and emphasis in English.
The writing system is complex, plentiful and pictorial. You can’t sound things out and hope for the best like you could in Korean or in Japanese. So why bother? Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world, so think of all the business opportunities, countries and relationships that you could start developing if you had a reasonable grasp of the language! With so many companies doing major business with China, and with such a large Chinese diaspora, you’d always find a time and a place to use your knowledge of Mandarin.
A few Chinese phrases to get you started:
- Hello: 你好 (nǐ hǎo)
- My name is…: 我姓 … (wǒ xìng …)
- Cheers!: 乾杯! [干杯!] (gān bēi)
- Do you speak English?: 你會說英語嗎？ [你会说英语吗？] (nǐ huì shuō yīngyǔ ma?)
- Thank you: 謝謝 [谢谢] (xièxie)
Number of Speakers: 221 million native speakers.
Why you should learn it and why it’s difficult to learn:
There are very few words in Arabic that resemble words in other European languages. So, as a language learner, you may not find any way to connect words with their meanings. The alphabet is entirely different and is written from right to left (as opposed to left to right), which can be hard to grasp at first. Arabic also uses fewer vowels than English, so stringing consonant sounds can be difficult when it comes to pronunciation. Don’t forget the different dialects you’ll find from country to country. Every place has its own version of commonly spoken Arabic!
All that being said, it’s considered the 4th most common language spoken in the world, and there is a tonne of money to be made working in the middle east. ESL teachers can bank anywhere between 30-60 thousand dollars per year working in Saudi Arabia on a first-year contract, and it only goes up from there. Major industrial leaps in architecture and design happen in Dubai. Definitely, a good place to be in business.
A few Arabic phrases to get you started:
- Hello: (as-salām ‘alaykum) السلام عليكم
- My name is…: (… ismee) … اسمي
- Do you speak English?: (Hal tatahadath Al Englyzeyah?) هل تتحدث الانجليزية؟
- Thank you!: (shukran) شكرا
Number of Speakers: 122 million native speakers.
Why you should learn it and why it’s difficult to learn: Japan’s economy is strong and, at the moment, it is doing as much as it can to make English a common language in business. The thing is, well, it’s not a common language in business at all. Yet.
Japanese is the main language of communication in Japan (… I know it sounds obvious). This means being able to speak Japanese will give you that competitive edge and link you to more job opportunities and entirely new travel possibilities. Japanese people love to travel. Could you be a tour guide for Japanese speakers in your city? Why not!
Now you may have a bit of an uphill battle before you get to make the big bucks. There are three different types of written Japanese, and often they’re used interchangeably, so you need to learn them all to be fluent. There are also two different syllabic systems within the language. Oh, and there’s no Roman alphabet.
A few Japanese phrases to get you started:
- Hello: 今日は (konnichiwa)
- My name is…: …です (… desu)
- Cheers!: 乾杯 (kanpai)
- Do you speak English?: 英語はできますか (Eigo wa dekimasu ka?)
- Thank you: ありがとうございます (arigatō gozaimasu)
Think you’ve got what it takes to take one of these important world languages on? Go on. We dare you to give them a try! And, at the end of the day, if they seem too daunting or not quite right for your career path, there are about 6,000+ other languages for you to choose from and earn your competitive edge.