Multilingualism can be an incredible asset for companies that conduct business internationally, helping to bridge the cultural gap when conducting business in foreign countries. As emerging market economies grow and open new markets for businesses, an understanding of the local language can give companies a leg up over their competitors, possibly giving them the advantage needed to be successful in the market. In an article in Entrepreneur, author Ofer Shoshan lists six languages that he believes would be most helpful for English-speaking CEOs to learn in today’s globalized world, as he emphasizes the importance that multilingualism can play in business situations.
The first language that Shoshan recommends corporate executives learn is Spanish, the second most spoken language in the world. Spanish is the native language throughout much of Central and South America, as well as Spain, and is becoming more and more important in the United States with the fast growing Hispanic population. Executives who can speak Spanish will have a huge advantage in these markets, giving them access to millions of consumers who otherwise might be unavailable. Another language in Shoshan’s list is Mandarin Chinese, the most spoken language in the world. With over a billion native speakers, executives would be wise to learn Mandarin if they have ambitions to enter the Chinese market.
As with China, Brazil is a fast growing market with a large population, offering business leaders an opportunity for expansion. Learning Portuguese would be a great way to gain an advantage in Brazil, helping connect a company’s executives with the local businesspeople. Russian, Arabic, and German are three other languages Shoshan recommends learning, pointing out the great growth potential in countries such as Russia, United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, as well as the economic importance of Germany in the European Union.
Learning another language can be difficult, but the benefits for a business executive can be significant. Knowing the native language can be a great way to connect with local politicians and business leaders, helping to build relationships that are important when entering a new market. Along with these relationships, learning the local language will allow for company executives to better connect with local consumers, helping to build trust and familiarity, which can be vital for companies entering new areas. Multilingualism is important for any business looking to expand internationally, and executives should seriously consider learning a new language if they want to increase their chances of success in international markets.