English, Chinese, French Most Useful for Business

After English, Chinese is the top language for business, according to Bloomberg Rankings, probably the world’s most respected source for business news. Surprising some observers, French ranked second, followed by Arabic.

Chinese ranked highest among languages excluding English based on business usefulness. The ranking scored languages according to the number of speakers, number of countries where the language is official, along with those nations’ populations, financial power, educational and literacy rates, and related measures.

French is spoken as a mother-tongue by 68 million people worldwide, and the official language of 27 countries, while Arabic is spoken by 221 million people and is official in 23 nations.

“In much the same way that the dollar remains the preferred currency, English will remain the preferred language for the foreseeable future,” said Leigh Hafrey, a senior lecturer in communications and ethics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management in a telephone interview with Bloomberg.

“Speaking the language confers a huge advantage for anyone who wants to do business in a non-English-speaking country,” Hafrey said. “It gives you flexibility, knowledge that you need, and personal connections that can make a difference in the speed and effectiveness of your negotiations.”
Spanish, the official language of 20 countries and spoken by 329 million people worldwide, came in fourth, the rankings showed, followed by Portuguese, which is spoken by 178 million people and is official in eight countries. Japanese and German were sixth and seventh, respectively.