In this article, we'll discuss several of the most useful languages for MBA students to learn. While English is still in broad use, the increasingly integrated nature of the international business scene calls for those who can transition easily geographically, culturally, and linguistically. While fortunes and markets shift over time, in terms of numbers, these languages are of greatest utility for those seeking to enter the business world.

Why Language Is A Business Tool

According to those responsible for seeking the next generation of talent in the international business scene, fluency and cultural awareness beyond the sphere of American English is a valuable asset. It allows those working for upward mobility within a company or field to change settings more easily—flying from New York to Berlin to Hong Kong—meeting with clients from a many different backgrounds.

Spanish

Many have memories of academic Spanish from their time in primary or secondary American schools. This makes it one of the most useful languages for MBA students to cultivate. Not only is it the second most spoken language in the world, with 400 million native speakers, it is a Romance language, sharing common roots with five other languages. These languages are common in Europe and other parts of the world—and many speakers are familiar with more than one—which can render a business meeting or a longer relationship far more sanguine and productive.

Chinese

China is the world's second largest economy. More than one fifth of everyone alive today speaks a dialect of this ancient language, which makes this an excellent language to learn. While the China of 20th century experienced a time of seclusion and austerity in many ways, there is a new China emerging from the Maoist convictions of the past.

This hyper-capitalist sensibility drives both business and culture in many of the large urban centers, and many large companies based in the United States have their sites set on these markets. Having an excellent command of Chinese will set you apart from many candidates for managerial positions with international firms.

Arabic

This language is perhaps more challenging than Chinese for American English speakers to master. The true difficulty comes from more than the sparse vowel sounds. The script is entirely different, the grammar is alien, and it is written from right to left. However, for the ambitious MBA student, this is a plum. More than 300 million people speak Arabic and a huge demand for fluent Americans. U.S. corporations are eager to set themselves above the competition when it comes to negotiating contracts with companies and entrepreneurs from the Middle East. A manager fluent in the language certainly gives that impression.

Learning another language isn't simply about being able to conduct business intelligibly. There is a deeper and more culturally bound rationale. As we speak, so we think. If one applies that consideration to conducting business with a foreign corporation, it offers insight into how those individuals will perceive behavior. It also permits the enterprising non-native speaker a window into their consciousness—what they may or may not do based on the values exhibited in their idiomatic language. The most useful languages for MBA students to learn will always be those that stem from cultures that integrate several varieties of capital—human, material, and ideological—into a single business sensibility.

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