Best Languages To Learn For Politics

Last Updated on March 2, 2023 by

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Learn one of these 5 languages to stand out

For most people looking to study another language, English remains the first choice – and for good reason. As the language of diplomacy, business and popular culture, currently spoken by an estimated 1.5 billion speakers (and with another billion in class right now), English really is the “world’s language”. But besides English, what other languages can help you get ahead?

Here, are five languages to learn to stand out, in no particular order:

1. Mandarin Chinese

The world’s biggest economy since 2015, China is a vital business partner for most countries in the world. If you’re from the US, Asia, Europe, or Australia – basically, if you’re a human on this planet! – then you’ll already have noticed that China’s importance on the diplomatic and trade fronts has grown exponentially. Besides its mammoth manufacturing ability, the country’s enormous population means that the country has become an increasingly important buyer of imported goods from the rest of the world and its buying decisions make it a stakeholder for change, particularly in areas like green energy.

If you want to work in Asia, learning Chinese will add an invaluable string to your bow and let you converse with nearly one in six people on the planet (that’s nearly one billion native speakers!) in their language. Remember: despite its incredibly complex pronunciation, Mandarin Chinese uses relatively simple grammatical structures and has no verb conjugation or distinctions between gender and number; a bonus for any language learner!

2. French

Never one to be left out, French still stands as a valid option for strategic language learners. France is one of Europe’s tourism hubs, making the language a good choice for tourism majors, tour guides, hotel managers, and others working in the industry. For those studying political science or interested in working in diplomacy, knowing French – an official language of the United Nations, European Union, International Olympic Committee, and international courts system, among other official bodies – will provide a clear advantage.

On top of that, much of sub-Saharan Africa is French speaking, making international opportunities for French speakers even more numerous. Already know English or Spanish? Due to similarities between these language pairs, your French studies will be that much easier.

3. Spanish

While learning Spanish won’t help you stand out in the US (where 12 percent of people speak it), it shouldn’t be thought of as a useless second language. The official language of 21 countries, Spanish boasts so many native speakers that it sits second only to Chinese as the most widely-spoken language in the world.

It’s also an official language of the UN, EU, World Trade Organization, and North American Free Trade Agreement and should certainly be added to the CVs of future diplomats, politicians, immigration workers, and travel and tourism majors, among many other professions. Apart from simplifying travel enormously in Central and South America, knowing Spanish is also great as a “go-to” language in Europe, as many Europeans speak it as a second or third language.

4. German

German – also an official language in Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein – takes the cake for most widely-spoken language in Europe, with 18 percent of EU citizens speaking German as their mother tongue. It’s clear that Germany is a heavyweight in the European economy and massive exporter of goods from pharmaceuticals to cars. The business opportunities this brings multinationals translates to a huge surge in foreign language classes: German is widely taught in secondary schools across the world. In fact, around 68 percent of Japanese students study the language.

From a more leisurely viewpoint, Germans are among the world’s most avid tourists. Considering their good income and decent vacation time, it’s no wonder that Germans are natural globetrotters: and, of course, their dollars go straight into the foreign tourism industry, suggesting ample opportunity for German-speakers worldwide to take advantage of. Need another reason? Switzerland, where German is spoken, has one of the best standards of living in the world.

5. Portuguese

With more than 200 million native speakers (tipped to rise to 335 million total speakers by 2050), Portuguese is spoken in 11 countries and regions, including a number of African nations, Goa (India) and of course, Portugal and Brazil. Given that Brazil is hosting the Olympic Games (and just wrapped up the World Cup), this South American giant is now undeniably a rising power.

For savvy polyglots, adding Brazilian Portuguese to your CV can mean a strategic step in the way of increased employability in Latin America – not to mention sun, food, and samba in sunny Brazil! Need more inspiration? Portuguese isn’t especially difficult to learn, especially if you already speak a Romanic language, and tends to be overlooked by native English speakers in favor of Spanish and French. Translation? Less competition and more glory!

What Makes A Language Useful To Learn?

Number Of Speakers

Unsurprisingly, it is very important to know how many speakers there are of a language before you set your heart on learning it. Most people opt to learn languages spoken by the largest number of people. You should also consider how many people speak the language as a second language. With this information, you will open more doors to global communication.

Geographic Region

This is where your goals and interests come into play. Do you plan to travel in one particular region for a while? If so, look into what languages are commonly spoken there. If you want to learn a language that is widely spoken throughout the world, you may want to opt for English, French, or Spanish, which are spoken on all continents.

Usability And Versatility

When choosing a language, you may want to look at versatility. Mainly, can you use this language both at home and abroad? What about in both business and social contexts? Ask yourself, “How much will I use this language?” It takes time and effort to learn a language, and you will want to learn the one with the most usability for you!

Career Opportunities

Think of your current or future field, and location of business. If you are working in the United States, Spanish is a very useful language to learn. If you expect your industry or company will do a lot of international business, learn languages that will be useful in your field. It could be Chinese, Japanese, Italian, or German.

Woman speaking in front of others in a discussion

Why Learn A New Language

You’ll Make More Money

You can make big bucks if you know a second language. Adding a second language to your repertoire can result in an average of a 2% salary increase. According to The Economist, knowing Spanish will give you a 1.5% bonus, French gives you a 2.3% bonus, and German gives you a 3.8% bonus!

You’ll Have More Career Opportunities

Globalization is on the rise, and our world is always growing smaller. Those in-demand jobs may expect applicants to know at least two languages — especially if companies work across global teams or with foreign business partners. Having fluency in several languages will help you stand out on your applications, especially if they are in-demand languages.

University of the People student searching for jobs on tablet

Top Ten Languages To Learn as an International Affairs Student

No reputable international studies program allows graduates to wander out the door without acquiring some language skills. And good luck getting a job in the field without at least one additional language under your belt.

Serious foreign relations students usually pick up some skills in a few different foreign languages. These are sometimes dictated by the specialty of the degree you choose to pursue, but in other cases the decision can be left to matters of interest or ability.

n those cases, though, how do you make your choice?

We’re here to help! Below you can find the top ten languages to learn for success in the world of international relations.

  1. English; You already know English is the lingua fraca in business and global affairs, but how about Tinglish? Chinglish? Inglish? Most English speakers in the world today aren’t native English speakers, and most of the people they speak English with aren’t native speakers either. This results in many situations where the variants of English they speak drift considerably from the native-speaking forms.To learn English as it is spoken as a common global language, you have to learn to be explicit, avoid idiom, and alter your pronunciations and expectations. Functionality becomes more important than form and cultural neutrality is your goal. This won’t satisfy your master’s program language requirement, but there’s a good chance you’ll use it far more frequently than any fully recognized foreign language on the list.
  2. Chinese; We’re not just cribbing this from Looper. Chinese really is the language of the future. Although estimates vary on how many native Chinese speakers there are in the world today, all of them start north of a billion. That makes it the most commonly spoken language on the planet, and if it’s not widelyspoken yet, that day is coming.
  3. Arabic; Arabic is only about the fifth most commonly spoken language in the world, but it’s the most popular language in some of the most traditional hotspots drawing international attention today. The Middle East is a perpetual powder keg, and American soldiers and diplomats seem likely to be busy there for decades. There will be a steady stream of demand for Arab linguists in foreign relations circles for years to come.
  1. French; France has had an outsized impact on the world stage that isn’t always reflected in the nation’s role today, but it is reflected in the presence of French as an official language in numerous international organizations including:
    • The World Trade OrganizationThe International Red CrossThe International Olympic Committee
    It’s also an official language in 29 countries and a common second language in dozens more.
  2. Russian; Like Arabic, Russian isn’t important strictly based on the number of native speakers, but rather based on the hot button issues that exist in and among the former Soviet Republics. The Ukraine, Crimea, election interference in the U.S., assassination of former spies on British soil, and a host of other controversies continue to boil around the Russian periphery. As the largest nuclear power in the world, it’s in everyone’s best interests to keep jaw jawing rather than war waring, as Churchill put it, and a solid knowledge of Russian is going to be necessary to keep those jaws working.
  3. Spanish; Spanish may be the only language that can reliably claim to dominate an entire continent. If you plan to have any dealings with South America, and a vast chunk of Europe or even North America, Spanish is a reliable tool to have in your pocket.
  4. Hindi; India has 23 official languages and Hindi is foremost among them. With around 260 million native speakers dominating the Indian subcontinent, it’s a must-have language for India experts. As a country with perpetually up and coming industrial and digital bases, that makes Hindi a good choice for international business experts as well as government trade negotiators and diplomats.
  5. Punjab; iAnother one of India’s official languages is Punjabi, and that’s one reason to learn it… but the better reason is that it’s the primary language spoken in Pakistan, another nuclear power in a region that perpetually threatens to flare up into the global spotlight. As the global war on terror continues, American diplomats and soldiers can expect to spend a lot of time conversing with Pakistani counterparts in Punjabi.
  1. Japanese; Japan has had a few difficult decades with the pricking of the asset price bubble in 1991 leading to an extended recession, which was followed by the devastating Tōhoku earthquake and attendant nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Consequently, the country is sometimes underestimated today, at least compared to its powerhouse status in the 1980s. But it remains a major center of industry and innovation along the Pacific Rim, as well as a stalwart U.S. ally in dealings with China, Russia, and North Korea. Those strong diplomatic and business ties make Japanese a solid language investment for anyone interested in Asian foreign relations.
  2. Portuguese; Portuguese is the only language that keeps Spanish from completely owning South America, but the two are similar enough that either one gets you some of the benefits of knowing the other. In the case of Portuguese, Portugal itself isn’t the reason to learn it. Instead, the more than 200 million citizens of Brazil, the 8thlargest economy in the world, are enough to make it a worthy subject of study.

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