BUSINESS & ECONOMICS

Turns out, learning languages will make you lots of money

Which languages, why, and just how much more will you earn?

To learn another language is on just about everyone’s bucket list… but maybe if you were to know that learning a second language could significantly increase your pay check you might be a little more proactive in enrolling.

Which language should you learn?

It is not hard to understand why learning a language that is spoken in a country with a higher GDP will translate into a higher salary. The richest countries in the world (those with the highest GDP) are dominated by open, trade-driven economies. Putting oil economies aside, the top ten include places like Luxembourg, Switzerland and Singapore, and small countries like the Scandinavian ones.

Though, research shows us that learning a second language will see your salary only increase by a tiny 2% – which for some does not seem worth the investment. Though on the other side of the fence, economists estimated that lack of foreign-language proficiency in Britain cost their economy £48 billion (about $90 billion), or 3.5% of GDP, each year.

Everything comes at an opportunity cost, so when considering whether to learn a language as a university major, remember that an hour spent learning French is an hour spent not learning something else. Though it isn’t hard to think of school subjects that provide less return (in terms of salary) than a foreign language. What is the return on investment for history, literature or art for example? Of course schools are intended to do more than create little GDP-producing machines. But if it is GDP & salary that you’re after, the world isn’t learning English as fast as some people think, so it is in your interests to learn a second language.

Only half the world’s people are set to speak English by 2050. That leaves billions who will not, and billions of others who remain spending money and doing business in their own language.

Which languages will see you earn more?

  1. German

Economically, German is recognised to be the best language to increase your salary.

This may come as a surprise to many people, because one would assume a language like Mandarin, Japanese, or Spanish, with a higher GDP (by language) will correlate to higher earnings. While this is true for most cases, German is a special case, as Germany is one of the three European powerhouses.

  1. French

With over 200M people in 5 different continents around the world speaking French, you can see why it ranks as one of the most useful languages to learn. Knowing how to speak French opens the doors to French companies in not only France, but other French-speaking parts of the world such as Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, and North and sub-Saharan Africa. Also remember that France is the world’s fifth biggest economy and number-three destination for foreign investment.

  1. Spanish

Over the past decade, knowing how to speak Spanish has not only been an advantage for job seekers, but it has actually become a necessity. More and more jobs in the United States and Europe list ‘Spanish’ as a prerequisite skill for the hire. Spanish is the official language to over four continents around the world. Also, it is one of the most easy to pick up!

  1. Mandarin

China is one of the strongest and most rapidly growing economies today, in fact, today China is the second largest economy in the world with their trade influence spanning across America, Europe and South East Asia. If you’re in business, then China is a goldmine of opportunities, while too, if you are considering a role in politics Mandarin is a strong choice. Though, unlike spanish, Mandarin is a complicated language to learn for English speakers.

  1. Arabic

The Arab world is recognized as one of the wealthiest regions in the world, with over $600B in GDP – strongly attributed to their oil economy. Too, the size of the Middle Eastern economy alone as a whole has increased by approximately 120% in the five-year period from mid-2003 to mid-2008, and it is not set to slow down. Western Arabic speakers are in very high demand, but in very low supply, making it a very opportunistic language for you to learn.

  1. Dutch

From a supply verses demand stance, Dutch is another great choice. The language is notoriously unpopular to learn, mostly because there are only 23 million native Dutch speakers and almost all of them speak English too. While Dutch speaking citizens only make up 0.32% of the total world population, they account for 1.3% of the world’s GDP. Being one of the few that know the language will make you preferential when they are dealing with business.

Turns out, learning languages will make you lots of money
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