Anyone who currently is, or wants to become, an entrepreneur has to demonstrate many skills and abilities to be a good one. It’s not just about more nebulous concepts like ‘being resilient’ or ‘working hard.’
These things can apply differently to different people, and working smart or adaptable can be more effective for some personalities. However, skill-wise, there are some things you can’t be lucky enough to be born with. One of those is being bilingual.
Bilingual people have a huge advantage in business, able to build new relationships worldwide, something that can be a major boost to setting up supply chains or hiring new talent. Of all the languages spoken around the world, there are a few that stand out as the main ‘official languages of business.’
Without proficiency in at least one of them, a small business owner will struggle to expand overseas or attain foreign goods with the same ease as a bilingual person.
Equally, if you’re interviewing for a job with a foreign company or looking to outsource some of your team, it’s often these languages that they’ll need to speak to you in or have you demonstrate ability in.
English is effective ‘the’ language of business. Spoken in over 60 countries around the world, it’s considered the default language taught in schools and one of the most common second languages for many. Estimates place nearly 2 billion people as proficient in English.
The ubiquity of English means almost any continent you’re looking to do business in is likely to have some ability. A relatively fluid language, it contains many slang terms and colloquial terminology, not to mention an expansive range of accents, which is why starting to learn as early as possible is always recommended.
It’s strongly recommended to try learning English with a professional, structured course and leveraging online tools to both speak to other learners and native speakers, refine your pronunciation and make use of the extensive, curated guidance on the English language aimed at teaching a business-level proficiency.
Germany has a rich and thriving economic landscape, and industries like financial services, technology, manufacturing, and automobiles are well established there. Though not as widely spoken as English, German is a valuable and specialist language to have, also used in economically developed countries like Switzerland and Austria.
While English proficiency is almost a prerequisite to doing business in the western world, if your business requirements are more geo-specific, speaking German is a big advantage to both attaining jobs – due to the smaller talent pool of bilingual people with German – and doing deals in many parts of central Europe.
Mandarin is one of China’s most widely-spoken languages, alongside Cantonese and many regional variations. Unlike many European languages, Mandarin means having a connection to one of the world’s economic powerhouses in manufacturing.
Mandarin will demand a lot of you due to it being very different in structure and style from any European language, which can make reaching fluent proficiency almost utterly reliant on getting in-person practice with fluent speakers.
However, if you’re able to pick up some solid mandarin, you’re gaining a chance to build business relationships with one of the world’s fastest-growing, widest-reaching, and most powerful economies.
Any language learned is a huge asset to a person. They carry all sorts of benefits, including improving mental health, job prospects, and the ability to connect with strangers around the world.
As an entrepreneur, your ability to connect to other people is intrinsically tied to helping your business prosper from humble beginnings.
Some might consider a business to be driven by a high-quality product, great marketing, or even just knowing your customers. But it all begins, and ends, with people – and that’s where how and who you can communicate with matters most.