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The world’s most powerful languages: which one will you learn in 2022?

Speaking multiple languages opens doors for you – to international jobs, to meeting new people and to a greater understanding of the world. Academic studies rank English as far and away the world’s most useful language.

The world's most powerful languages: which one will you learn in 2022?
Photo: Getty Images

As you’re reading this, you’ve already got that covered! But which other languages could give you an edge in terms of international opportunities? And which will be the most valuable come 2050? 

As we approach 2022 and the world continues to evolve, The Local has partnered with ESCP Business School to explore which languages could help you create a brighter future for yourself. Students at ESCP can take courses in many of the world’s most important languages, alongside their main programme.

Want to study in three major European cities in three years? Take this four-minute quiz to find out if ESCP’s Bachelor in Management (BSc) may be right for you

1. Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin is the most widely spoken native language with almost one billion native speakers – more than Spanish and English combined. According to the influential Power Language Index (PLI), Mandarin ranks second only to English, both for the overall value of the language and for economic opportunities. That is also forecast to remain the case in 2050 as China’s global influence grows. 

If you speak good Mandarin, you’ll be attractive to countless employers – across industries and borders – especially while fluent non-Chinese speakers remain scarce. Don’t expect it to be easy, however. It’s a tonal language, and some words can be pronounced in four ways – each with a different meaning. Want to read and write Mandarin? With its thousands of special characters, the challenge is enormous. Overcome it and you’ll have set yourself up for an exciting 21st century career few of your peers could ever hope to match.

2. French

French is an official language in 29 countries (second only to English) and is spoken on all five continents. It’s also an official language of the United Nations (UN), NATO, and the World Trade Organization. Proficiency in French can therefore prove a major advantage in careers related to international diplomacy.

Overall, French ranks as the third most powerful language today and will drop only one place to fourth by 2050. French is also the key business language in some of the world’s fastest-growing countries and economies in Africa. Add exciting cities such as Montreal, Geneva, and Brussels to the list of places where fluent French will help you to thrive, and it’s not hard to see why French is the world’s second-most studied language.

Founded in Paris in 1819, ESCP continues to offer many business students today the opportunity to study in France and improve their French (as well as various other leading languages).

3. Spanish

Spanish is an official language in 20 countries and boasts around 470 million native speakers. It’s the dominant language in Latin America and speaking Spanish is also a real advantage in the US, where the Hispanic population could hit 100 million by around 2050.

Little wonder that it has been ranked as the leading language of study for US students and the most in-demand among US employers. Spanish is also set to leapfrog French to become the third most important language by 2050, according to the PLI.

Interested in cross-cultural learning and a career in international business? Find out more about ESCP

Students studying in a coffee shop. Photo: Getty Images

4. Arabic

Arabic has approximately 300 million native speakers. It’s one of the six official UN languages and an official language in over 20 countries in the Middle East and Africa. 

If your first language is English (or any other Indo-European language), learning Arabic is not easy. But achieving a high standard of Arabic could bring you significant rewards, particularly through companies that do business in the Middle East. Arabic ranks fifth on the PLI and is expected to maintain that to 2050, while rising from ninth to seventh in terms of its economic value to individuals.

5. German

German lacks the global appeal of the languages above; it’s an official language in only six countries, all in Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein). But don’t underestimate its usefulness if you see your future in Europe and your primary goal in learning a language is to boost your career prospects.

Germany is the EU’s most populous country and its biggest economy. The likes of Siemens, Allianz and Bayer (not to mention a few well-known car markers) are huge employers in major industries. And research has found that learning German can have significant financial rewards. German ranks seventh in the PLI, but jumps up to third for the economic opportunities it brings – and is forecast to still hold both these positions in 2050.

6. Japanese

Not widely spoken outside Japan, Japanese still ranks as the fourth best language for economic opportunities (eighth overall). This is forecast to drop to sixth (and tenth overall) by 2050. So, who should still consider studying Japanese? People with clear ambitions in select fields – such as robotics, in which Japan is a global leader – could certainly still enhance their career outlook by doing so.

An international team meeting Japanese business leaders. Photo: Getty Images

7. Portuguese

An official language in ten countries or sovereign territories, Portuguese has more than 215 million native speakers, most of them in Brazil, and approximately 270 million total speakers. With Brazil’s development and the high number of Brazilians in Europe, Portuguese is rising in prominence. By 2050, it’s set to move up one place to eighth in the PLI – and to make a huge jump from 19th to ninth in the index for economic opportunities.

As we all look to the New Year, dedicating yourself to learning a language could have an incredibly positive influence on your life path. In addition to those above, you could also consider Russian (the world’s sixth most powerful language, but only 12th on the economic ranking), Italian (12th overall but up in eighth for its economic value), or how about Hindi? It’s forecast to be the fourth most powerful language for economic opportunities by 2050 – a remarkable rise of 12 places.

Cross-cultural learning at ESCP

If you’re looking for an international career, ESCP Business School offers a cross-cultural learning environment and the chance to live and study in three European cities in three years. There are six European campuses: Berlin, London, Madrid, Paris, Turin and Warsaw.

ESCP attracts students from across the world, many of whom speak several languages and are eager to learn even more. Alongside their main programme (which is taught in English with some courses in Spanish, French or German), students on the Bachelor in Management (BSc) will study up to two additional languages from Chinese Mandarin, Spanish, French, German and Italian.

These language courses help students to fully adapt to the country they’re studying in, as well as brightening their career prospects. Students can gain a good understanding of business language in German, Spanish or French, including technical vocabulary not covered in a typical language course. And while you need to speak English to enter the BSc, students also enhance their abilities and vocabulary in the world’s number one language at ESCP, making them even better-suited to working in international environments.

Take this four-minute quiz to see if the Bachelor in Management (BSc) could be right for you, or perhaps a young friend or relative. 

Want to study business and improve your language skills? Find out more about ESCP Business School and its Bachelor in Management (BSc)

Member comments

  1. English won the competition for a global language. The rest will wither on the vine and go the way of Welsh and so many others. English is now taught as the primary second language in every EU country bar those that have it as a first language. It’s also the primary second language taught in China and Russia. The idea that French could now supplant English as the World’s common language is an idea Canute himself would be proud of.

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EDUCATION

Studying in Germany – nine very compelling reasons to do it

Sick of the expense of studying in the UK, the USA or Canada? Germany offers an affordable and highly esteemed alternative, argues Melissa Lawrence.

Studying in Germany - nine very compelling reasons to do it
A lecture hall at Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

Germany and the Anglophone countries all have a great number of internationally recognized and well-respected universities. Attending any one of them will indisputably grant you a great education.

But when it comes to methods and funding, they couldn't be more different. Here are nine reasons why it's advantageous to come to Germany to get your degree.

1. A path to debt-free education

Tuition fees in Germany are the same for both local and international students, which is the number one factor attracting students from all over the globe. One may wonder: how does Germany go about this?

Instead of making students pay huge amounts of money, public universities in Germany spread out the cost over the entire population through taxes. In turn, this money benefits anyone wanting to study and results in minimum tuition fees.

In fact, what you pay in Germany are not actually tuition fees, rather simple administrative fees of between €100 and €500 per semester that also cover your public transportation costs.

Non-consecutive postgraduate degrees – courses for students coming from a different field of study – have fees considerably lower than in Anglophone countries – around €1000 per semester, while consecutive postgraduate degrees are free of tuition charges,again, you will only have to pay administrative fees.

As a result, not many German nationals see the necessity in attending private universities, where tuition fees increase dramatically. More often than not, Germans attend a private university either because a specific study topic they want to pursue is not available in public universities, or they do not get accepted in public universities.

Contrast this with the thousands of dollars or pounds university costs on a yearly basis in much of the Anglophone world, and it is clear that graduating without substantial debt is one major attraction of the German system.

Euros. Photo: DPA

2. Quality distinction

When it comes to quality, German public universities are of great standard, positioned among the highest in worldwide rankings.

The German study system focuses on creating independence in students, pushing for hard work towards attaining knowledge and skills rather than a tick in a box when applying for a job interview.

Germany maintains that a degree from a public university is built on hard work and dedication, while good grades and degrees from private universities are considered to have been bought.

Anglophone universities stand very high in quality too and a degree from any of these subject countries is internationally recognized and valued.

Nonetheless, a recent finding indicates that the separation between universities and research institutes and vocational training in Germany may have resulted in UK and US universities occupying a higher position in worldwide ranking lists.

It is believed that if the Max Planck Society would be included in the Shanghai Jiao Tong University league table, Germany would displace many great educational institutions, including Cambridge and Oxford.

3. Scholarship impact

Scholarships are not easy to obtain and hardly cover all expenses, especially in the Anglophone countries.

Normally you get a percentage – often around 80 percent – of your tuition fee paid for you, while the rest of the fee remains on you. Adding the cost of living to your 20 percent tuition fee will obviously be a lot to deal with on your own.

However, a scholarship in Germany gives you the opportunity to cover a good percentage of your living expenses, as the cost of study is remarkably low. Adding to its prominence is the fact that accommodation, food and other necessary items are not as expensive as in the US, UK, Australia and Canada.

4. Studying in English

Germany has come up with a good deal for international students by offering over 1,150 study courses in English in both undergraduate and graduate levels to avoid any language restrictions.

If you are required to study courses that are only taught in German, there are available language courses to attend during the first semester, or more if necessary.

Moreover, learning a new language is a great opportunity, particularly if it is the language of Dichter und Denker (poets and thinkers.)

The library at the University of Darmstadt. Photo: DPA

5. Health insurance coverage

Health insurance is a more complex issue, with prices varying depending on the services you get and the country you come from.

In Germany, you can get full public health insurance coverage for around €26 to €80 per month, which is a very inviting student discount in contrast to the Anglophone countries.

In Canada, public health insurance covers internationals only in half of its provinces, while in the other half students must purchase private health insurance.

In the US health insurance seems to be the most controversial matter, especially for international students, who must usually get into private health insurance plans because of high cost of healthcare services.

Meanwhile in Australia, costly health insurance is a requirement even for temporary students.

Only in the UK are foreign students comprehensively covered by the residency-based National Health Service (NHS).

Every University Office for Foreigners will provide more in-depth information about health insurance policies offered through universities. 

6. Cost-effective public transportation

Public transportation is very efficient and beautifully spread out throughout the whole of Germany. Plus, being located in the heart of Europe means visiting European cities with only a small amount of money is one ready benefit.

In the US, public transportation is not as reliable, somehow pushing students towards getting private cars. However, a monthly pass costs, more or less, $75. Some universities in the US offer student transportation tickets with a fee that is included in the overall tuition fees, as is the case for students in Washington.

Other student cities as is Boston offer a student transit pass valid one semester through CharlieCard, and New Jersey which covers many universities in the neighbouring state, New York.

The University of Hamburg. Photo: DPA

In Canada, a monthly pass for public transportation varies from $91.50 up to $130. Whereas, a monthly public transportation ticket in the UK is roughly £60. There are available offers and discounts for students, like the Student OysterCard.

International students in Australia are not entitled to transport concessions unless their studies are fully funded by Australian government scholarships. Otherwise, a monthly pass costs $130.

In Germany, public transport costs are often included in the student's administrative fee. The ticket usually covers the whole Federal State (Bundesland) for the semester.

7. Accommodation Arrangements

A decent residential room with sufficient space for a bed, study table, a nice kitchen, a bathroom and a balcony costs €200 per month in Germany. Prices may rise if you want an apartment in the city centre.

Although, Berlin – Europe’s most exciting city – has low apartment prices, circa €400 per month. In Aachen, apartment rent prices are somewhat similar to Berlin, whereas Munich has a higher apartment rent price.

Yet, Berlin and Munich are still positioned among the world’s most affordable cities to live and study in!

In US, you may either share a dorm room for a lower price or get a private one-bedroom apartment that may cost around $1212.12 per month.

Outside the city centre the same sized apartment costs about $907.38. While Boston, New York, and Washington have similarly high apartment rent prices, California, specifically Los Angeles offers more affordable rent prices.

In Australia, rent reaches $1795.53 for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre or $1306.65 outside the centre. Moreover, the overall living cost in Australia is higher than the US and the rest of our subject countries. Cheaper rent prices are offered in Perth, while Sydney and Canberra have drastically higher rent prices.

In the UK, rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre is £741.77 or £609.49 in the periphery. Although London, Cambridge, and Oxford provide higher prices for apartment rents.

Canada’s prices for a single-bedroom apartment range from $1150.98 in the city centre, to $903.28 outside the city centre. Meanwhile, cities like Vancouver and Toronto have similar yet higher apartment rent prices, whereas Montreal is quite affordable.

8. Social life charm

German students relax at the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: DPA

Contrary to popular belief, Germans are welcoming and inviting towards international students.

Furthermore, drinking is cheaper, especially beer. As opposed to the US where drinking is not allowed until the age of 21, in Germany it's all legal from 18.

In short, there are tons of entertaining activities, historical and alluring places and sights waiting to be explored as much in Germany as in the rest of the Anglophone countries.

Culture shock may initially be inevitable in respect to the differences encountered from one country to another, but learning a few social norms and keeping focused will allow for you to quickly settle in.

9. Are we there yet?

Overall, job opportunities are abundant for post-graduates, especially if immersed in a more precise study field.

Broader and general study fields are less favourable for employment and therefore longer waiting periods after graduation can be expected.

In 2016, the US unemployment rate decreased to 5 percent, but as a result, salaries suffered a similar decrease.

Meanwhile in Canada, the overall unemployment rate is 6.8 percent, yet it seems rather hard for students to find jobs that correlate with their study fields. Although, graduate unemployment rate in 2015 reached 13.3 percent, while part-time jobs went on the rise.

In the UK, the postgraduate unemployment rate reached 3.9 percent, the lowest since 2007, as per January-March 2015 statistics.

On the other hand, Australia’s unemployment rate stands at 11 percent, while only 68 percent of bachelor graduates in 2014 had a full-time job four months after graduation.

Germany has the lowest unemployment rate in EU at 6.9 percent, and only 10 percent of German graduates work in jobs unrelated to their study fields. Around two-thirds of all German students attend dual vocational training programs, which involve theoretical teaching and a lot of work in practice in companies and positions that match with their field of study, where students get to familiarize hands-on with the theory knowledge they attain during classes.

The Bauhaus University in Weimar. Photo: DPA

The 'unthinkable' is happening

The flocking of students towards Germany, and not the UK or the US, would have been unthinkable 20 or 30 years ago. Today, even some UK and US nationals are moving to Germany to pursue their higher education: undergraduate, research, and postgraduate likewise.

The advantage of Germany lies precisely in its international concept. So, if studying at a notable university without student debts is what you are looking for, Germany is keeping an open door.

Melissa Lawrence is a content manager at www.studying-in-germany.org

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