Earlier this year, the founder of Microsoft and prolific philanthropist Bill Gates admitted that his biggest regret in life is that he can only speak English. This isn’t something that we would expect to hear from a billionaire founder, especially of one of the largest tech corporations in the world.
This isn’t a new insight though. Last October, Mark Zuckerberg showed that he is semi-fluent in Chinese during a Q&A session with students from Tsinghua University in Beijing. This was a clear demonstration that by mastering a local language, you can take a large step toward developing deeper business relationships – winning the hearts and minds of target markets.
Learning a foreign language is a major investment of time and energy, but even speaking at a rudimentary level of a country’s native tongue can go a long way. What languages should you be learning?
Aside from the huge potential of almost all of South and Central America, including emerging powerhouses like Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. Spain is actually a significant part of the market as well. However, we can’t forget about the Hispanic speaking community in the United States too, whose purchasing power is already over a trillion dollars and growing.
Although the spoken dialects are different, Spanish written forms are more uniform than other languages – making it much more simple to learn. Additionally, it is a Romance language with the same letters and roots as English so even as a beginner, you can be familiar and identify words
Portugal isn’t the country that we have our eyes set on – it is Brazil. The country is quickly going from an emerging market to one of the world’s richest nations. They have a huge population, tons of natural resources and a growing tech community. Plus, imagine going to Carnival and being able to speak the local tongue!
There are over dozens of different languages and dialects that are spoken in China. So while Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world with 1.1 billion native speakers, there are other Chinese dialects that are spoken by hundreds of millions of people.
For example, in the financial hub of Shanghai, there are more than 80 million people that speak the Wu dialect – that is the marketing size of Germany.
Russia has a market size of 150 million people, seem to have an endless amount of natural resources and a growing IT industry. The language is also spoken in post-Soviet states that add up to almost 300 million speakers in all.
The Arabic world has a growing online culture, but still lacks an Amazon or Alibaba which makes it a market with a huge potential, not to mention the deep petro-economies of the region. The only drawback is that there are dozens of distinct varieties of spoken Arabic just like Chinese, so choosing the right one will be difficult.
What languages do you already know? Which do you want to learn?