English is one of the great global languages of the 21st century, but it will only take us so far. Even though it is the third most common native language (after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish), only 6% of the world’s population speaks English as a first language and 75% of the world’s population doesn’t speak any English. Is it any wonder that businesses are continually bumping into the language barrier?
The fact is that we live, work, and compete in a truly amazing multilingual and multicultural world. Our engagement with the non-English speaking world will remain superficial and one-sided unless we develop our capacity in other languages too.
Globalization and demographic shifts have reshaped the business landscape, and even though the United States remains the largest economy in the world, the biggest growth opportunities are now in market segments and countries that are insulated by language barriers.
To effectively expand into those markets, companies need to speak the language. More to the point, language skills are not just a competitive difference maker anymore. Speaking the language of your employees and customers is fundamental to doing business.