best language to learn
French is the best language for British university students to learn. Source: Willian West/Unsplash

Which is the best language for British university students to learn according to over 28,000 businesses of all sizes, regions and sectors in the UK today?

The link between foreign language skills and employability is well known. It’s handy when companies deal with foreign clients and do so with a candidate who has cross-cultural competencies and curiosity, as well as the tenacity to master another language. In a Britain facing Brexit, graduates with this extra skill will be a boon to companies planning to remain globally competitive.

“The need for languages has been heightened by the UK’s departure from the European Union,” notes the report.

But which are the ones that would maximise graduates’ chances of getting hired by British companies today? Here’s what the data shows:

1. Arabic

Its importance among employers has dropped in 2019 compared to the last two years, but as many as 16 percent of respondents still cited it as a useful foreign language in CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Report 2018. Britain has long traded with the Middle East and as the region’s economies continue to diversify, this would be an important market for British companies to explore.

With the language being spoken by more than 400 million people worldwide, the British Council has even called for it to be taught in schools.

2. Mandarin


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This is a no-brainer. Given China’s role as the next global superpower and with more than one billion Mandarin speakers worldwide, it’s no surprise that demand for Mandarin speakers has increased year-on-year. In 2016, only 28 percent of employers cited Mandarin as useful to their business. That figure has jumped to 37 percent in 2018.

3. Spanish

There are over 400 million native Spanish speakers in the world, making it second only to Mandarin in terms of the most spoken languages worldwide and surpassing the number of native English speakers. Spanish is also the official language of 20 countries, the vast majority of which are located in Latin America, which can explain why half of British employers say it’s a useful language for employees to know.

4. German

The second most useful language to learn according to British employers is German, with 51 percent of employers citing it as useful, beating Spanish by just one percent. There are six countries that have German as their official language: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

While some joke that “life’s too short to learn German” (it has a reputation for being hard to master), it’s still the second most spoken language in Europe and in science. With Germany as the third biggest contributor to investigations and as a nation that offers many postdoctoral opportunities, scientists would do well to start honing their German skills.

Plus, there have been 13 Nobel prizes in literature awarded to German-speaking authors, so don’t be too quick to dismiss it!

5. French

The best language to learn according to British employers is French, with 54 percent of employers saying that the language is useful to their business.

French is the second most widely learned foreign language after English, and the fifth most widely spoken language in the world. As a key economic partner and one of the world’s largest economies, many companies will highly value any French speaker in their midst.

As the working language and an official language of the United Nations and many international organisations, fluency in French would also be an indispensable skill to have for those seeking a career in international relations.

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