Around one-fifth of the planet speaks a form of Chinese. Of those, more than 870 million people consider Mandarin Chinese their mother tongue. This makes it the most widely spoken first language in the world. Unsurprisingly, therefore, becoming fluent in the language opens a few doors when it comes to your career.

Companies from countries ranging from China to Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore are constantly on the lookout for fluent speakers. Not to mention those recruiting right here in the UK. And with 3% of all foreign language vacancies posted on currently looking for Mandarin speakers, there’s never been a better time to start learning. Especially when that 3% is highly likely to rise.

Mandarin’s global influence has been spreading for some time. Thanks to the continuous, rapid growth of China’s economy. Second only to the US in size. Mandarin is deemed the second-most important language in global business, behind English.

Chinese is also one of the most sought-after foreign languages among English language employers. Although English has maintained a strong influence in Southeast Asia, China is the dominant trading partner in the region. With this, there is an increasing need for Mandarin speakers. Particularly within the tourism and education fields. English and Mandarin are likely to co-exist in this part of the world so those who speak both will be in demand. 

Irene Missen of language specialist recruitment agency Euro London says that ordinary Joe’s are not multilingual. Although today’s bright young things often have great English, few people in their 40s to 60s do. In jobs such as Sales, Marketing or technical support, languages can open doors for you. Missen estimates a language can add between 10% to 15% to your wage. For those looking to stand out in a tough job market, or for graduates wanting to add oomph to their CV, learning a language could be just the thing!

“It is so important for client retention”

Says Missen. She says many people will conduct meetings with foreign clients in English, but “if you can speak to people in their language during breaks, then they will see you in a very different light. I think they appreciate it if somebody has bothered to learn the language and come off their high horse of thinking that English is the best language; it helps with building relationships.”

Learning a language is not just about grammar and vocabulary, either: there’s cultural understanding too. Missen points out that even in Germany, a country we tend to think is similar to the UK, business is more formal. A handshake means that a deal is done, and missing a deadline is unthinkable. The further afield you go, the bigger the differences. Even if you’re Chinese is dodgy, knowing how things are done means that you are less likely to cause accidental offence.