English preferred language for world business

Spanish a distant second: Poll

NEW YORK (Reuters) — Workers whose jobs require them to interact with people in foreign countries say English is the dominant language of business, according to a new poll.

More than one-quarter of employees in 26 countries around the world told an Ipsos poll their jobs involve dealing with people in other countries. And of those, two-thirds said English is the language they use most often.

Workers in India, Singapore and Saudi Arabia were the most likely to say their jobs involved interacting with people in other countries, with 59 per cent, 55 per cent and 50 per cent saying so, respectively.

But only nine per cent in Japan and 13 per cent in Russia said their work required communication outside the country.

"The most revealing aspect of this survey is how English has emerged as the default language for business around the world," said Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Global Public Affairs which conducted the poll for Reuters.

The survey of 16,344 employed adults in 26 countries showed 67 per cent of workers who deal with people beyond their borders said English was the language used most often, with Spanish a very distant second at five per cent.

Nearly as many, 61 per cent, said the language used for such interactions was different from their native one.

Bricker said the findings suggest "all those in the English-speaking world who suggested that our children should learn Mandarin or Japanese to have successful careers were beaten to the punch by the Chinese, in particular, learning English first."

While more than three-quarters of people in North America said they used English most often to communicate with those in other countries, 63 per cent in China said the same thing. The same was true for France.

More than two-thirds of workers in the Asia-Pacific region, Middle East and Africa also defaulted to English.

In Latin America, only one-third said English was most common when dealing with people in other countries. In Argentina and Mexico, the choice was Spanish, in Brazil, Portuguese.

The survey showed people with higher levels of income or education were among the most likely to say English was most commonly used for foreign business relationships. Gender and age had no bearing on the dominant language for conducting business.

Countries surveyed included Indonesia, Turkey, the United States, Sweden, Great Britain, Spain, Canada and Italy among others.

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