Doing Business Abroad? Learn the Local Language, Fast – Here’s How

Are you into business travel? I know I am! Not that I need to meet client overseas, but my business allows me to work and travel as I see fit. Pretty neat, huh?

Anyway, if you love traveling as I do, I’m sure that you’re aware of this issue: Language barrier.

It’s called a ‘barrier’ for a reason: It makes conversing in a local language difficult. However, on the bright side, it’s not impossible to do so. So, if you love to (or have to) travel for business purposes, it’s recommended for you to lower the barrier by learning the language.

Multi-ethnic business partners

But which language should I learn?

Well, if you are an English native speaker, your choice of a second language depends on who you’re doing business with – mostly. If you’re doing business in China a lot, then it’s only logical to learn Chinese.

If you’re a non-English speaker, then I think you need to learn English first, as it’s the official language of the world. But you shouldn’t stop there!

That’s right, although English is the first choice of language around the world for a second language, it’s not the only language you should learn, especially if you travel to countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

If English is not your first language, then it’s a must-learn one because approximately 340 million people around the world speak English as the first language, plus 510 million people worldwide who speak English as a second language.

How long should you invest your time in learning English? Well, six months is a good milestone, but if you want to do it faster, you can learn from Tim Ferriss and Benny Lewis – both are polyglots – those who speaks multiple languages.

But how long exactly do you need to learn nine widely spoken language?

All fine and dandy – but you shouldn’t forget that there’s cost related to learning the second language of your choice. How much would that be?

Second language learning costs

I don’t know how about you, but I’m going to give up learning Chinese if it costs you US$41,954 (US$19.07/hour.) Are there any other ways? Yes.

Tim shows you that anyone can actually learn any language in 3 months or less. That’s quite promising, especially when you’re interested in learning on how to read, write and speak challenging second languages, such as Arabic, Chinese and Russian.

According to Tim Ferriss’ advice, I found that you have two options:

1. Learn by yourself

Referring to Tim’s article mentioned above, you can learn any second languages yourself. What you need are the right tools. Tim uses pre-made flashcard decks – both physical and digital version of them.

Tim uses color-coded physical flashcards that he bought from online stores and the ones that he made himself. If you fancy digital flashcards, you can try Anki.

Not only flash cards, but you should also learn using other platforms. You can learn a great deal from YouTube videos, live-stream radio, and other video content online. You should also try free language learning courses, like the ones offered by DuoLingo.

There are also courses you can take online, but the best route to save (a lot) of money is to find those that offer coupon codes and discounts. You can look for those from online coupon sites like CouponBox.

2. learn by speaking with a native

This is, in my opinion, probably the best route to learning any second languages quickly. Sure, you can DIY the whole thing, but if you’re not practicing what you’ve learned on a regular basis, you’re going to lose it eventually. Speaking with a native speaker of the language is the best route for you to “master” a second language.

But how to do it if you’re not physically present in the country that speaks the language? There’s a way: Using Skype.

Of course, Skype alone won’t work; you still need to find native speakers who actually want to converse with you. But fear not, there are sites that can help you connect with native speakers, such as italki. You can learn Chinese for as much as US$5/hour. I don’t know how about you, but $5/hour sounds great compared to US$19/hour.


As you can see, learning any languages shouldn’t be that hard and expensive. Yes, you need to invest your time and some money, but if it’s important for your livelihood and passion, then it’s a no-brainer – you should do it!

So, are you a polyglot? If so, please share your tips, methods or tools that can help our readers to learn a second language.