China now consumes more energy than the United States.
That may seem like an insignificant factoid, but it illustrates the way the economic balances of the world are shifting. In the next 50 years, changes in trade patterns, production, population and politics will radically alter the economic landscape.
English may remain the lingua franca of international trade, but rapidly emerging powers like China and Brazil may start shifting that. Young workers in America should be mindful of this, and consider language training to give themselves an international edge.
Besides the cultural and intellectual benefits, becoming a polyglot can open up a host of new opportunities. Positions with multinational corporations, non-governmental organizations and the government often require proficiency in more than one language. Marketing companies now tackle the challenge of selling to audiences on five continents.
Without a doubt, the most important language will be Mandarin Chinese. Although it can be brutally hard – the Foreign Service calls it a Category III language, the hardest type – Chinese speakers should definitely be able to find work.
Spanish could be very important, but consider Portuguese as well – Brazil is far and away Latin America’s regional superpower.
For those interested in diplomacy or government work, Arabic – another Category III tongue – is highly in demand. With much of the world’s oil located in the Middle East, Arabic speakers will have a market for their skills for a long time.
So crack open those Rosetta Stone boxes, and start studying.