What are the Most Sought-After Languages by UK Employers?

In the UK, we rely heavily on the fact that our native language is almost universally spoken, so much so that levels of language learning are on the decline. However, with many global businesses operating in the UK, the need for workers who can communicate in their clients’ and customers’ native languages is on the rise.

The benefits of being able to converse in a customer’s or client’s native language are so great that international companies with UK offices and British businesses with a presence overseas are desperately seeking to hire staff with language skills. But what languages are currently the most in-demand?

The jobs site Indeed recently calculated the number of postings per million in the last three years that required specific language skills to identify what the most in-demand languages are.

The most sought-after languages by UK employers

Rank Language Postings per million % change since 2016
1 German 1221 +11.59%
2 French 1152 +1.17%
3 Chinese 643 +35.39%
4 Spanish 567 -9.50%
5 Italian 531 +17.68%
6 Dutch 274 -10.96%
7 Polish 203 -28.83%
8 Japanese 198 -3.78%
9 Russian 195 -7.87%
10 Arabic 146 -21.64%

German and French continue to vie for the position of most sought-after language by UK employers, with the number of postings requiring German speakers climbing by more than one-tenth over the last three years to secure the top spot.

The figures also show that over the last three years, the demand for Chinese speakers (Mandarin and Cantonese) has seen the most significant growth, up by more than 35 percent since 2016. During the same period, the demand for Polish speakers from UK employers has fallen by nearly 29 percent.

Overall, the number of job postings specifying a language requirement has risen by 2.7 percent since 2016. This shows that although English might be considered a universal language, linguists are still very much in demand.

The UK plans for a future outside of the European Union

Although seven of the top 10 languages are European, the sharp rise in the demand for Mandarin and Cantonese speakers shows that businesses are starting to prepare for life outside of the EU. China looks set to overtake the US as the world’s largest economy over the next decade and securing a trade deal with China is certainly high on the list of the UK government’s priorities.

There has also been significant global expansion in China’s own companies, with a number of businesses, including tech firms, manufacturers and Chinese retailers, investing heavily to establish a presence in the UK, and particularly in London. This has also contributed to the rising demand for UK-based Chinese speakers.

How will the demand for bilingual workers be met?

While the growing demand for linguists is good news for bilingual candidates, just where will all those bilingual workers come from? The first source of talented linguists is the UK’s education system. The government hopes to produce more homegrown bilingual and polyglot candidates to meet the demand. However, with the number of students taking German and French at GCSE level falling by more than half, the signs don’t look promising.

The other source of native European language speakers is the many EU migrants who come to the UK to live. However, with ONS data suggesting that net migration from the EU is currently at its lowest level for 10 years, EU migrants will struggle to meet the growing demand.

The only conclusion to draw is that it’s going to become increasingly difficult for UK employers to hire the bilingual speakers they need. With the skills gap widening, bilingual candidates will find themselves more in-demand than ever before and be able to command higher salaries as employers are forced to compete for their specialist skills.

The perfect time to find your next bilingual role

With demand for talented linguists rising, now is the perfect time to find your next bilingual role. Take a look at our current vacancies, submit your CV or give us a call on 02392 987 765 to discuss your requirements with our team.