Econo-linguism: The correlation between language and wealth
I personally am rather interested in foreign languages. I have minor qualifications in three of them. But I don't think it is clear that anybody is rich BECAUSE he speaks another language. I think it is more likely that a third factor (such as IQ) is at work: i.e. rich people are the sort of people who are likely to speak another language.
And in any case, the findings below are slim warrant for teaching or studying another language in High School. A much better case could be made to teach another languge in the grade-school years -- when another language is most easily acquired
Do people who speak more than one language earn more money?
When Forbes released its World Billionaire List for 2022, it became apparent that a pattern could be detected: many of the billionaires were able to speak a second language. In fact, we were able to determine that a staggering 32% of the richest people in the world can speak another language.
Establishing this was achieved by focusing on the languages that these billionaires speak, as some seemed to be more popular than others – but why is this? Are some languages more useful when it comes to being financially successful than others? Do job roles asking for bilingual people tend to pay more than those that don’t?
To answer these burning questions, we analysed whether there was a connection between the languages spoken by the richest people in the world and their wealth, as well as utilising Numbeo and The World Happiness Index to see if richer, ‘happier’ countries came with languages deemed useful in the workplace.
We then focused on the top-paying jobs on LinkedIn and Glassdoor to establish whether particular languages are requested for specific job titles, as well as whether they come with healthier salaries. After all of this, we were truly able to determine whether it pays to know a second language.
Do the richest people on the planet speak more than one language?
Unsurprisingly, at the top of the list sits Tesla mogul Elon Musk, with a net worth of a staggering $219,000,000,000 (£181bn). However, despite regularly being the wealthiest person on earth, Elon does not speak a second language. Third on the list was Benard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton SE who is worth a whopping $158,000,000,000 (£130bn).
His first language is French, but he can also speak English, German and Italian. With Germany sitting as the third richest country in the world and the UK ranking fifth on the same list, it is not surprising that the billionaire opted to learn these languages. As Italy is hailed as a country that is rich in culture, art and history, learning the native language also makes a lot of sense for the investor and art collector.
Third on the list is Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, with a net worth of $107,000,000,000 (£88bn). While English is his first language, the entrepreneur also speaks Russian. Steve Ballmer, 10th on the rich list, is worth $91,400,000,000 (£75bn) and speaks French as well as his first language, English. A recent article detailed that a speech done entirely in French by the Internet giant left Finance Minister Christine Lagarde ‘impressed’, along with a permanent legal residency in France.
32% of the world’s richest people speak a second language
Mukesh Ambani, director of Reliance Industries Ltd and worth $90,700,000,000 (£75.2bn), comes in at 11th on the list. With Gujarati as his first language, the billionaire has managed to forge immense success – unsurprising as this dialect is spoken by over 46 million people, across India, the United States and the UK. As his second language, he also speaks English.
Michael Bloomberg, 13th on the list and worth $82,000,000,000 (£68bn), speaks English as his first language and Spanish as his second. Our data revealed that the top languages spoken by billionaires on this list were Chinese, French and Spanish – which is unsurprising, as China is the third largest country in the world. Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook and worth $67,300,000,000 (£55.8bn) speaks Chinese as his second language. With so many financial possibilities in this country, it is obvious that billionaires would want to be able to make deals there as efficiently as possible.