Speaking and negotiating in the right business language

According to the Oxford dictionary, negotiating means trying “to reach an agreement.”

While seemingly straightforward, it is no easy feat for beginners or seasoned professionals. However, language and negotiating skills may help.

Here are some of the most popular international business languages, negotiation styles and techniques. They’re based on top spoken languages in regions and industries experiencing economic growth and studies on negotiating techniques.

International business languages


With two billion speakers, English is the most popular international business language, widely spoken in academia and online. As per American Express, English dominates in countries considered “economic powerhouses” and is the official language of many.

English is Microsoft and Nokia’s official corporate language and is useful in education, healthcare, marketing, tourism, technology and web development. 


Mandarin has approximately 1.1 billion speakers, according to Babbel It is the second most popular language online. It’s an official language in Singapore and Taiwan, with many speakers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. 

China has the biggest economy worldwide, increasing its manufacturing capacity by 2025.

Learning Mandarin is respectful as Chinese business is based on courtesy customs.

According to American Express, Mandarin is useful in the education, communications, government, marketing, manufacturing and tourism industries.


German has approximately 130 million speakers and is the fourth most spoken language. It’s one of the European Union’s procedural languages and Europe’s international business language.

Many European countries recognize German as an official language, including Austria and Belgium. Many German speakers live in Holland, Denmark and Luxembourg. 

Learning German is useful in academia and politics. 


There are more than 442 million Spanish speakers. It’s one of the five most common languages.

Spanish is North, South and Central America’s international business language. Its North American dominance will likely “double in the next decade,” according to Quartz.

Spanish is an official language in Argentina, Chile and Peru, among other countries.

Speaking Spanish is helpful in the education, hospitality, law and healthcare industries.


There are 460 million native Arabic speakers. Arabic is the official language in parts of the Middle East and in Africa, Libya and Egypt, among other countries. 

Arabic was named one of the five “languages of the future” by the British Council. Middle Eastern Arabic-speaking countries include Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. 

Arabic is useful in the banking, oil, telecommunications, education, finance, government, marketing and translation industries. 

Similar to learning languages, learning negotiating styles is crucial.

There are five main negotiation styles, according to decades of negotiation literature and behavioural observations. 

Negotiation styles


These negotiators are assertive and focused on results. They may pursue their own concerns and become aggressive. 


These negotiators avoid tension and responsibility and don’t pursue their interests immediately. 


These negotiators smooth over tensions and strive to satisfy other people’s needs.


These negotiators often find middle-ground solutions, usually settling for moderate satisfaction.


These negotiators are communicative and focused on finding creative solutions, brainstorming ideas and maintaining relationships. 

Negotiation techniques

According to Harvard Business School’s Alison Wood Brooks, pre-performance nerves should be reframed as excitement.

According to Tufts University professor Jeswald Salacuse, opening negotiations with draft agreements can “increase your influence over the negotiation” and save money and time.

Additionally, silence is crucial according to Harvard Law and Business Schools.

As is final-offer arbitration (FOA), according to professor Max H. Bazerman. FOA means each side submits its “final offer to an arbitrator” who selects one.

As for closing business deals, Richard Harroch has tips.


Try to understand the other’s limitations and avoid monopolizing the conversation. 

Be prepared

Review the other party’s business before the negotiation. Do Google and LinkedIn searches when reviewing their background and similar deals they’ve completed. Establish a positive relationship with them.

Understand the dynamics

Determine who wants the deal most and time constraints. Frame the deal’s structure and your preferred terms. Don’t be unrealistic.

Maintain a poker face and be ready to walk away 

If the deal’s terms aren’t meeting your expectations. Know your target prices.

Don’t rush through negotiations or concessions 

Consider setting issues aside temporarily and never accept the first offer.

Ask questions 

Ask about the pricing, benefits and so forth.

Advisor or lawyer

Write a term sheet on the deal’s key terms. For complex deals, consider speaking with an advisor or lawyer. 


View negotiating as problem solving, determine what your partner wants.

Decision time

If you think you’ve made a reasonable offer, give your partner a deadline to walk away or accept it.

Overall, all negotiation styles have their risks and advantages. 

Your ideal business language(s) and negotiating techniques depend on your business concerns, industry and regional factors. 

But it can be helpful to recognize your counterpart’s style and tendencies and adjust yours accordingly.

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