This is a guest post from Christian Arno on why learning second language should be top of your to-do list. Christian covers many practical reasons why you might want to add a second (or third, or fourth) language to your skill set, but the reason I like best is that the process of learning a language opens up new perspectives on culture and communication – as well as on learning itself. Enjoy – and please comment to share any experiences you have or are having with learning another language. – Jeff
If you’re reading this, then we can safely assume that you speak English, either as a native speaker or to a reasonable degree of fluency. Well lucky you, you just so happen to have linguistic competency in the current language of international business and the top contender for global language.
Have you considered, though, how your life and career prospects might be enhanced by branching out into other languages? Globalisation doesn’t – and shouldn’t – mean that the world will all end up speaking the one language; rather, it means that to be successful in the modern world you need to be able to communicate effectively across a broad range of cultures and languages.
Until recently, studying a foreign language (if you’re a native English speaker) was considered to be a necessity only for those going into the fields of translation, teaching or diplomacy. Now, businesses are beginning to realize that having staff with language skills, as well as the relevant technical skills, makes them far better equipped to compete in the global marketplace.
No matter what your industry – whether it’s IT, entertainment law or engineering – your employability can only be enhanced by knowledge of a second, third or fourth language. Many employers will even pay higher initial salaries to those with foreign language skills, both for the skills themselves, but also because the very act of learning a foreign language takes time and dedication – in having foreign language skills you’re telling an employer that you have focus, drive and can commit to hard work.
The decision to learn a foreign language shouldn’t be dictated by financial reasons alone, though. That would be ignoring the many other benefits that come with studying language.
You learn up-close how other cultures operate, which in turn provides you with a new perspective on your own cultural background. You gain a new appreciation for the ways in which languages are structured and how communication works – learning another language’s grammar systems can be both frustrating and very rewarding. Learning one language will also get you started on understanding other languages, as well.
For instance, the Romance languages, which have their roots in Latin, all have many similarities – if you speak French, then getting a grasp of Spanish will be far easier than picking up Chinese or Russian, and once you can understand Spanish then moving onto Portuguese or Romanian should be much easier, with its many similar phrases and grammatical rules, after which the leap to learning Italian is simply a linguistic skip and a step. Well, in theory at least.
Naturally, if you’re learning the language of a place where you would like to travel or eventually live, then being able to speak the lingo will make your life a thousand times easier – the locals will respect you, you’ll find it much easier to get around and get what you want, you’re less likely to fall into unwise financial deals, and you’ll never order something unusual and unpalatable at local restaurants.
This is not to mention the increase in opportunities to be employed and work overseas in exotic locations, or that people will perceive you to be more intelligent because you can converse in a language they can’t. Or the fact that you’ll look incredibly cool in front of your friends if you’re traveling or meeting people for the first time and you’re able to converse fluently in their local language.
With all signs pointing towards either China, or maybe even India, becoming the world’s next great superpower, now might be a good time to think about expanding your linguistics repertoire – it doesn’t really matter what language you choose to learn, as being bilingual can only be of benefit – whether you use it to become a professional translator, seek out new overseas business contacts, run an international NGO, go into diplomacy, or just impress people at dinner parties. Learning a language can open all sorts of new doors to you.
About the author
Christian Arno is the founder and Managing Director of global translations company Lingo24. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 employs some 4,000 professional freelance translators covering a hundred different language combinations. Follow Christian on Twitter: @Lingo24chr.
P.S. – Interested in learning a second language? Check out 20 Language Learning Links from the Learning Monitor and 15 Language Learning Tools for Lifelong Learners.
I am an avid lifelong learner who writes and speaks frequently on the critical role of learning in our fast-changing world.