Why Learning a Language is Good for Your Career

Emma Buckby

28 Sep 2016

Today’s job market is more competitive than ever. Many experienced workers are competing for the most attractive positions in well-regarded organisations or trying to move up the career ladder in their current organisation.

While a good degree from a good university combined with a solid track record will help enormously, the ability to speak one or more foreign languages will help set you apart. Read on to discover more reasons why learning a language is good for your career.

Learning a Language is Good for Your Career: Climbing the Career Ladder

The business world is also globalising at an ever increasing rate. So how does an ambitious employee get ahead and climb the career ladder?

Globalisation in the workforce presents additional communication challenges that may not have been an issue when organisations traded solely within their home market. Amongst these challenges is finding the right language in which to communicate. In spite of English often being the global language of business, it is not always the language of choice.

Competitive Edge

Employees looking for a competitive edge over their colleagues may find that learning a new language gives them that edge. But which language? And how does an adult learn a new language, especially if it is a difficult one to learn?

In an article published in Forbes, language choice and learning methods are both explored. In the business world, Forbes highlights three languages as high-demand, low supply languages: Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and German.

Why Mandarin Chinese and Spanish?

In the business world, Forbes highlights three languages as high-demand

Mandarin Chinese and Spanish are both dominant languages in growing economies. They are found in Mainland China and Latin American countries that stretch from South and Central America to parts of the Caribbean as well as in a growing population in the USA.

Besides the healthy growth of many of these economies, there are specific business sectors that have a particular demand for these languages. For example, Mandarin Chinese speakers are needed in many manufacturing jobs. Spanish language speakers are needed in many sales, marketing and health care positions.

German may be a bit more surprising as German speaking markets are financially more mature. But they are also very globalised, especially in the fields of manufacturing and finance, and thus can benefit from German speakers in these areas in particular.

Learning a New Language

Languages are relatively easy for children to learn. After all, we have all learnt at least one language by the time we go to school. But by the time we reach adulthood, languages are no longer absorbed in the same way. They require significantly more effort to learn.

So how does an adult, especially one who is busy advancing their career, learn a new language effectively?

Three Steps to Learning a New Language

1. Study

Languages don’t simply ‘come’ to adults. They need to be studied.

Some people find language learning software to be effective. The advantage is that you can access the software at your convenience and not at a scheduled time that might not work for you. The disadvantage is that some people may decide there is never a good time to go online.

Other people find learning a language surrounded by other people to be more effective. Language learning courses abound in most major business markets.

Whether a professional language course or a general course offered at a community college or university, dedicated students can learn with other students who are at the same level as they are. But they need to attend their courses or they will be left behind.

2. Practice

Language gains are quickly lost if they are not used regularly. This is especially true for languages learnt by adults. Language students are advised to practice their emerging language skills for a minimum of 30 minutes per day.

Ideally, anyone who can do so should travel to a country where that language is spoken.

In some locations, you may be able to find a community that already speaks the language you are studying. For example, an American keen to learn Spanish can easily find a Spanish speaking café or shop where Spanish is routinely spoken by staff and customers in any major city.

In other locations, language students may be better off relying on technology to facilitate practising their language. This doesn’t need to be boring, repetitive exercises. Today’s language learning can easily incorporate interesting apps that have the additional advantage of being portable. Language games can appeal to other students.

3. Immersion

Learning a new language goes far beyond being able to read and write it. Conversational proficiency is expected in today’s business environment as well. Being able to speak a new language means being immersed in that language. It also means being immersed in the culture of that language.

Ideally, anyone who can do so should travel to a country where that language is spoken. If not, you can go to an area where people are already speaking their new language.

Tomorrow’s leaders know that they continuously need to upgrade their skills

Book a ticket to Germany. Go to your local Chinatown. Find an interest – maybe dance, cookery, or even archaeology – that caters to Spanish speakers. Explain that you are learning their language.

Try to get over any feeling of awkwardness or embarrassment. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help you learn their language and often a lot about their culture as well.

Tomorrow’s leaders know that they continuously need to upgrade their skills. More people than ever recognise that this includes another language, especially in certain fields of business. Do you have the competitive edge for advancing your career? Do you know recognise that learning a language is good for your career?

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