Attention Americans – Do You Want To Be Competitive in a Global Economy? Learn a Second Language
Here’s an old joke:
What do you call a person who speaks 3 languages? Trilingual.
What do you call a person who speaks 2 languages? Bilingual.
What do you call a person who speaks 1 language? American.
I mention this joke because in most cases, it’s true. Many Americans only speak one language – English. Although it’s a very useful language to know, since it’s one of the most spoken languages in the world, being able to speak another language makes you more marketable in the global economy. The reasons are because of the global and local changes occurring:
- Since the fastest growing population in the United States is Hispanics, the majority of the signs that you see in this country are in English and in Spanish.
- We are a global economy. Many IT and customer service jobs have been off-shored to countries such as India, China and Brazil, and many large corporations have operations all over the world.
I’m predicting that in 20 years, being bilingual (or multi-lingual) will become a requirement for skilled workers in the United States.
So which language is the best to learn? What languages make you more marketable in the global economy? Well, it will depend on the organization and your plans. For example, if you work for a multinational organization, any language in which your organization has a presence will work. If you will be doing work with the government that will require you to work overseas, such as being located in Afghanistan, the native language of the country where you will be located will be ideal. If you need some general guidance, here are some suggestions.
- If you’re going to live and work in the United States, Spanish is the ideal second language to learn. Spanish is the 2nd most spoken language in the United States and the 2nd most spoken language in the world.
- If you’re going to work in Canada or work with Canadian companies, French is an ideal second language to learn. English and French are the two official languages in Canada, and with Canada being our neighbors to the north, if you’re working in a northern border town, there’s a strong chance that you will be working with a Canadian business.
- Since we do a lot of business with Chinese firms, Mandarin Chinese is another ideal second language to learn. Mandarin is the official language of China, so nearly all Chinese business associates will be well-versed in Mandarin. If you plan on getting into IT security, Mandarin Chinese is an ideal second language to learn because a high number of hacking attempts come from China.
- Since IT and customer service work is primarily off-shored to India, Hindi is another ideal second language to learn. Hindi and English are the official languages of India, and knowing both languages will put you in an ideal position to help your organization work with the off-shored workers.
So how do you begin? I’ll share with you what I’m doing to help guide you.
To start with speaking skills, use programs developed by Michel Thomas or Paul Noble. These programs focus on being able to understand and speak the language. However, they don’t focus on the grammar and syntax because the classes’ objective is to have the student be able to speak the language and understand the language when spoken to. How I did it is I did the Paul Noble program first, then graduated to the Michel Thomas program. If you’re short on cash, and you plan on learning Spanish, Greek, German, Swahili, Basic Arabic or Basic Italian, visit LanguageTransfer.org and download a course for free. They’re also in the process of launching a French course, so stay tuned.
Get yourself a language learning app to do along with your language learning method. Busuu, Duolingo, and Memrise are three that I use that I highly recommend. I like Busuu because you also learn more details about the grammar and syntax.
Once you get the hang of the speaking skills, take a class – either a self-study course or a formal course such as a college classroom – that focuses on the grammar and syntax.
To master speaking the language, find someone who speaks the language to help with pronunciation. Italki and Verbling are services that allows you to use Skype to connect to a native speaker for a fee. If you personally know a native speaker of the language you’re learning, take advantage of this. Offer this person a small sum, a free meal, or another bartering tool to help you.
Additional tip – once you get the hang of the language that you’re learning, get certified! There are numerous certifications that demonstrate your skill in a particular language, such as the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). Not only does it add to your portfolio, but it comes in handy if you want to work in a different country. Many countries require you to take a certification test to determine your language fluency, and these countries require that certification before you can get a work visa. For example, Canada now requires a certification in either English or French before potential workers can qualify for a work visa.
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Additional benefits of learning a language
- Makes you smarter
- Builds your multitasking skills
- Stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Improves memory and decision-making skills
- Improves your English skills