Our world is getting ever more connected and the citizens of the world are rapidly bridging national, social, and linguistic differences. When crossing cultural boundaries, language is the single most important tool. Language provides the key to broadening career and educational opportunities, enhancing the exchange of ideas and information, and of course enjoying the beauty of other cultures.
For many people who stopped learning languages at school and have not been involved since then, the prospect of learning new languages can be rather daunting. It can take hard work to reach a good standard and then there is the challenge of maintaining that level of proficiency. But there is no reason why you should not enjoy and succeed in learning languages like Hindustani or Chinese. Even though people are all different – they learn at different speed levels and have different pronunciation – they tend to be best when it comes to learning and to communicating. With the right attitude, learning techniques, and guidance, you can master any language. The many benefits are obvious.
Understand the World
“Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery” – Mark Amidon
Language is the source of many misunderstandings, especially so when communicating across cultural boundaries. Although English is popularly known as a widely spoken and understood language in the world, it is still far from sufficient for understanding cultures of other linguistic backgrounds. It goes without saying that you gain more from a visit to a country if you can converse in the local language and actually get to know the people rather than just communicating in English with people in the tourism industry or academic elites. Use of even the most basic vocabulary helps to break down barriers and establish good relationships. It shows your respect towards the people of the country and that you take a genuine interest in them.
A basic knowledge of the destination language is a reasonably small task to achieve and should be included in anybody’s preparations. Learning a selection of key words or expressions specific to your sector or profession enables you to reach out and find or provide meaning in conversations. Being able to get your message across in the language of your destination culture allows you to transition more comfortably and increasingly immerse yourself. You will be able to express your thoughts and speak for yourself, thus inviting opportunities for new friendships and gaining the trust and respect of your hosts.
Reveal the Heart of Culture
“To have another language is to possess a second soul” – Charlemagne
Words shape the way we think. We dissect nature along lines laid down by our native language. Language is not simply a reporting device for experience but a defining framework for it. Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going. It introduces you to a different way of thinking and looking at the world. Any language has its own rich knowledge base. The means to access this knowledge is the language itself.
Learning a language is like getting to know an entire cultural or social system, with references to the lifestyle, geography, history, arts, economy as well contemporary socio-cultural practices including regional dialects and diversities, clothing styles, as well as the culinary practices in the area where the language is spoken. In addition to this, while you are learning about the culture and the language of a particular region you tend to compare it with your own language and culture. While doing this you think of the similarities and differences between your language and the foreign language which leads to a far more deeper study of your own language and culture as well.
Improve Your Cognitive Abilities
“Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Learning a new language will also help to sharpen your cognitive skills, enhance your overall learning abilities, and improve your capacity for learning and functioning in several other areas. Mental flexibility, creativity, problem-solving and reasoning skills are among the many beneficiaries of language study.
Learning a language up to any level is a valuable achievement in itself. Studying languages is a multi-faceted learning experience, which enriches you in many ways. Even if you only take one introductory course, you will learn a great deal about the way the new language works, you will have a feel for its rhythms and sounds, and you will have an insight into the cultural background of its speakers. Of course, the further you progress, the more valuable your knowledge will become.
Widen Your Career Choices
“A different language is a different vision of life” – Federico Fellini
In an age where more and more organisations are crossing cultural boundaries, a command of foreign languages helps to break the linguistic barriers and facilitates the exchange of information. When we learn a foreign language, we gradually expand the range of language at our disposal and the range of situations we can handle in that language. Learning a foreign language gives you an edge over the others since you become more equipped to face the global scenario than the people who have a limited set of linguistic skills.
If you travel infrequently or to various different countries it is difficult to decide which language to learn and what level is appropriate. Even if you only achieve a basic level, studying a foreign language shows that you are prepared to make an effort, often helps you to help the organisation you are working for, enhances your personal career prospects, and boosts the satisfaction you can derive from working with people of other cultural backgrounds.