In today's highly competitive global business environment knowledge of a foreign language can be a very positive attribute for an employee. Knowing the fundamentals and common expressions of languages other than your own can also be of enormous benefit if you travel internationally for business or pleasure. However, unless you were raised by parents who spoke more than one language, or lived in a multi-lingual neighborhood, learning another language quickly and easily can be very challenging. Of course, there are some fortunate few who possess the unique ability to understand and speak a different language with ease. They are often said to have a "good ear" for languages
Persons born and raised in the United States are likely to have progressed through an educational system where emphasis was placed on learning English to the exclusion of developing knowledge of other languages and cultures. This unfortunate perspective has come into focus as this country struggles to compete with increasingly effective international business concerns. The following shows not only the major languages of the world and the number of native speakers, it also recommends the dimension of the market your organization may wish to enter.
Note: linguists have identified almost 7,000 distinct languages plus several thousand dialects. The major languages of the world and the number of native speakers are as follows:
Chinese Mandarin 836,000,000
Chinese Wu 77,100,000
Chinese Cantonese 75,000,000
Although it is said that English is the universal language, not knowing the language of your competitor is a distinct disadvantage. In this regard, it is interesting to note that among the European Common Market countries, only Wales and Italy do not require mandatory education in a foreign language.
If you are now in a situation where learning new languages is a personal interest in becoming a polyglot or is important to your role and/or tenure in an organization you may want to consider the following.
* Enrolling in foreign language class in a junior college or university that meets for 45 hours per semester may give you some fundamental knowledge of polite interaction with others, the ability to order off of a menu, and the ability to ask directions. However, it is highly unlikely that you will develop functional bilingualism and fluency in the new language
* Taking a language immersion class requires you to attend class for many hours per day on a consistent basis. This has proven to be a very effective learning method. However, it can lead to language and attention fatigue that inhibits the learning process
* Purchasing language books and software for self-paced study requires a total commitment to the learning process. Boredom, frustration and distraction too often work to defeat the benefit the material offers.
To supplement the language learning experiences cited above you may consider:
* Reading a foreign language newspaper or periodical with a language dictionary nearby
* Attending a foreign language movie with or without sub-titles
* Watching language programming if available on your cable provider
* Use the Internet to find language learning resources.
* Speaking with a person knowledgeable if not fluent in the foreign language
* Be prepared to invest the time and energy necessary to achieve your language learning goals.