You have certainly heard this series of Q&A jokes:
Q: What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
Q: What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
Q: What do you call someone who speaks one language?
A: An American.
While this seems funny, the reality is that you do not need to be a linguist to determine that something is wrong with that picture. Today, learning another language is becoming a very wise investment that will pay dividends today and throughout one’s life.
Let’s look at a few benefits of learning another language:
Careers and promotions: A second language is now becoming a vital part of the basic preparation for an increasing number of careers. I am not talking about majoring in foreign languages. Any profession today, coupled with the knowledge of a second language, prepares the professional to be ahead of the curve.
Many major U.S. corporations that currently make a high percentage of their profits from international markets are hiring professionals with a proficiency in foreign languages. Even in a tight job market, many graduates report that their foreign language skills enhance their hiring. Many employers are responding to the need to hire bilingual people by offering more money to start and higher raises throughout their staffer’s career, whether they stay home or are posted overseas.
Travels rewarding: When you spend a lot of money vacationing in other parts of the world, it is just plain more fun and rewarding when you visit a country where you speak little of the language but are attempting to improve. Even when you are not fluent in the language, locals treat you better because they see in you an effort to relate to them in a genuine way. Think about someone visiting your town here, but who makes no effort to speak English to anyone. You get better service in shops and restaurants because you can read the signs, understand the menu and converse better with the staff.
Additionally, if you want to work overseas, a global company will hire and pay you to visit and experience numerous parts of the world. In my many years of experience, I have noticed that children posted overseas always create opportunities for their parents to visit that country.
Safety and security: Being able to speak the native foreign language can be a lifesaver if you have a medical emergency abroad and have to communicate your symptoms to medical staff who may not speak English as well as you would hope they could. For your safety, strategically, communicating in the host language would be essential. In instances such as public health and public safety, communicating in the local language can be truly a matter of live or death.
Success in business: Our company’s motto states: “You can buy in any language; but if you want to sell, you better speak the language of your customer.” Businesses that are reaping profits in international markets hire in priority those who are bilingual and ready to be productive by communicating with clients overseas.
Cultural and more social opportunities: Learning a language automatically exposes you to the cultures of the people who speak that language. Also, when you speak a foreign language you have the opportunity to widen your network and associate with others who either speak the language or have learned that foreign language. Language learning is culture learning.
Emmanuel Ngomsi is president of All World Languages & Cultures, Inc. He consults, trains and coaches on Intercultural Communication, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. He can be reached at www.universalhighways.com.