It’s said that knowing another language is to have another soul. There are variations, such as the Persian saying ‘A new language is a new life’, but the theme is much the same.
However, ‘life’ and ‘soul’ are somewhat abstruse notions. What are some of the tangible benefits of learning and speaking another language?
An obvious one is that travel can become richer and more involving. From asking directions and ordering a drink, to bartering at a market and making new friends, opportunities arise to engage with locals on a deeper level.
Even learning a handful of opening phrases (Hi / How are you? / I’m sorry, I can’t speak German /Can you speak English?) can be all that’s required for a local to appreciate the effort you’ve made. They, in turn, may very well then make that extra effort to chat a little longer with you.
For the instances where you might only want to learn a little of a language, convenience is critical. It makes sense that your resource should be on you. It used to be a phrasebook, but now it’s most likely an app. There are a number of great apps out there which can help break the ice with foreigners.
Functionality is important.
- Is there plenty of content?
- Does it let you skip quickly between languages (imagine being on a train with half a dozen backpackers from all around the world)?
- Does it include audio to let you listen to how a native speaks?
One of my favourites which ticks all these boxes is Lingopal, and I happily spent several months touring through Eastern Europe with just that.
Another benefit to being bilingual is that it's career enhancing. This is important to consider both from employee and employer perspectives.
Let’s consider the employer’s view. The world, they say, is getting smaller. Free trade deals are on the agenda of numerous countries, and these can bring significant opportunities for business.
- It becomes a lot easier for a company wishing to sell leather goods to the burgeoning Chinese middle-class, if that company has Mandarin-speaking staff.
- If a business in Australia wants to sell foie gras to leading restaurants, it makes sense that someone in that business can speak directly with French suppliers.
The decision to go international in the first place is easier. The search for partners is easier. Relationship building is easier. And so on and so forth.
What about the employee? For a start, being fluent in more than one language is a competitive advantage over others. It informs the employer that here is a person who is willing to take on challenges, is flexible, and has an interest in people and cultures. Depending on the business, opportunities for travel and foreign postings may arise, and it would be much easier to argue your case for a two-year stint in Moscow if you can speak conversational Russian.
How to learn?
Research suggests that immersion (living in the country) is probably the most effective way of taking on a new language, but that’s obviously impractical in many cases. There are, of course, the tried and tested books and CDs; some good, some not so good. Increasingly, however, online options are becoming part of the mix.
- Free language learning platform DuoLingo use gamification techniques to keep tyre-kickers and procrastinators interested.
- Language learning social network italki emulates the marketplace models of AirBnB and Uber to place teachers and learners together in one-on-one video sessions.
- Language-learning resource Rosetta Stone, a mainstay offering in the books and CDs market, is seeing increasing take-up of its mobile app.
These eLearning tools by themselves won’t make you fluent in a new language, but they’re a great start, often letting you fit short learning sessions in at convenient times, between appointments, during a commute, or even while you are half awake in bed.
In a similar vein, Velpic encourages users to maximise those moments for self-education. To find out how Velpic can help make it easier and more cost-effective to execute workplace training or knowledge sharing online, we welcome you to visit velpic.com.