Intellectuals are often recognized by their ability to conduct fluent conversations in several languages, usually English, French and German. Being fluent in a foreign language is a pre-requirement for many academic programs and is often a mark of intelligence and capability.
The majority of the non English world studies English as a default second language (as I have). That’s a step in the right direction. But I insist we should not stop there. I’ve decided to study French as an additional foreign language and urge my dear readers to do the same.
The most common languages on earth are Mandarin Chinese (885 million speakers), Spanish (332 million), English (322 million), Bengali (189 million) and Hindi (182 million). The UN’s 5 official languages are: Chinese, English, French, Russian and Arabic. I believe that one of the basic steps to understanding the world we live in is to accept cultural and ethnical diversity. Language is one of the very basic building blocks of the latter.
There are many benefits to being fluent in more languages. Some are more obvious than others. Here are 5 key benefits in my opinion:
#1 Opening an entirely new potential “market” for yourself
Languages are doorways to worlds and markets. In a recent interview with investment guru Jim Rogers he told about his daughter’s Chinese nanny and the Chinese lessons she’s taking at a very early age to prepare her for the future. Any foreign language opens a doorway to a foreign economy and market, each with vast opportunities of its own.
Needless to say, the expanding globalization in the world’s economy has created a high demand for language skills and cultural diversity.
#2 Creating a competitive edge
A foreign language is one of the best ways of creating a competitive edge relatively quickly. If you have the time you can become quite fluent in a foreign language in a matter of months. If you have only several hours a week it could take a year up to a year and a half but its well worth the investment.
Consider how your resume would look like if you were fluent in another language. Consider how you would be able to differentiate yourself from your fellow colleagues and offer a different added value to potential employers.
#3 Branding yourself differently
Marketing is almost everything these days. Branding yourself is required to succeed in any field of work. Fluency in a foreign language tends to stand out quickly enough and is guaranteed not to be forgotten. Naturally the more exotic the language the bigger the impact but all foreign languages will achieve this effect.
#4 Increasing your networking opportunities
From my own experience the same people who’ve decided to invest their free time in learning a foreign language are the same people you’d like to network with. Nearly all professions benefit from synergies created by speaking another language.
#5 Expanding your horizons
We all live on the same planet. Another language will introduce new worlds and cultures to you. Cultural and ethnical diversity are greatly appreciated and contribute to our evolution as human beings. Understanding the world we live in is invaluable to every metric for success everywhere.