Language learning, like losing weight, learning to play a new musical instrument or exploring a new dance step, takes lots of time and practice. The payoff, however, is one that can benefit life immensely, be it students, young & seasoned professionals or businesses.
I am reminded of the remarkable words from Nelson Mandela where his expression is sure to keep the inspiration flowing for language learners on the path to language fluency.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”.
Mandela’s remark captures dramatically one of the core functions of language, to express identity. To learn a new language is to learn how to communicate deeply with one who speaks the language.
Very frequently, I come across students & young professionals wanting to understand what international language study they should consider to be one up in the intensely competitive environment of today, keeping in mind future employment, further academic research, or simply personal interest. I am sure you face this dilemma as well and have done your own research on this hotly debated subject.
The desire to become prominent in a language other than ones native language is expanding globally where ambitious students at all levels – elementary, secondary, and tertiary – are opting for various foreign courses.
I come from a corporate background with many years of experience working with sales teams & customers globally from different cultures & background in setting up processes, tools & metrics and increasing sales & productivity. I can assure you that learning a second language not only opens up a ton of career opportunities but more importantly establishes deep connections and cross-cultural friendships which is a life changing experience. Language learning allows a person to generate critical thinking skills contributing to perceiving a completely different world.
To give my readers a perspective on the languages for the future as well as the most compelling languages to learn in 2019, I am writing this two-part blog where I have scoured through many sources including industry leading publications, forums, business leaders and academia. Special mention here of two resources I have extensively used in my study – i) Internetworldstats.com, which provides an interesting way of looking at the development of international languages via internet usage. The site aggregates information from various sources to create a list of the internet’s top languages by number of users & ii) Ethnologue, an authoritative resource on world languages.
I am hoping this blog will provide additional insights to you as you consider the language options for study.
The world is changing fast
As each economy around the world becomes increasingly international, the need and demand for foreign languages continues to grow. The world is becoming more and more interconnected. Advancements in technology are seeing the world become smaller, and countries more dependent on each other. For those reasons, it is imperative for businesses to learn to work and communicate with people from different backgrounds. Fluency in foreign languages is a skill that employers will prize in business settings as connecting with customers, businesses, suppliers, and potential partners is always crucial to success.
In fact, the proficiency in foreign language for students & graduates cannot be underestimated, as a reading from The Economist Intelligence Unit stated, “Even when recruiting for jobs in home market, almost one-half of all companies want the candidates to be fluent in a foreign language as they believe that multilingual ability is a key towards success.”
The US Council on Foreign Relations asserts that the promotion of foreign language instruction should be a national priority: “The global economy is shifting away from the English-speaking world. Since 1975, the English-speaking share of global GDP has fallen significantly and will continue to fall. The Chinese economy will surpass the US economy in size soon after 2030. Latin America (Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking) and South Asia (Hindi- and Urdu-speaking) are growing strongly as well.”
Of course, all said and done, economic factors are only part of the story. People learn languages for all sorts of reasons, and all language learning is beneficial in one way or another where some of the other benefits of a bilingual education are well documented such as aids, cross-cultural understanding, global awareness, enhancing academic progress by abstracting creative thinking and increasing the chance of college acceptance.
So, which languages are in demand?
UK-based The Telegraph posted a list of the ten best languages to study based on their relation to employability i.e. German, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Polish, Arabic, Cantonese, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese.
The Guardian narrows it down (for Brits) to French, Spanish, Swedish, German, and Russian.
Key Skills for Enterprise to Trade Internationally, published by Forfás (Ireland’s policy advisory board for enterprise and science) and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) emphasises a more comprehensive list: German, French, Spanish and Italian as well as Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Arabic.
According to UNESCO, the world’s most widely spoken languages by a number of speakers are Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, German and French.
In part 2 of this blog post, I will list my very own selection of the top languages to learn in 2019 as well as delve on a research to take a look at contenders for the easiest language to master… and the hardest!
Thank you for reading this post. We at Blue-Sky look forward to feedback, comments and suggestions you have to improve the post and make it useful to the student community as they pursue their goals and aspirations.