Programming, web development and even musical instruments – when it comes to developing skills I’ve tried my share. With a challenging job market, it may seem a bit of a strange to suggest language learning when there are many other skills people could be focusing on acquiring. “Coding is the new Latin” as they say and why not be more concerned with passing LSATS and getting into Grad school. With the world becoming a smaller place by the day and so many people learning English, why would you divert you attention to learning another language? While there is some truth to these arguments, there are other factors which should be taken into account when weighing up the pros and cons of spending your time in this way.

(Disclaimer: It is very difficult to write about learning languages in a general context without specific examples. Languages like Chinese or Japanese can take years to master, and even longer to learn how to write whereas artificial languages like Esperanto can be learnt in a matter of months. For this post, I’m going to refer to other European languages like French, German and Spanish that most of us learn in school.)

It shows you’re thinking BIG

Unless your business is completely oriented towards the English speaking market then acquiring a working knowledge of another language will place you at an advantage in the workplace. Depending on the language of course, any employer should see the potential that offers to expand a business towards a certain market and that you’re at ease in a different setting. A job-applicant who has acquired working knowledge of another language clearly shows he’s flexible and willing to expand his horizons. In my last post I mentioned how Miami was oriented towards the Caribbean and beyond, both culturally and economically. With a market working on such a grand scale, it only makes sense to do the same and think towards working with clients from the region. With Spanish being everywhere in the city, I would be placing myself at a disadvantage by not taking every opportunity to practice and develop it while I’m here.

It shows determination

One criticism I come across fairly often is that despite all your efforts, you will never speak it as well as somebody who is naturally bilingual. That may be true and I, for one, have to think about what I am saying much more when I switch languages compared to friends who are naturally fluent in both. But for me such a statement is missing the real point about what language learning shows about you. Natively bilingual people have grown up with this two languages and this is does give them an advantage. However, everybody who wasn’t born with this advantage has had develop it. Mastering a language requires huge effort and even years of practice. To be able to persevere and develop a skill to a high level shows a commitment to your mental development, which must place you in a different category of your own.

It expands your horizons.

Not only does it show your employer you’re ambitious but it also proves to you what you’re capable of once you set your mind to it. For many people learning another language is something that never gets crossed off their to-do list. If you’ve mastered the German declensions or the Cyrillic alphabet, then surely learning how to code can’t be that hard? While that also takes time, having acquired this skill does set the bar very high.

On another level entirely, it exposes you to people you would otherwise not have met. Networking works better when there’s no language barrier and people are almost always appreciative of the fact you’ve made the effort to learn their language.

Language learning may not be as clear-cut of a skill as many would like, but it is a flexible skill that can be applied to a variety of environments. While some people would hesitate to show their future employer they have an interest in languages, I think it’s pretty clear that it’s something you should be proud to put on your CV. I would recommend all those interested in pursuing it to use a framework such as the European one to demonstrate their level and mark their progress. My next post will be about my plans to finally  get accredited in Spanish.

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