Recently, the UK version of the Huffington Post blog published a list of eight reasons why you should learn a language. Although the list was directed at post-secondary students, some of its insights can be applied to the world of business.
We’ll start with cognitive benefits. It seems as if the scientific community keeps building the case that bilinguals experience brain-strengthening benefits compared to monolingual cohorts. If you want to stay sharp throughout your career, including staving off the effects of dementia, learning a language is a great strategy.
The list talks a lot about culture. The cultural competency gained through learning a language is just as valuable to a career as the language skills themselves. Understanding the people and places you are targeting is a great way to make a positive impression on clients, coworkers, and other colleagues.
Then there are the practical benefits to a career. Bilingualism is one of the most sought-after skills in the marketplace. As the world becomes even more interconnected, companies and organizations are looking for people who can help bridge whatever gaps may exist.
Naturally, those bilingual, culturally competent employees will be at the forefront when an organization is expanding or maintaining interests around the world. Expatriates are much more likely to be successful in their assignments if they can connect professional and socially with their neighbors. There are also the practical matters like ordering food in a restaurant, finding locations, and staying safe that can frustrate monolinguals on international assignments.
Conversely, learning a new language gives the learner a new insight into English. The process of learning the grammar and vocabulary of another language bolsters those same skills in the native language. The new bilingual simply thinks deeper, and has a different appreciation, of our language and how complex it can be. This rubs off in communication skills, even in the home tongue.
In a similar vein, the language learner gains a new appreciation for the cultural amalgamation known as the United States. Local people and cultures that may have been afterthoughts before now can be accessed in a new way, opening possibilities for business and cultural opportunities here at home.
Simply put, the return on investment that a professional experiences when they learn a new language far outweighs the effort.