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It’s Time To Stop Taking The English Language For Granted

English is the international language of business, but that's no excuse not to try your hand at learning something new.

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English is the international language of business, but that's no excuse not to try your hand at learning something new.

Opinions

It’s Time To Stop Taking The English Language For Granted

English is the international language of business, but that's no excuse not to try your hand at learning something new.

Share this article

English is known as the “global language of business” and up until recently, it was the only language needed to excel in business. But times are changing.

More and more businesses are becoming dependent on trading overseas. Having the ability to cross cultural boundaries through fluency in foreign language(s) makes it possible to connect with suppliers, partners, and customers, paving the way for better business relations and opportunities to thrive in the global market.

Enhancing your CV and improving communication in overseas business are great reasons to learn a second language, but there are other advantages. Those who practice multiple languages regularly are shown to have improved cognitive processes including reasoning, problem-solving and multitasking. They also benefit from having a better memory, and prolonged brain health.

Choosing the “best” language to learn means different things to different people. For some, the decision may be influenced by having family abroad, or perhaps enjoying a visit to another country, or having an interest in a particular culture.

If your decision to learn another language besides English is from a business perspective, and you’re struggling which to pick, there are several that are marked as having a huge impression on the global business market:

Mandarin

There are plenty of good reasons to learn Mandarin Chinese. Firstly it is the most widely spoken language of the world, overtaking English by a 2:1 ratio in terms of speaker numbers. It’s the language of Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei, all of which are developing as economic forces.

In terms of global economy, China continues to dominate, and Chinese speaking businesses are making investments all around the world. Native English speakers are often put off learning Chinese because of the huge number of characters used in writing, and the fact that tone as well as pronunciation is so important. Learning these differences comes with study and regular practice.

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Prospective speakers of Chinese can better tackle learning the language by focusing on learning to speak first, before taking on the written language if their business operations require them to do so.

When it comes to writing, the simplified form of Chinese characters (rather than the more complicated traditional form) is widely used through mainland China - a relief for individuals seeking to accelerate the rate of their learning of Mandarin. Pinyin uses the Roman alphabet to ‘’spell’ Chinese words, and so is arguably easier still.

German

German is the mother-tongue of more European countries than English, French, Spanish or Italian. Germany also has the largest economy on the continent, and it is the second largest export market for British goods after the U.S., so it’s no wonder that so many businesses seek German speakers to fully access the European markets.

German is arguably one of the easier second languages for an English speaker to learn due to the two being so similar. Speaking and reading/writing tends to be easier due to German and English both being germanic, with a wealth of latin influence. As such, many words are almost identical (cognate) in their root form such as: garden/garten, is/ist, and house/haus.

Arabic

Growing initiatives to integrate the Arabic speaking world into the global marketplace are opening up new business opportunities. Its increasing population provides a massive export market for goods and services.

The business culture of the Arab world is very much about building mutual trust and genuine relationships, so for trading purposes in these regions, it absolutely makes sense to learn (at least some) of the language.

Furthermore, there is a high demand, but low supply of Arabic speakers in the Western world , so it's certainly worth the investment, even if you’re not planning to leave your desk in the UK.

Before embarking on an Arabic-learning journey, it should be noted that there isn’t actually just one language called Arabic, you’ll need to dabble in two varieties side by side: the standard, known as fus-ha (purest), and also a distinct local dialect, depending on the region you want to venture in to.

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Top tips for learning a second language quickly:

Practice often to advance your skills quickly. An hour of learning every day will often be more effective and manageable than finding time to commit to a longer session once a week.

Accept mistakes as part of the learning process. Most native speakers will appreciate that you’re making an effort, and will likely help out if you’re struggling.

Take a language course to motivate and encourage your learning. You’ll benefit from a structured lesson plan with tailored resource and opportunity for real life engagement alongside other learners with the same goals.

Learn online at any time. A plethora of mobile apps, websites, and interactive software provide affordable language learning that can be worked through at your own pace at any time of day.

Have fun. Memorising a list of words can feel dull, but using music, television and other media can make it feel more entertaining. Try watching a movie in a foreign language using subtitles or reading an article about your favourite actor.

Kerill Kennedy is the Principal of New College Group, Liverpool.

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It’s Time To Stop Taking The English Language For Granted

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