Whether you are a recent graduate or an executive at the height of their career, there is always an incentive to polish that resume and edge out the competition. Many professionals regard university degrees as the bulk of their potential in the workplace. Even so, languages are an often overlooked skill set that can cement your success.
This article will explain the importance of language proficiency and its benefits. Believe it or not, the advantages of language learning go beyond communication skills. Cognition and disease are also affected by language use.
How Do You Measure Language Proficiency?
Proficiency refers to how well you can use a language. This includes speaking, reading, and writing. Various work positions or schools require proficiency in a particular language. When applying, you must be able to indicate it according to a specific standard.
For the United States, a common proficiency measurement is the ACTFL Assessment of Performance Toward Proficiency in Languages (AAPPL). The AAPPL assesses interpersonal listening/speaking, presentational writing, and interpretive reading and listening specifically in the following languages:
In Europe, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is responsible for assessing language proficiency. The CEFR divides proficiency into the following levels:
- A1 and A2: Basic User
- B1 and B2: Independent User
- C1 and C2: Proficient User
The CEFR measures reception (listening and reading), written production, and spoken interaction and production for all languages taught in European classrooms.
Before you’ve chosen a language to start studying, plan to reach a certain proficiency level and get tested for it. Providing proof of your achievements will be necessary for your CV.
How To Choose A Language To Learn
There are an estimated 6,500 languages spoken all over the globe currently. This is quite a number, but your focus should be on a particular region or group of people.
An excellent piece of advice is to analyze your company’s international partnerships, if it has any. Where are employees usually assigned to visit? Which foreign city is your organization opening a branch in? Which parts of the globe are you often calling during a conference?
Based on population alone, there is an array of languages that are valuable to learn. Yes, English is considered a global language. Even so, native speakers will still benefit from learning others.
Chinese is spoken by 1.3 billion people. This makes it a highly desired skill among countless companies. Asia boasts rapidly-expanding economies, with China at the center of this success.
Arabic is another language that will make you more useful in the job market. This Afro-Asiatic tongue contains 23 dialects stretching from Africa to the Middle East. Arabic will enable you to work for intelligence agencies and global corporations alike. In addition, Islam is the world’s second largest religion. Islam has thus spread Arabic’s influence far past the Middle East.
Of course, there are the usuals, such as French, Spanish, and Italian. The close economic relations enjoyed by Europe and the United States make European languages a clear choice for American students and workers.
In short, pick a language that is beneficial for a specific purpose. You can pick dialects for fun, but remember to prioritize business jargon and vocabulary.
The Impact Of Language Learning On The Brain
You may be asking yourself, “Will adding language skills make me smarter?” Yes, it will! Medical researchers have discovered that learning a language aids in brain development from a young age. Also, the different connotations one word can carry in multiple languages will increase the mind’s ability to come up with new concepts.
For an elderly person, a new language will postpone the effects of aging on the brain. Language gives a person stronger memory. This effectively combats illnesses like Alzheimer disease and dementia.
IQ isn’t significantly affected by such skills. Bilinguals, however, are better suited to carry out mentally challenging tasks and to solve complex problems. Switching between languages also teaches the speaker to quickly notice and process environmental changes easily.
Relating these benefits to the workplace, your boss will surely appreciate your improved cognitive abilities. You will definitely become a more trustworthy and reliable member of your team. And this may just translate into that pay raise you’ve been gunning for.
How To Start Learning
There is a plethora of methods and products advertised as the key to unlocking fluency. Regardless of what advertisements claim, one particular method doesn’t work for all. There are still important tips to take when embarking on this journey.
The most important part of language interaction is properly hearing and understanding what is being said. The best thing to do as a beginner is learn to recognize sound patterns by eye and ear. When you repeat this, your brain will have the necessary vocabulary imprinted upon it. This is essential in recalling terms more quickly.
Distinguish Important Vocabulary
Even the most skilled speaker doesn’t know all the words of their native tongue. The Pareto Principle teaches that 20% of what you learn translates to 80% of your total understanding. In other words, only a select number of lessons will be needed to achieve conversational fluency. Therefore, learning only the most commonly used words will indeed make you more proficient.
Acquire Grammar As You Go Along
Sitting down and memorizing all grammar rules is a waste of time. You will most likely forget these lessons in no time. The best way to acquire grammar is to cover the basics first. More complicated rules will come with reading later on. Prioritize conversational grammar and you are on the right path.
In order to best attain more complicated grammar skills, write and read widely. Books, newspapers, and other professional writings are fantastic resources. Keeping a diary or merely translating short paragraphs from English into another language is great, too. This will aid you in learning new words and in improving your writing skills in that language.
One important note is to show preference to modern literature, not classical. Languages all change, so it is imperative that you are consuming it in its most modern form. Only begin reading difficult literature when you have reached intermediate proficiency or above.
You are perhaps feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Don’t sweat. A little practice each day is sufficient. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes in the morning or evening, whichever you prefer. Draw a plan to cover a specific lesson each day. For example, Monday could cover present tense, Tuesday could cover past tense, Wednesday may be greetings, and so on.
At the end of every week, designate a level of proficiency you want to reach. For some, it takes two weeks. For others, probably three. You can even set long-term goals. At the end of three months, you can achieve conversational fluency. It all depends upon how you maximize your time and self-discipline.
Didn’t Learn The Language In A Classroom? No Worries!
Learning in a classroom setting doesn’t automatically make you an expert. There are benefits to having the guidance of a teacher. Even so, a self-motivated plan can push you farther than homework ever will. You are solely responsible for the pacing and progress of each lesson.
Another great pro is the absence of any distractions. You won’t have to compete for a teacher’s attention. Neither will you have to wait an entire week or so to receive an exam score. There is room for experimentation and immediate correction.
For those who are language enthusiasts, you’re in luck. There are various careers that require language skills and are projected to grow.
Translators, interpreters, and flight attendants are the most obvious picks that pay well. Want an even higher salary? Apply to that post at one of countless embassies around the world or at the international bureau of a news company.
Schools in various foreign countries are hiring English teachers for their students. There are also agencies you can use like Teach Away. Teach Away connects native English speakers to schools in the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
VIPKID is a popular and innovative company that lets native speakers teach English to Chinese students online. Teachers must be authorized to work in either the United States or Canada. They must also have a Bachelor’s degree in any field. There are no minimum hours and lessons are already planned out.
What To Do Next
This article has now imparted you with helpful information on the payoffs of language learning. This is something you can start on your own or work with others on. You are the pilot on this journey to polyglotism.
Stop by your local bookstore or browse on Amazon for elementary foreign language books. Search Netflix for a TV program in the same language. Look for YouTube videos with vlogs and music in that language, as well.
This process is supposed to be fun. Not only will you open doors in the job market, you will also be able to explore different countries. Just remember that attaining a language is not a race but an experience.