Last week, a report was published using a series of maps to show the distribution of languages besides English and Spanish in the USA. We thought it was really interesting to see the huge number of languages spoken in one country; it’s easy to assume one country means one (or maybe two) languages.
Here’s a fantastic infographic shared with us by FreePeopleSearch.org, which looks in more detail at the history, distribution and usage of languages in the USA. We hope you find it as interesting as we do!
Sarah works as a Multilingual Search Manager at Search Laboratory, and she’s taken time out to tell us why and how learning a language has helped her develop her career.
Q. Your experience of learning a language…
– When did you start?
I started learning another language at the age of seven, when my family moved to Germany. I often say that I learnt the language by watching TV, but it was actually a combination of listening (which did involve TV), reading (mainly as schoolwork gave me no choice – I wasn’t the bookworm then that I am today), and being thrown in the deep end. If there’s no other communication option around you, you will pick up a language. It just might take some time.
– How did you get into languages?
I got into it through video tapes for children designed to help learn a second language, and then through tuition and being surrounded by the language in everyday life. For the first six months of living in Germany I went to an English school, but then transferred to a German one, so speaking the language was a must for grades, making friends, and just generally communicating.
– What was hard?
The first few months were pretty tricky. I’m known as a bit of a chatter-box (this is likely to come across in my answers), so not being able to communicate was tough, but also an incentive to just try the language and learn by doing. The best way to learn a language is to speak it. It’s also the scariest thing about learning a language.
These days the main challenge is remembering the right word for the right language. With two languages buzzing in my head, I can often recall the perfect word for what I want to say, but in the wrong language for the situation.
Q. How you have found being multilingual useful when searching for employment and building a career?
Being multilingual has been very useful for my career, as it’s given me more options, and I think it’s also helped me stand out a bit in the employment crowd. This was especially true when I was younger, and just starting out. Though multilingual isn’t as unusual as you think these days.
It was also a way for me to narrow down my career search. I knew that I wanted to be part of a company that provided opportunities for multilingual speakers, and was equally interested in different cultures and understanding different markets.
Q. How do you use languages in your everyday role as a Multilingual Search Marketing Manager?
I manage our French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Chinese team, so the language alone doesn’t help out; however, the language experience is vital. I feel that because I went through learning a language and living in a different country that I’m more empathetic to and understanding of the struggles of day to day life (or at least some of them – the team may disagree).
I also think that the language experience has made me very inquisitive about other cultures, and languages, which really comes in handy when looking into the differences of search behaviour and trends in other markets.
Q. Why do you think more people should learn more languages?
Because it’s great fun! And because it can open up career opportunities that you hadn’t even thought of yet.
I sometimes forget that I’m classed as multilingual as having more than one language is natural to me, to my family, and most of the people I work with. I think I’d be pretty bored if I only had one language to rely on.
Also, looking back and seeing all the opportunities I might have missed out on, is a bit of a scary thought.
I’m excited to learn more languages, though can’t decide of the languages which my team speaks, which one to start with. There’s just too much choice!
Do you use languages at work? Have you found knowing more than one language has helped you in your career?
From September this year, it’s going to be compulsory for primary schools in the UK to teach a foreign language. This is causing quite a lot of stress for schools, according to a report published earlier this week, which says that 29% of teachers don’t feel confident about teaching a language to their students. That’s hardly surprising, considering many teachers haven’t studied languages themselves since their GCSEs, which for some will have been quite a while ago.
But despite this, the report says, 85% of primary schools have said they believe making languages a requirement is a good move, and many are already tackling the situation head on by introducing languages before it’s required by law.
So what exactly is the point of teaching languages at such a young age? Many people will argue that the curriculum for children is already too full, with a need for English, maths and science, as well as citizenship, history and physical education, to name just a few. Why squeeze in yet another subject, especially in a world where many people believe that ‘everyone speaks English’?
Learning a language is good for your brain
Well firstly, learning a language can actually make you smarter. The positive effects are well documented – bilingualism makes you better at problem solving, planning and verbal reasoning. Research by psychologists at Penn State University has shown that if you’re bilingual, you’re likely to be better at multi-tasking, because your brain is used to ‘mental juggling’. And other studies have shown that learning another language can help to delay the onset of dementia in later life.
It makes you better at your native language
Studying a second language helps you to understand your own, because it makes you think about how language is formed. Because I grew up speaking English, I don’t really remember learning the rules of the language; they just came naturally. But when I took up Spanish, suddenly I needed to think about grammar, and about how I was structuring sentences, which is much more important in Spanish than in English. For example, in Spanish you can’t end a sentence with a preposition, which made me realise how often I was getting away with this in English. And I would never have even known the subjunctive existed if not for my Spanish studies (although I’m not going to lie and say I use the subjunctive regularly in English!).
Learning a language prepares you for the rest of your life
I don’t just mean learning languages at secondary school, although it’s likely that children who leave primary school with some knowledge of another language will want to continue it when they move on. I mean beyond school – when the time comes to choose degree courses and, even more importantly, find a job. A recent article in The Economist says that employees with a language in the U.S. can earn on average 2% extra, which may not sound like much, but over time can add up to some serious money. Not only that but learning a language will make it easier for you people to go travelling and see the world; it might even help you find the love of your life!
The younger, the better
It’s a common argument that children are better at learning languages than adults; because of the way the brain develops, some scientists believe there’s a ‘critical period‘ for language acquisition. And although there’s plenty of evidence that this might not necessarily be the case (just look at Benny Lewis, who didn’t start learning languages until adulthood, and now speaks twelve languages fluently), I do think there’s something in it; after all children are constantly learning new things, so one more probably won’t phase them. And they’re also in a better position to learn than adults, who are very good at finding other things to do and worry about. (I know I am.)
Some people might disagree with me here, looking back on their own language classes at school with its endless repetition of vocabulary and verb conjugations. Obviously I’m biased, but I do think learning to speak another language can be really fun if it’s put across in the right way. There are so many exciting ways to teach a language, from songs and TV shows to games and apps. The internet is full of great ideas – have a look at #mfltwitterati on Twitter as a good starting point.
Or check out the Junior Language Challenge, EuroTalk’s national competition for children aged 10 and under across the UK – it’s great fun for children, makes life easy for teachers and raises money for charity all at the same time. Just the other day we received a message from one of our 2013 finalists, who said, ‘It was a great adventure. It’s now set me off to learning languages from all over the world.’
In Europe and the United States alike, a growing interest in Mandarin Chinese is leading to big changes in public and private education, with various schools for adults and children now incorporating this language into their curriculum. Many parents are currently encouraging their children, aged as young as four or five, to learn Mandarin, in an attempt to boost their prospects in the face of an increasingly competitive workforce.
Despite a marked increase in popularity of Mandarin Chinese, it is interesting to view a spate of news articles and blogs advising adults and children alike not to bother learning this challenging language. Fluency in this language is impossible, their authors say, without spending many years in China; Mandarin (which utilises over 2,000 characters) is too difficult to learn in one’s free time; the tonality of the language (an array of pitches are used to convey different meanings) is a hurdle most students will fail to overcome. Even eight hours weekly spent on the subject, they claim, is not enough for top-grade fluency to be achieved.
Yet the statistics cannot be argued with: currently, some 40 million foreign students are studying Mandarin in China and by the year 2020, the Chinese government predicts that this number will rise to 100 million. According to Malaysia-chronicle.com, ‘China is now the number one producer of wind and solar power in the entire globe’. It is also the number one nation in the world in terms of trading when import and export totals are added; it boasts more foreign currency reserves than any other country; China consumes more energy than the U.S. and is the leading manufacturer of goods. There is no doubt that the study of the Chinese language can open many doors, many of which are simply not immediately foreseeable. Owing precisely to the difficulty of Chinese, children have a better chance at achieving a good conversational level if they start young. Moreover, bilingualism is not the only valid goal for budding students; even having an intermediate speaking level can go a long way in sectors such as the tourism industry.
Increase in Chinese tourism
Recent developments show the growth of Chinese investment in Europe. In late 2013, Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, attended a Sino-CEE summit in Romania, where he and dignitaries from 16 other countries pledged to forge tighter economic ties in the near future. Chinese tourism to Europe is also on the rise, with countries like Spain receiving some 33 per cent more visitors in 2013 than in 2012. Many Chinese tourists favour countries like Spain and Italy as popular tourist destinations. As noted by planetcruise.co.uk, the Mediterranean is one of the ‘most popular cruising destinations’ for tourists from across the globe. In addition to economic reasons, there are more factors attracting children and adults alike to hone their skills in Mandarin. Recent studies indicate that speaking this language has an entirely different effect on the brain than speaking other languages. The study, undertaken by researchers at the Wellcome Trust in the UK, has revealed that the tones, sound and complicated characters used in Mandarin Chinese employ both temporal lobes in the brain (speakers use only the left temporal lobe for the English language). As Languageboat.com states, ‘learning Chinese may train a host of cognitive abilities not utilised in the study of other languages’.
It is hardly a source of surprise to find that learning Mandarin has such vastly different effects on the brain than other languages, all of which descend from a system developed in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago. The origins of the Chinese language are of a completely different nature and although learning this language for the first time can undoubtedly be time-consuming and challenging, it is also an entertaining and, some would say, beautiful, melodic way to boost one’s economic future and brain power.
Today we have a post by guest blogger Jeff Peters on the importance of the English language in the business world.
Globalization is a dominant feature of post-modern industrial and developing societies and is being led by multi-national corporations. Whether it is high tech companies such as Apple, automobile manufacturers like General Motors, or even much smaller firms that specialize in one-off items manufactured throughout the Far and Near East, business has managed to overcome trade and regulatory boundaries in order to sell wares through free markets. Communication is paramount; imagine the difficulties if no efforts were made to establish a cohesive way by which businesses communicated. This is perhaps the over-riding reason as to why English has been chosen to be the de facto language of the business world.
We may have Hollywood to thank for the predominance of the English language throughout much of the world today. Distribution of American movies, television programs and music has allowed many peoples, even in so-called third world nations, to at least become somewhat familiar with spoken English. A large percentage of multinational corporations originated in the United States and continue to be headquartered in this country and their influence throughout the global community is quite predominant. Perhaps most important of all is the emergence of the Internet, where the English language predominates and is evidenced by the fact that many foreign language websites provide the means for translation into English.
English as the Model of Efficiency
While English may not be easy to learn, it has been adopted by foreign companies as the most effective means of gaining access to global commerce and trade. This is reflected in the fact that worldwide, close to two billion people are currently learning English. According to language experts at SolidEssay.com, which is a college paper writing service, having effective English language skills will not only allow for access to commerce and trade, it also provides an efficient way by which business is conducted. Cultural differences aside, the predominance of English has allowed for an efficient means to conduct business throughout the world, and has also provided an effective tool used to deal with political differences, also viewed as barriers to trade.
Why is this Important to Individuals?
With the rise of English as the language of choice throughout the global business community it is important for non-English speakers to understand that without the necessary language skills they run the risk of being left behind. Each must adapt their skills to business needs and to be a cog in this dynamic world it is important to learn the lingo. Hence, learning English is primary to individual success and should be given to anyone wishing to gain access to the corporate world of today. As the spread of English continues, learning the language appears to be one of the most productive means to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world.
Remember with Talk Business, you can learn English from over 70 other languages.