The benefits of learning new languages, Part 2: The business world


In Part 1 of The benefits of learning new languages, I asked McMaster University professor Alexandre Sévigny about his opinions on the benefits of learning additional languages, and I provided some of my own justifications for learning or being in the process of learning five languages other than English.

I’ve heard there are many benefits of learning a second (or third) language because it can drastically improve your career options.  For example, if you’re interested in working in government, knowing both French and English could offer you better opportunities.

I’ve also read that students considering working in business, especially in international business, should contemplate learning Mandarin since China has become such a powerhouse in the business world in recent years.

Here, Sévingy answers another question on the importance of learning additional languages, but this time his response focuses on future work and career possibilities.

Q. Do you think particular languages are advantageous to learn for certain career aspirations? Why or why not?

A. Well, French is certainly very useful for working in the public sector, or for one of the banks, or even in public relations. It is very difficult to be involved in any of Canada’s national industries without a working knowledge of French.

French is also a key international language as it permits access to the cultures of the Francophonie, an international collection of francophone and francophile states that represent almost every region of the world. French is spoken in North and South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, the Maghreb, Asia and Oceania.

French also still remains an international language of culture, prestige and diplomacy. Knowledge of it can raise your status and open doors in international not-for-profit and non-governmental organisations, such as the United Nations.

Spanish is, of course, very important for speaking with our neighbours in Latin America.

Brazilian Portuguese, having recently overtaken Continental Portuguese as the world standard, is an emerging language of business and culture. Brazil will be a very big player in geopolitics and world business in the next 50 years.

Mandarin Chinese permits access to the language and culture of the only serious challenger to the United States’ lone superpower status.

Russian is also a language of importance. It is still a key language of culture, prestige and business in the Slavic world, which represents a world population of approximately 300 million people.

Finally, the leading languages of India will emerge as important for trade and culture. One has only to look at the massive popularity of Bollywood films across the globe to see that India is rising. Some would say that the lingua franca of the sub-continent is English, but as the nation becomes wealthier, its most popular languages will grow in prominence.

Stephen R. Anderson  states that there are 6,809 known languages to date worldwide.  This number is certainly much greater than I would have initially expected, and I do not think many other people would think there to be so many.  The tragedy in this is the number of languages are rapidly decreasing.  For example, about 88 languages in Canada are in danger of becoming extinct.

Regardless of what language or languages you decide to learn, how you learn them, or for what purpose, having additional language skills will benefit you in countless ways.  Although there are some more practical reasons for learning a language, such as to improve your employability skills, it may also help you personally, such as if you plan on doing a lot of travelling.