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Learning A Language Is For Life Not Just For Business
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Learning A Language Is For Life Not Just For Business

Apr 17 2014, 10:53am CDT | by

The ability to speak another language is seen as crucial to success in a globalized economy but advocating learning languages based on their usefulness is flawed. Instead, we should promote them for...

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14 weeks ago

Learning A Language Is For Life Not Just For Business

Apr 17 2014, 10:53am CDT | by

The ability to speak another language is seen as crucial to success in a globalized economy but advocating learning languages based on their usefulness is flawed. Instead, we should promote them for their own sake and recognise that learning a language is for life, not just for business .

Arguments in favour of learning a language are often based on the practical benefit. In a world where commerce increasingly transcends linguistic borders, the ability to communicate in another tongue is portrayed as a vital lubricant to trade.

Mandarin is perhaps the chief beneficiary of this mind-set. The growth of Mandarin teaching in the West over the last decade has been astonishing. Propelled by China’s entry into the world economy and nurtured by the Confucius Classrooms program, Mandarin is now taught in thousands of schools.

This new enthusiasm for Mandarin is endorsed at the highest levels. Fresh from a trip to China last year, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron urged schools to ditch French and German and start teaching Mandarin instead.

“I want Britain linked up to the world’s fastest growing economies,” he said. “And that includes young people learning the languages to seal tomorrow’s business deals.”

Advocates of the practical approach to languages range wider than Mandarin. The British Council, a cultural and educational organisation, last year published a report setting out the languages the U.K. needs most.

Using a variety of criteria, including security and tourism but heavily weighted towards the needs of business, the report sets out the 10 most important languages for the future. Although not quite as Europhobic as the prime minister’s remarks suggest, the report has Mandarin in fourth place.

[For those interested, the full list is: 1. Spanish; 2. Arabic; 3. French; 4. Mandarin Chinese; 5. German; 6. Portuguese; 7. Italian; 8= Russian and Turkish; 10. Japanese.]

But while ranking languages in order of importance is a fun parlor game, as an argument for learning them this approach on its own just won’t wash. Persuading people – let alone children – that learning a particular language will be good for them in the future is doomed to failure.

The difficulty in basing a language teaching strategy solely around the practical advantages is that we can see right through it. With around 328 million first-language speakers, English may be the third most widely spoken native tongue (after Mandarin and Spanish), but it is by far the most popular second language.

According to another British Council report , an estimated two billion people, more than a quarter of the world’s population, will be learning English by the end of this decade. Around 400 million people in China alone are thought to be learning English.

While the position of English as an international language should not be taken for granted, arguing that English speakers should learn another language to help them get on founders on the fact that their native tongue is the most useful of all.

This is not a green light to monolingual complacency among English speakers, however. There is much more to learning a language than its practical use. Language provides access to a culture in a way that nothing else can, unlocking the door to knowledge and understanding.

As last year’s British Council report put it, at the same time as advocating an economic approach to language learning: “Languages are the bedrock of the world’s cultural heritage. Every language offers a rich and unique insight into different ways of thinking and living as well as into the history of the myriad of cultures and peoples across the globe.”

If this is not reason enough to learn a language, numerous studies show that bilingualism has a myriad of benefits , from improving test scores and aiding multi-tasking to making us more perceptive . It even helps us make better financial decisions .

But the message is not getting through. Last week saw news of a 10-year low in the number of U.K. students applying to study languages at university. Even Mandarin has seen a near-30% fall in the number of students taking it at school./>/>

It is time for a new approach to promoting languages. Rather than seeing language acquisition solely as a passport to success in business, we should see it as a way of connecting with other cultures. Yes, it can help our order book, but learning a language is good in itself. It opens our eyes, broadens our horizons and gives us an insight into other people’s lives.

Rather than appealing just to the head, telling people how much they stand to gain financially from learning a language, we should appeal to the heart as well. It is only through understanding their language that we can hope to get close to understanding how people think. Knowledge of another language enriches us far beyond helping us get rich.

 
Update
10

7 weeks ago

RM47mil KWSG contributions still unclaimed

Jun 9 2014 7:54am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: About RM47 million of contributions in the Teachers Provident Fund (KWSG) still remain unclaimed, the Dewan Rakyat w ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
9

7 weeks ago

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Jun 9 2014 3:50am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KANGAR: A gold shop owner lost almost RM1 million after after the safe on in his shop was broken into by ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
8

7 weeks ago

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Jun 9 2014 3:39am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: AN emergency motion to debate the losses incurred by Malaysia Airlines last year, amounting to RM1.2 billion was rejected by the D ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
7

7 weeks ago

MH370 Tragedy: Hisham: RM27.6 mil spent on 1st phase of SAR

Jun 9 2014 2:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia spent some RM27.6 million in its first phase of the search operations for missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370, said Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussei ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
6

7 weeks ago

9.1m litres of diesel seized in a month

Jun 8 2014 1:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA: The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism ministry has seized some 9.1 million litres of diesel and property worth RM58 million since mounting ‘Operasi Diesel Selatan’ in the southern stat ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
5

7 weeks ago

Girl, 9, awarded RM2.78m compensation for medical negligence

Jun 6 2014 4:56am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: A nine-year-old girl who suffered brain damage during her birth at a government hospital was awarded over RM2.78 million in compensat ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
4

7 weeks ago

Malaysia's total trade in April up 12pc

Jun 5 2014 11:52pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's total trade in April 2014 rose by 12 per cent from a year ago to RM123.86 billion due to growing trading activities, International Trade and Industry Minist ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
3

7 weeks ago

Works Ministry to spend RM20m for upgrading works at 50 accident black spots

Jun 4 2014 11:35pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

JOHOR BARU: The Works Ministry will implement upgrading works at 50 accident prone locations in the country that have been identified this year involving an allocat ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
2

7 weeks ago

Najib launches loan scheme for Ramadan traders

Jun 4 2014 10:24pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today launches RM45 million Ramadan Bazaar ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
1

7 weeks ago

Residents bring up objection against Kidex to Suhakam

Jun 4 2014 4:49am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: A group of 20 Petaling Jaya residents held a meeting with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) over their objection against the proposed RM2.2 billion Kinrara Damansara Skyway (Kidex) t ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 

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