360° Coverage : Learning A Language Is For Life Not Just For Business

2 Updates
Learning A Language Is For Life Not Just For Business
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

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...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

26 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
2

7 weeks ago

Khazanah throws MAS RM6b lifeline

Aug 29 2014 5:01pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 30, 2014 1:15 AMKHAZANAH Nasional will inject RM6 billion (SS$2.4 billion) over three years to resuscitate loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) under a recovery plan that includes even an Act of Parliament. Other key moves are migrating its operations, assets and liabilities to a new company (NewCo) and slashing the work ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 
Update
1

7 weeks ago

MAS posts loss of RM307m for Q2

Aug 28 2014 5:00pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 29, 2014 1:13 AMMALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) registered a loss of RM307 million (S$122 million) for the second quarter to end-June, but warned of worse to come in the second half when the "full financial impact of the double tragedies of MH370 and MH17" hi ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

EU to intensify efforts against Ebola
Brussels, Oct 21 (IANS) The European Union (EU) has decided to intensify efforts to protect its citizens, health workers against the ongoing spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa.
 
 
Germany, France agree to boost investment
Berlin, Oct 21 (IANS) Germany and France have agreed to strengthen investment for the euro zone economy.
 
 
EU strengthens sanctions against Syria
Brussels, Oct 21 (IANS) The European Union (EU) Monday announced it was strengthening sanctions against Syria.
 
 
Lufthansa pilots' strike causes 1,500 flight cancellations
Berlin, Oct 21 (IANS) German airline Lufthansa cancelled over 1,500 flights Monday after its pilots union announced to extend the 35-hour strike to include long-haul fleets.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

1,074 new dengue cases in Chinese province
Beijing, Oct 18 (IANS) China's Guangdong province has reported 1,047 new cases of dengue fever, health authorities said Saturday. Six people have already died in Guangdong -- five in Guangzhou and one in adjacent...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Blake Lively 'always' wanted to be mum
Blake Lively has ''always'' wanted to be a mother. The 27-year-old actress is expecting her first child with husband Ryan Reynolds and she admits she's been dreaming of this moment since she was a youngster. Speaking...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Kris Jenner 'torn apart' by Bruce's new relationship
Kris Jenner feels ''torn apart and angry'' that Bruce Jenner is dating her former assistant. The 58-year-old matriarch split from the 64-year-old Olympic gold medalist last October following 22-years of marriage but is...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini won't move to France
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini doesn't want to move to her husband's home country of France. The 'X Factor' judge, 31, who comes from Newcastle, is adamant she won't be relocating any time soon to suit her new spouse Jean-...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Lance Bass sets wedding date
Lance Bass has set a date for his wedding. The former *NSYNC singer and his partner Michael Turchin, who have been dating for two-and-a-half years, are to tie the knot on December 20, 2014, a representative for the...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Nepal avalanche toll reaches 39
Kathmandu, Oct 18 (IANS) At least 39 climbers died while hiking on a key Nepali route after it was hit by a major snowstorm and avalanches earlier this week, BBC reported Saturday citing officials. Over 350 stranded...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Jake Gyllenhaal says society is complicit in 'nightcrawling'
Jake Gyllenhaal says almost everybody in society ought to relate to his new movie 'Nightcrawlers'. The eagerly-awaited film concerns those people who monitor police scanners and then race to crime scenes to film eye-...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
India eves look for first win in AFC U-16 qualifiers
Dhaka, Oct 18 (IANS) India will hope to register their first win of the 2015 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-16 Women's Championship qualifiers when they take on hosts Bangladesh in a crucial encounter at the...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Moyes mulling return to management
London, Oct 18 (IANS) Former Manchester United manager David Moyes said that he is ready to revive his managerial career six months after being sacked by the 'Red Devils'. "I am ready to return. I have enjoyed the...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Ebola fears loom over Ghana hosting AFCON
Accra (Ghana), Oct 18 (IANS) The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) cautioned the government Saturday against hosting the 2015 African Cup of Nations (AFCON), despite a request by the Confederation of African Football (...
Read more on Sport Balla