The value of being bilingual in business and life
Recently I called one of our Canadian customers and the phone was answered, “Hello and Bonjour.” How awesome is that to speak both English and French?! I’m sure this is a normal occurrence for Canadians, but I was thoroughly impressed.
There’s something about foreign languages that I find intriguing, even English spoken with an accent is lovely to me. That must explain why Siri on my iPhone is set to the male British accent, why I’m obsessed with Downton Abbey, and my love for the Beatles.
With international travel, worldwide media access, and a global economy, learning a second language can add many benefits to one’s professional growth.
It only makes sense that job seekers who are bilingual have an advantage over someone that only speaks one language. Many times, employers seek out individuals who will be able to converse with customers in different languages. We currently have several employees who know Spanish, which has opened doors to new customers and given them an added level of trust in our company’s abilities to meet their needs.
Bilingual effects on the brain
Bilingual skills can clearly improve a person’s career prospects, but there are clear benefits to personal growth and mental health, too. According to Renate Latimer, Associate Professor Emerita of German at Auburn University, foreign language study increases creativity, analytical skills and improves one’s own language vocabulary skills.
Many studies indicate that learning a foreign language can actually make you smarter and help delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It makes sense—in learning a new language we are essentially building a new mental muscle and as a result, increasing our brain’s elasticity and flexibility.
Tools to get you started
Software and tools for learning a second language can be downloaded to your computer or cell phone and a number of free apps are available. You may find the free ones only take you through a few lessons, but they are great if you want to try before you buy.
A few of the most popular are Duolingo, Babbel, Fluenz and one that has been around awhile, Rosetta Stone. I have tried the free Babbel app and found it easy to use. As with any new hobby, practice makes perfect. I found I am better to retain the new words I have learned by speaking them out loud, not just in my head.
With all the benefits of learning a second language, what is holding you back? I am currently learning Italian. I hope to reap the benefits of increased brain function, (goodness knows I need it!) An even more immediate incentive is to hone my skills before visiting my grandson who lives in Italy. I practice speaking with him during our Skype calls. He laughs a lot when I do, which makes me think I need to keep practicing!
The benefits of learning a second language go a long way toward personal and professional growth. As an HR advocate and simply an avid learner, I encourage you to give it a shot. Even if you only pick up enough to carry a brief conversation or order a delicious meal, you’ll have stretched your mind and broadened your horizons.
Until my next blog, “ciao”!