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What Language Should You Learn?

What Language Should You Learn?

Every once in a while, we have students asking us what additional language they should learn. I’ve struggled with this myself when I started to become more interested in expanding my language base. The top languages I wanted to learn were Spanish, French, and Mandarin.

It wasn’t until I booked a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina, that I forced myself to learn how to speak Spanish. Throughout this quest of figuring out what language I should learn, I’ve had some time to research what the language experts have to say about this, and I want to share my two cents with you today.

While I can’t tell you which language you should learn, I’m going to share with you some criteria to consider in order to help making the decision easier for you.

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Most Number Of Speakers Shouldn’t Be Your Only Criteria

Sure, you’ll probably want to pick a popular language such as Spanish, French, or Mandarin that a good portion of the world speaks, but beyond that, it should be more than just the number of speakers you can reach.

There are twice as many Mandarin speakers than Spanish speakers, but does that make Mandarin a more important language to learn? Not at all.

Looking At ‘Most Speakers’ In Terms Of Making A Decision Sometimes Comes Down To Nothing More Than Ego. You Get More ‘Points’ For The Bigger Number.

Even If You Go Live In The Country, You’ll Be Unlikely To Visit More Than A Handful Of Towns And Come Across The Same Number Of Speakers As You Would In Any Other Country.
Benny Lewis, Fluentin3months.com

Already Speak A Similar Language?

This can be a strategic criteria to consider if your sole goal is to learn another language as fast as possible. For example, learning how to speak Spanish is a lot easier if you already know how to speak English. However, learning Mandarin can be slightly tricky because of the difference in the sentence structure, syntax, grammar, and many other components of the language.

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    Consider A New Language Like A New Sport.

    There Are Certain Physical Prerequisites (Height Is An Advantage In Basketball), Rules (A Runner Must Touch The Bases In Baseball), And So On That Determine If You Can Become Proficient At All, And—If So—How Long It Will Take.

    Languages Are No Different. What Are Your Tools, And How Do They Fit With The Rules Of Your Target?
    Tim Ferriss, Bestselling Author Of The Four-Hour Workweek

    Best For Your Resume?

    Knowing how to speak a foreign language is certainly an asset in the eyes of any employer. It’s become more of a prerequisite today since so many people speak a foreign language. In our opinion the context is more important.

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    Knowing how to speak Spanish can be a great asset if you’re living in Europe, but it may be completely useless if you’re looking to work in Asia. You may be in a job that doesn’t require knowing a second language right now (although it’s always good to be prepared).

    How Will You Actually Use The Language?

    So… the answer to your question: “What language should I learn?” It depends. Instead of asking “What language should I learn?”, we encourage you to ask yourself: “How will I actually use the language?” Are you planning to travel to Europe this summer? Are you looking for a new job opportunity that may require you to work with foreign people? Do you just love languages or want to explore another culture? Asking yourself this question will save you a boat load of time, energy, and money, as the last thing you want to do is change your mind later after you’ve made such investments.

    Learning a new language is one of the most exciting journeys you can go on but it’s no easy task. Having a deeply-rooted purpose in learning a new language and knowing how you plan to use it will help you go miles further than learning for the sake of learning. I hope this helped clarify your thinking process when it comes to answering your own question of “what language should I learn?” You’re about to embark on an eventful journey no matter what language you decide to learn. I look forward to hearing how it goes!

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    More by this author

    Sean Kim

    Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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    Last Updated on February 11, 2021

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

    Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

    The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

    Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

    Perceptual Barrier

    The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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    The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

    The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

    Attitudinal Barrier

    Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

    The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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    The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

    Language Barrier

    This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

    The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

    The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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    Emotional Barrier

    Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

    The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

    The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

    Cultural Barrier

    Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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    The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

    The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

    Gender Barrier

    Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

    The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

    The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

    And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

    Reference

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