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Want to Learn a Language? 5 Options to Consider

Want to Learn a Language? 5 Options to Consider

During a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session earlier this year, Microsoft founder and prolific philanthropist Bill Gates said his biggest regret in life is that he speaks only English, and not another foreign language.

Not exactly what one would expect to hear from the billionaire founder of one of the largest tech corporations in the world.

Gates’s insightful admission comes on the heels of Mark Zuckerberg’s impressive demonstration of semi-fluent Chinese during a Q&A with Tsinghua University students in Beijing last October. By learning Chinese, Zuckerberg clearly demonstrated that mastering a foreign language is a key step toward developing deeper business relationships and winning the hearts and minds of target markets — and he’s right.

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Here’s 5 of the best options to consider when learning a foreign language.

1. Spanish

Of all the languages in the world, Spanish is the language online translation agencies work with the most, reflecting an enormous market the world over. Aside from the huge potential of almost all of South and Central America with emerging economic powerhouses such as Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela — not to mention the significant market in Spain itself — learning Spanish is worth it if only to reach the Hispanic speaking community in the U.S., whose purchasing power is already more than a trillion dollars and growing.

As opposed to its spoken dialects, Spanish written forms are more uniform than other languages which makes them simpler to learn. As a Romance language, with the same letters and roots as English, you’ll probably twist your tongue a lot less than when learning Chinese.

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2. Portuguese

Portuguese has already become the fourth most-translated language at our company, reflecting an exponential rise in recent years. It’s obviously not Portugal we’ve got our eyes on here, but rather Brazil, which is quickly transforming from emerging market to one of the world’s richest nations. With a huge population, tons of natural resources and a growing tech community, learning Portuguese will go a long way to penetrating the intricacies of the local business culture. Plus, imagine the fun speaking the local tongue come Carnival time.

3. Mandarin

There are dozens of different languages and dialects spoken in China, and while Mandarin is by far the most widely spoken — in fact, it’s the most prevalent language in the world with 1.1 billion native speakers — other Chinese dialects are spoken by hundreds of millions of people.

Wu, for example, used in the financial hub of Shanghai, is spoken by more than 80 million people — that’s a potential market the size of Germany! Depending on what area of China you’re targeting and the fact that written dialects in the country are basically uniform, learning Wu, Jin, Min or Yue will certainly be worth the effort.

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4. Arabic

Hundreds of millions of people around the world speak Arabic — the fifth most-spoken language in the world — so it comes as no surprise that Arabic is number 10 on our list. The Arab world, with a growing online culture, doesn’t have its own Amazon or Alibaba, making it a market with huge potential, not to mention the deep petro-economies of the region. Executives who speak their language are going to have a leg up in this cross-continental market. The drawback? With dozens of distinct varieties of spoken Arabic, choosing the right one will be a daunting process.

5. German

German is the second most-translated language at agencies, reflecting the country’s status as Europe’s largest economy and one of strongest economies in the world. Enough said.

Learning a foreign language may be a major investment of time and energy, but speaking even a rudimentary level of a country’s native tongue goes a long way to breaking down walls.

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    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 March 29, 2021

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

    When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

    What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

    The Dream Type Of Manager

    My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

    I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

    My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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    “Okay…”

    That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

    I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

    The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

    The Bully

    My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

    However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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    The Invisible Boss

    This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

    It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

    The Micro Manager

    The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

    Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

    The Over Promoted Boss

    The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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    You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

    The Credit Stealer

    The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

    Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

    3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

    Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

    1. Keep evidence

    Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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    Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

    Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

    2. Hold regular meetings

    Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

    3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

    Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

    However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

    Good luck!

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