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5 Languages to Learn for a Changing Future

5 Languages to Learn for a Changing Future

Do you speak a foreign language? Why should you bother learning another language? As only 10% of Americans speak a foreign language (as opposed to 56% in the European Union), it seems that this is the majority stance in the USA.

Now this is a great pity, because learning a second language can:

  • Help prevent premature mental aging and may halt Alzheimer’s
  • Assist in multi- tasking
  • Open up business opportunities, giving you a competitive edge in the global marketplace
  • Broaden cross cultural skills making you a much better ambassador for your company

Take a look at Singapore where the government is actually subsidizing companies to help their key personnel learn Mandarin, in order to take advantage of China’s economic growth and potential. Over 900 million people speak Mandarin. In many parts of South East Asia, knowledge of Mandarin is a definite advantage.

Many people foolishly assume that because English is now the global language for commerce (1.6 billion people use it every day) that everybody they come into contact will be able to speak it. That’s not true at all!

What other languages should you aim to learn? Keep in mind that your choice depends on your business projects and your career objectives.

  • Russian (300 million speakers)- Russia is the top world producer of oil, timber, diamonds, gold, and natural gas.
  • Arabic (223 million speakers)- Six Arabic nations are in the top 50 UK export markets.
  • Spanish (329 million speakers globally, and spoken by 12% of USA citizens)- There’s lots of job opportunities for Spanish speakers.
  • Portuguese ( 240 million speakers)- Brazil’s economic growth together with 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games make this language an obvious future choice.

1. Mandarin Chinese

“All things are difficult before they are easy” – Chinese proverb

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Let’s face it–learning a whole new set of 80,000 characters in the form of ideograms is a major obstacle. But many experts say that you really only need to master 1,000 of the 3,500 in common use, to get by.

Another problem is that Chinese is a tonal language. There are four tones so the word ‘ba’ can have at least four different meanings, depending on which tone you use. It can mean ‘eight’, ‘to pull out’, ‘dad’ or to ‘to hold’!

Despite all this, there are lots of things that make Chinese easier to learn than other languages, believe it or not!

Look at these features:-

  • No conjugations
  • No plurals
  • No gendered nouns
  • Simple system for numerals
  • No tenses
  • Conditional sentences are straightforward
  • Simple prepositions

2. Russian

Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet and you have to be prepared for a very complicated grammatical system. It uses no less than 6 cases for nouns and there is a complex system of tenses based on a logical approach to space, time, and reality.

Nouns are declined so if you are looking at a cat, stroking a cat or simply keeping the cat company, the word ‘cat’ declines. This means it will have a different ending for each of the above activities.

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3. Arabic

“If patience is bitter then its result is sweet.” – Arabic proverb

Arabic pronunciation can be a challenge. Some sounds (kh and a’a) are pronounced using the back of the throat, so these will take some practice. Word order takes some getting used to as the verb always come first. Also adjectives precede nouns. To make things more complicated, Arabic is written from right to left.

All Arabic words have a core root which usually consists of three consonants. This root defines the underlining meaning of the word. For example, the ‘ktb’ consonants usually represent the idea of ‘writing.’ You will find the ‘ktb’ root in the following words:

  • kutub = books
  • maktub = letter
  • maktab = school,office
  • kutubi = bookseller

4. Spanish

“Diligence is the mother of good fortune.” –Spanish proverb

Beware of false friends in the common Latin roots for many words. Lots of words sound very similar but look out for the following:

Embarazada does not mean ‘embarrassed.’ It means ‘pregnant!

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Violador does not mean ‘a driver breaking the rules of the road.’ It means a ‘rapist.’

Normally Spanish, as one of the Indo European languages, will follow the SVO (subject-verb-object) pattern in most sentences. But in Spanish, this is not a hard and fast rule as the subject can often be omitted entirely, if it is clear from the context. When a pronoun is involved, such as it, the order changes to SOV and the pronoun is tucked into the middle of the sentence.

5. Portuguese

“Change yourself, change your fortunes” – Portuguese proverb

If you already know French or Italian, Portuguese grammar has a similar structure so you have a definite advantage there. However, there are some problems about the placement of pronouns in a sentence and also the pronunciation of some nasalized vowels. Portuguese also tends to use the subjunctive a lot.

European Portuguese (EP) seems to cause more difficulty than Brazilian Portuguese (BP) because the former is considered more academic. The differences have been compared to British and American English. Learning vocabulary is  easier because of the many English/Portuguese cognates from its shared Latin roots.

 

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Learning another language to enhance your CV and help to change your future is a no brainer. Do you have any language learning experiences to share? Tell us about them in the comments below.

 

Featured photo credit: The LEAF Project via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

But what does being productive actually entail?

Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

1. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

2. Turn off Notifications

According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

3. Manage Interruptions

There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

4. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once famously said that:

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“if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

5. Cut Down on Meetings

Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

6. Utilize Tools

Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

Some examples of tools that could be used:

Communication
  • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
  • Samepage for video conference software.
  • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
Task Management
  • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
  • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
  • Wekan for an open source option.
Database Management
Time Tracking
  • Clockify for a free tracker.
  • TMetric for workspace integrations.
  • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

7. Declutter and Organize

Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

8. Take Breaks

Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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9. Drink Water

Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

The Bottom Line

The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

More About Boosting Productivity

Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

Reference

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