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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 February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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