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5 Languages to Learn for a Changing Future

5 Languages to Learn for a Changing Future
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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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Published on July 27, 2021

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

Put the Pro in Professional

After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

2. Dress the Part

While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

3. Stage Your Workspace

Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

5. Arrive on Time

In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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6. Turn on Your Video

Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

Attend to the Pesky Details

8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

Talking Has a Time and a Place

11. Chat Appropriately

Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

Manage Yourself

14. Minimize Distractions

While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

15. Save Snacking for Later

Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

Final Thoughts

Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

Reference

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