English? Yes and then again – No!
This is a question that I get asked a lot. On a global level the answer is English…there is not that much debate over this. But on a personal level, if you already speak English, the answer is any language – except English.
Let me explain.
I am writing from an EU conference in Brussels, where I have been asked to talk about creativity in language learning. Apart from all the great presentations here, one of the unmissable aspects of this conference is that all of the presentations are in English – every one. All open forum discussions are in English. All instructions are in English. And this for an EU conference on languages! It goes without saying, therefore, that your access to this international convention is English – and there is no escape from this fact.
English brings no net benefit if everyone speaks it
But if everyone speaks English, what makes you stand out? How can you network better than other people? How can you connect with a foreign prospect better than the next guy?
Another interesting aspect of this convention is that when we broke up for coffee and for lunch, people reverted back to their first languages. The French tended to speak with French, Italians with Italians and Greeks with Greeks etc…and this is when relationships are forged and business is done. Those equipped with a second language now made their second language count – effortlessly connecting with people from another country.
My Boss made French count
This reminded me of a boss of mine who was brought up in Switzerland and was fluent in French. He had an amazing relationship with so many French companies and people. Whenever, he met them or spoke on the phone, he always spoke in French and they loved dealing with him.
If you were French – who would you rather do business with? Obvious really.
So the best language for business isn’t English (if you already speak it) – it’s French, or Italian, or Chinese, or Spanish or German or whoever is your business target.
Speaking their language is good business.
Language Games in English, French and Spanish
We create language games to help people learn a language. Take a look at our award-winning English, Spanish and French games. These are used and recommended by schools and individual learners because they work and because they’re fun.
See how easy it is to make a sentence in Spanish in seconds with KLOO – even if you are an absolute beginner with this 2 minute video.
- Don’t be fooled – Speaking English is not enough (languagepie.wordpress.com)
- International Business: Do You Speak the Language? (stlouis.cbslocal.com)
- Taking Up A New Language Can Be Advantageous (manjulikapramod.wordpress.com)
- Census: One in three Vancouverites speak languages other than English, French at home (vancouversun.com)
- “O, Canada”, now also in Tagalog, Mandarin and Hindi (economist.com)
Very good point! Thank you! I take for granted that I can speak with the cashier if she speaks Spanish only. But I’m reminded that I stand out as a native English speaker who can speak other languages.
I would love for more people to speak languages and to engage people from another point of view.
I agree with the comment above, I learnt a language to improve my career propects and its working thankfully. As hard as it may have been, I now have opportunities that I did not have before and that fact that I did self study helped even more… Current resource for learning is http://www.easylanguageexchange.com/ Learn from a native speaker, it helps
Hi Alex…great to hear a real life experience and how languages helped you in your career. Hope it continues to go well for you. Andrew
Great article! I think that the more languages a person speaks today, the better. When expanding a business abroad, it’s a great idea that a person learns the local language and not expect that natives should speak English.
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I agree whole heartedly, we as English speakers have a terrible reputation around the world as being one of the few languages that almost refuse to learn or use a second language. We have it seems an arrogant disregard for the cultures and languages of others. Aside from a respect thing I think Forbes recently made a good point with one of their articles. Using someone else’s language is good for business. It spreads your brand and makes them feel far more attached to you as a company. If you want you can read the full Forbes report here http://interestingread.co/701/LanguageTools . It certainly makes for illuminating reading. Viva Lingua!
Rory thanks for great input. I read the Forbes article – very illuminating. I also love the “interestingreading.co website which collates themes. I had never come across it before. Thanks for sharing it. I found some great articles there. Andrew