Learning a different tongue

Learning a different tongue

Learning a different tongue

OPPORTUNITIES GALORE Today, with the number of international companies in India, a foreign language can open many doors.

A week ago, an old college friend excitedly charted the details of his recent business trip to Hong Kong. ‘It was so exciting,’ he exclaimed. But it was when I asked him about his experience there that his excitement died down. ‘Well, I don’t know. Most of them spoke very little English so I didn’t really make any friends. They were all really sweet though’, he said. His answer got me wondering about the all pervasive problem in today’s world — our constant struggle to break the language barrier as the world rapidly shrinks. While many of us have readily adopted English in our lives, why don’t we find it necessary to learn an international third language?

Why do we need to learn a foreign language?

Learning a foreign language opens doors to a wealth of opportunities — both on a cultural level as well as on the work front. Today, it is commonplace to find French as part of a high school or college syllabus with other Indian second languages, not because of the need to help expat children or other international citizens to cope with the Indian syllabus better but because our global landscape is undergoing a paradigm shift. Our world is becoming a smaller place, and the need of the hour is to communicate efficiently. Varun Gupta, who is currently pursuing his International Business degree at the Grenoble Graduate School of Business is positive after landing a fantastic internship with GE Corporate. After his graduation, he undertook classes in both French and German to add to his skill-set for college. Today, he is only too happy that his efforts have paid off.  ‘I can be in any part of Europe or Canada knowing that I speak three European languages that someone somewhere would know. We live in a world that’s turning into a global village. I think I am better equipped to face challenges on a political, economic and pure business standpoint because I can engage with people in different languages’, he says.

 Many students who are now opting for a change in environment from the US and UK, and heading to Europe feel the same way. Samyuktha Bhupathiraju, a Phd student at the UNU-MERIT, Maastricht, Netherlands, contends that cross-cultural communication is the need of the hour. ‘Learning a foreign language, for reasons other than increasing job opportunities in countries, has opened up avenues of cross-cultural communication that one may not get out of simple translations. Living in a place with almost every individual talking in a different language, learning French has helped me understand basic words in other European languages. It has also made travel more enjoyable since talking to the locals is easier’, she says.

Mrs Vidya Suresh, who has taught French in Alliance Francaise for nearly two decades and presently counsels students as part of Campus France, an organisation that helps mobilise students who wish to pursue their higher education in France, says that the numbers have only been steadily increasing since 2004. “Over the years learning a foreign language has transformed from a matter of prestige to a matter of importance. Today with the number of international companies in India, it is only too obvious how many doors a language skill set can open. For instance, there are over a hundred French companies in India. Wouldn’t learning French then attribute to your success?’ , she asks. “In Bangalore, there are a lot of students opting to go to France for Management and Engineering degrees.  The idea that France is only best for Art and Humanities has changed now with top Management schools coming to India to tap potential here.”

This comes as no surprise. French is spoken in around 47 countries today (The Week, Jan 23, 2011). Other languages like Spanish are widely spoken in the Americas and in Europe. What’s surprising is that this is no longer a one way ticket. With India occupying an important space in the global world of business and trade, a lot of foreign students are crossing borders to experience life in India and learn Hindi, which is spoken by over 462 million people today. Multinationals are encouraging their officials to learn Hindi to connect with their Indian clients as well (Times of India, Jan 14, 2011). Because of emerging trade markets in China, the study of Mandarin has seen an almost 200 per cent increase in the last three years too (Deseret News, Jan 20, 2011).

So if you find yourself with more free time than usual this weekend, sign up for a language lesson. No matter what your background is, it is sure to benefit you in the long run and who knows, you may find yourself enriched with more life skills than ever before!

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