Where knowledge is wealth

Maximising Value

Where knowledge is wealth

‘Hola! Como estas’ is now a  popular greeting around the world. Technical and vocational skills aren’t enough to stay competitive. Language skills empower an individual and equip him/her with a cultural pluralism of sorts. Language introduces culture, history, music, art and many more nuances of a country and its people to the non-native speaker.

Gautam V, a student from MS Ramaiah College of Engineering, says he has never been great at learning languages but made an effort to learn German in 2008, simply because he thought it would be interesting to learn about another country, its literature and its people.

“I continued my course in the German language until I completed three of six levels at the Max Mueller Bhavan in Indiranagar, Bangalore. Learning language matters because it can bridge the gap in communication across cultures,” he says.

Many youngsters are taking to learning languages, such as German, Spanish or Chinese, and more institutes are beginning to offer language courses.

Meena Seshadri, a software consultant at CGI, Bangalore, says she chose to learn Spanish. “What began as a hobby quickly turned into an asset which proved to be of great use to me on several occasions. Business and technology consulting, translating documents and travel to Spanish-speaking nations are now a breeze. Language is no longer a stumbling block,” she says.

“Language encourages critical understanding of culture and human nature, develops the intellect and increases respect for one’s own dialect. Learning a foreign language can help the youth contribute to their country’s economic development and national security. Job opportunities increase and one’s horizons widen,” she adds.

Chitra Phalguni, who studied German at the Karnataka Theological Society, Mangalore, for two years, says: “The most common question I encountered was why learn a foreign language. I had no answer. Opportunities in a foreign land did not entice me. All I could say was I wanted to learn a foreign language for the experience. And French, the most popular option, was not available in Mangalore at that time.” According to her, the lessons were both difficult and fun. “The teachers would speak in German, and later encourage us too to do so,” she adds. Now, Chitra can read the language.

‘Learn business etiquette too’

Shivani Gopalkrishna, a research student at IIM Bangalore, has learnt Japanese, which proved to be a very useful skill in her previous job. In this first-person account, she shares her language-learning experience.

I inherited my interest for Japanese from my father, a Japan enthusiast. As a child I was enthralled by the accounts of his work in Japan, and with the stationery and comics he would bring back for me. In college when I had the opportunity to study a foreign language I chose Japanese.

My interest deepened as the course progressed. I wanted to improve my language skills, so I decided to apply to graduate school in Tokyo for a master’s in International Relations.

In the two years of the programme, my focus shifted from cultural studies to economic ties between Japan and India. After graduating I returned to Bangalore and worked at a Japanese trade office called the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO). JETRO promotes trade and investment between Japan and other countries.

In addition to knowing the grammar and vocabulary of the language, understanding the cultural etiquette is very important to communicate effectively in Japanese. During my time in Japan I learnt some of the nuances of Japanese culture. This helped me immensely.

Japan has a large number of world class companies in sectors ranging from automobiles (Toyota, Honda, Nissan) and heavy machinery (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Komatsu) to advertising (Dentsu), food packaging (Nissin), electronics (Toshiba, Sharp, Hitachi) and telecom (NTT Docomo). Many of these companies are keen on expanding their presence in India.

Knowing the language and business etiquette is sure to enhance a candidate’s job prospects in these companies as well as in Indian companies that are keen on expanding operations in Japan or that have joint ventures with Japanese firms. 

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