As the nights start to draw in and a long summer of leisure finally closes, many of us are turning our thoughts back towards self-improvement; scouting courses to start during the new academic year or thinking about our next career move. I’ve been reading the excellent Languages of the Future report by the British Council as well as looking at some European data and found 3 great reasons why language learning is good for your career – and perhaps your country too….
In figures collated by Eurostat (the statistical office of the European Union), there is a clear correlation shown between more professional grade jobs and knowledge of one or more second language. Of course, this includes countries with smaller economies where language skills are a necessity in higher paying jobs – and often a criteria for university entrance. However, even in the UK, the trend was the same with professional grade employees showing considerable greater linguistic capacity than those in more unskilled jobs (Only 20% reported having no language skills v. over 50% in ‘elementary occupations’). So there you go: a clear correlation between linguistic and career success.
While English might be the most widely spoken language in the world, its predominance is likely to decline in the coming years. Chinese is by far the most widely spoken as a native language. A report by Ethnology.com cited by the British Council gives the total speaking Mandarin Chinese as a first language at 848 million versus only 335 million with English (into third place behind Spanish). This suggests a certain vulnerability for English remaining the lingua franca of the world, especially when coupled with predictions by many that the economic importance of the Anglo-sphere is in decline.
The internet reflects this and while English remains the prime language of the online world, it does so by a smaller fraction than you might think. 25% of the world’s internet usage is in English versus 19% for Chinese.
Finally, it’s time to roll out the most hackneyed of language facts. Yes the British are among the worst Europeans when it comes to language learning. In the map below you can see that Britain sits down at the very bottom along with Italy, Ireland, Hungary and Portugal when it comes to those who say they can have a conversation in a second language.
This despite having a relatively high proportion of our population not being English native speakers. Only 88% of the population has English as a first language, but this doesn’t seem to translate into a broader linguistic outlook for the rest of the population.
It is probably more to do with economic necessity than any innate laziness or lack of ability. The rest of the anglosphere performs comparably badly. If you grow up in much of Europe, learning at least one other language is one of your prime requirements to achieve a better life. Thus far this has just not been the case for the British. However, as we have stated, things could be set to change and as Brexit casts a shadow over our relations with the – largely English proficient European Union – it could become more and more important for us to tackle languages like Arabic or Mandarin.
The British Council’s languages of the future report defines the most important languages for our nations future by scoring all the world’s major languages against core criteria – economic, social and cultural – some of which have been mentioned here.
The result is a list that, while it still sees European languages predominate has many non-European languages in it as well. Languages we might be well advised to pursue to give us a competitive edge in uncertain times.
Why not give your career prospects a boost and get learning now. Rosetta Stone’s immersive, no-translations method is a proven way to tackle less familiar languages. Try it out with our demo….
Language learner, teacher and contributing author to the Rosetta Stone magazine
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