What Your Language Skills Say About You

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Bad English Translation, Nantes, France, August 2012

No one likes to label themselves. However, our skills and experiences suggest certain things to other people. This isn’t a bad thing, though. Here are some positive things language skills say about you and some reasons why you might want to learn a new one.

Greater global understanding

It’s inevitable that by learning another language you’re also going to find out more about that nation’s culture—how its people live, work and play. This is only a good thing because, thanks to the Internet and faster modes of transport, the world really is getting smaller. A shared language helps break down barriers and promotes greater understanding.

Step into someone else’s shoes and see the world through their eyes. You may be surprised at how similar two cultures can be when they seem to so different to begin with.

Super employable

It almost goes without saying that employers like candidates with language skills. Even if your chosen language doesn’t directly relate to your field, it still shows dedication and a willingness to rise to a challenge.

For an employer whose business trades or competes on a global scale, you’re hot property. Potential clients will love you too as you’ll be able to easily communicate with them when a deal needs to be made. Find a language that suits your employer’s needs at UIC London (http://www.uiclondon.com).

Patron of the arts and other cultures

If you travel to a place where you don’t know the language, it’s like going to an art gallery where every painting is facing the wall. Sure you’ll soak up a bit of culture but it’s likely to be seen through that “tourist” filter.

For example, you haven’t seen the real America if you’ve only been to Disney World. Having the skills to natter with the locals opens your eyes to another side of a country, revealing cultural gems that might have previously gone unnoticed.

When it comes to works of art—particularly theatre, film and literature—experiencing them the way they were meant to be experienced is far better than a translated version. We’ve all laughed at literal translations but it’s the subtle plays on words that get missed when you don’t understand the original, and that’s a real shame.

Social and networking butterfly

There are around seven billion people in the world but only a small percentage speak English. If you’re learning to speak a different language, it’s pretty obvious you want to chat with more people, make new friends and even network.

While you’re getting to grips with the verbs, being a social butterfly is great practice and will help you reach a fluent level in no time at all.

How and when

Feeling inspired yet? If you are, great! Let’s chat about the next step. It can be tricky trying to fit learning a new language around work and other commitments. Let’s face it, it’s going to take time and hard work but trust me, it’s worth it.

Try and set some time aside each day. This will help you focus and create a routine to stick to. Fancy going on holiday? Go to a place that will speak the words you want to hear. Immersing yourself in the language will help you cover speaking and reading, as well as writing.

Let’s not forget you non-English speakers out there too. There’s plenty of options right here to help you learn. Try English courses in London or find one where you live. Mingling with fellow learners will help you feel at ease and get you talking more.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

8 Comments

  1. I agree with all your points completely. I feel much more comfortable in Germany now that I have an upper intermediate grasp on the language and I know that once I’m fluent it will be even better. I hate not catching jokes or plays on words, small things but things that really show you a different side to the culture.

    • I have no doubt you will become fluent if you stay there! I know what you mean though, I felt the same after a couple of years in Canada, when my English was good but not that good I could tell a story naturally or understand some deep cultural references.

  2. Hi,

    I so want to learn french since I have started the immigration process for canada. But I m kind of confused as to which dialect of frech should I start to learn? Is there a Canadian French and than a France French?

    Can you suggest some good online resources if you have that might help me learn french?

    I will really appreciate ur help here….

    Raj 🙂

    • The differences between them are like American and British English. Canadians speak more openly; you will find them easier to understand. If you’re going to live in Canada it’s better for you to practice with Canadian French, but the language is the same (some words may be called differently like lift/elevator – color/colour, they will understand you anyhow).

      • That’s true! Canadian spelling is important though, even though it’s not the first thing people focus on when they learn English.

  3. Hi Zhu!

    I hope that you are getting a good night’s sleep. Does Mark sleep through the night?

    I always wondered why French people refer to their birth in the present tense e.g. “Je suis nee en mille neuf cent cinquante trois.” It always sounded strange to me. If I said “J’etais nee en mille neuf cent cinquante trois” to a French person would that sound just as strange. Is this a cultural thing?

    I love the French language and that is why I took French in High School and University. I could never understand why some Westerner Canadians were saying ” I don’t want French crammed down my throat”, as if such a thing were possible, when Trudeau was proposing bilingualism. (I actually met him and worked for his campaign in 72. I must seem like a dinosaur. I also met George McGovern the same year, in an anti-Vietnam war rally on our campus, but he didn’t have such good luck.) Now fast forward and parents here are complaining that they can’t get their kid into French immersion at school. Go figure. French is now seen as an advantage. About time.

    I agree that learning another language is beneficial, even though the benefits are sometimes intangible and in my case funny. I remember going to Montreal and setting my Montreal friends up by saying “that Louie must be rich because he has signs everywhere saying A Louer. (obviously doesn’t know French) When we went to McDonald’s they made sure that I had to order. They were surprised when I ordered in French with no problem. They said “where did you learn French” and I just said that “we have schools in Saskatchewan too.”

    I had a Montreal friend in Edmonton who found it funny that when he was on holidays in New Brunswick he stopped by a roadside stand. He said in English “I would like a hot dog and Pepsi.” They said “en Francais s’il vous plait! He said O.k. Je voudrais un hot dog et un Pepsi. Then they understood him. In one of your blogs you noted that language can be a touchy issue in Canada, I never encountered it in Quebec but it was ironic that my Quebec friend found it in New Brunswick.

    • Mark sleeps… whenever he feels like it 😆 He is often hungry, so we don’t get to sleep much. It gets better, apparently!

      I found it strange when I learned English that the past tense is used for birth, i.e. “I was born in…”. So I understand how you feel about French! I guess there are two different ways to see birth, as a single event “was born” or as a statement still true and valid in the present tense “est né”. Other funny words are “hair”, it always sounds strange to me as a singular word (vs. “poils” or “cheveux”). I mean, you don’t have just one hair, right?

      I agree with you, bilingualism is a strength of this country, both languages are well worth learning if you get the chance. Language can be a touchy issue in some parts of Quebec and even in the National Capital, but most Canadians will really appreciate when you try to speak to them in their preferred language. I find most English-speakers who study French are more open-minded and understand the duality of the country better, this is also true of French speakers who learn English.

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