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Success Through a Foreign Language

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SUCCESS THROUGH A FOREIGN LANGUAGE These are a couple of readings that I have been asked to do for our friends from Russia who visited with us as a part of the Children of Chernobyl Program. I’m going to read a short selection from a motivational book called “Insight”. This particular reading has to do with the importance of understanding and using foreign languages that might be appropriate to the Russian students, because, certainly, we’re living in a world that is getting smaller and smaller and we’re going to have to be able to communicate in more than one language if we are going to be successful.

The second reading is from … it’s the first chapter of a book by Jane Carlson who is the President of Scandinavian Airlines. It’s called “Moments of Truth” and it is a handbook, or manual, for people who are interested in doing a better job of customer service. Scandinavian Airlines has a great reputation for wonderful customer service. Those are the two readings.

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The first one is called “Success through a Foreign Language”. Every year an industrial manufacturer in Virginia grudgingly shells out the cash to send two employees to a language school to learn French.

The employees have the technical and managerial abilities for the job but they lack the necessary foreign language skills. The practice of paying for the foreign language training of otherwise qualified employees is common among many employers. Increasingly, however, employers are avoiding this extra expense by emphasizing the requirement for foreign language skills during the hiring process. Richard Moore, Vice-President of the Arlington-Virginia Branch of John and Snow Incorporated, a public health consulting firm, admits that he gives preference to people who know a foreign language, even if the language isn’t required for their job.

This new trend toward emphasizing foreign language skills is opening doors for many individuals who have risen to the challenge. When they are seeking a new job or advancement at their current company, bilingual and multilingual individuals often have the competitive edge. In fact, in some cases, the need for foreign language speakers is so great that companies go to the language departments, rather than the business departments, of universities, to recruit upcoming graduates.

For example, recently 30 Boston University students from the Schools Spanish Program were recruited for jobs in Venezuela. This doesn’t mean that you must have a foreign language major to benefit professionally. In fact, despite popular belief, in a business situation, you don’t even have to be fluent in a foreign language. According to Lorraine Smith, President of the Language Exchange in Washington, D. C, even knowing a little of a foreign language puts a foreign individual at ease, and consequently, increases the communication and negotiation potential of the situation.

Smith points out that from both the foreigner’s and your supervisor’s prospective any level of a foreign language proficiency shows a bit more of a commitment to the client and to your business. More than 50 % of the students at the Language Exchange are learning a foreign language for their careers. More than 75 % of the students studying Russian, Spanish or French cite “career success” as their language learning incentive. However, at the University level, the number of individuals learning a language for career success is much smaller.

According to Professor Jeff Delusio this is because younger students expect others will know English. But the Survey Business Person knows that this isn’t always true and even when it is the case, by relying on another’s language abilities you are abdicating control of the situation. Robert Taylor, President and Co-Founder of Taylor Associates International, Washington, D. C, based Health-care management consulting firm that operates primarily in foreign countries, finds that in his dealings in countries in the Middle East and the South Pacific relying on the natives’ English is problematic for other reasons as well.

We are unable to ask questions in the way we truly intend, he says. In addition, it’s difficult to pick up subtleties of communication. Taylor hasn’t found the use of interpreters to be the answer in these situations either. In fact, most linguists and business people agree with him that the potential for miscommunication is great when using interpreters. Not only have most foreign interpreters learnt British English, but also they are often faced with time constraints in order to keep the conversation flowing.

As a result, they tend to encapsulate their translations opening the door for more errors. Having an edge in the international market place means meeting its language needs and staying current with the global changes. Currently, Taylor Associates lacks French and Spanish speakers – a fact that has lost it valuable business opportunities in several rapidly developing foreign markets. For example, without French-speaking employees the doors have been closed to the company in the countries of North Africa where there’s a strong market for health systems analysts.

Similarly, lacking Spanish-speaking employees, Taylor Associates has lost out in Latin America where public health systems are developing at a swift rate. John Snow, on the other hand, owes much of its success to a ready supply of foreign language speakers. The company’s combination of expertise in the growing field of public health and the Spanish and French-speaking employees has allowed it to bring its business to approximately 30 countries. Some professional areas have stronger language needs than others, and for certain languages all of the others.

For instance, Japanese, Chinese and other Asian languages are in high demand in sales, marketing and trade specialties. And Spanish speakers are needed in development agencies, health-care professions and environmental organizations. With the end of the cold war, Russian and German have become the two fastest-growing foreign languages studied in America. Generally, Russian and German, along with other languages spoken in Eastern European countries, are in great demand in areas of economics and policy consulting by governments, research institutions and large American corporations eager to enter this new market.

The Eurasia Foundation in Washington, D. C, a newly-established and independent Government-supported organization, arranges grants for economic and democratic reform in the former Soviet Union. Russian and other Newly Independent State Languages are in demand both for employees of the organization and for recipients of its grants, including the United States and other Western non-profit organizations and businesses. Jim Casual, program officer at Eurasia Foundation, sees a dramatic growth in private industry in these countries and predicts it will only get better.

With this upswing in private industry is the need for the Western know-how and assistance, and he says, people who know Russian and N. I. S. Languages have a huge advantage. Foreign language abilities can turn into professional growth in the European Community as well. Currently, French is most commonly used among policy-makers, since the organization is headquartered in Brussels. However, French is not the official language of the European Community. Actually, according to Allan Cuckoff, Spokesman for the European Community delegation in Washington D. C. , there are nine official languages.

As a result, the European Community relies heavily on translators. In fact, language translation itself has become a large-growth industry there. Because there is little incentive for policy-makers to learn English, the English speaker who knows another language has an edge. In addition to career success, there are numerous personal benefits in learning a foreign language. For example, the process of learning a foreign language flexes your creative muscle. As you know, the more you exercise your creativity, the more creative you become. Your memory, particularly long-term memory, gets a good workout.

In language learning we discover a combination of memory training techniques suitable to your needs, such as word association and rhyming patterns. These techniques can be applied successfully to other situations as well, such as remembering people’s names and memorizing vital business statistics. You’ll feel more confident when communicating because your interpersonal skills will grow no matter which language is used to converse. You become more open to new cultures and places. Language and culture are inseparable, leading many to see language learning as a form of diversity training.

Within the United States, Spanish is the fastest-growing language, and speaking Spanish is a great way to demonstrate your awareness of and sensitivity to the diversities in your nation’s population. Before you begin to study a foreign language, develop a successful attitude. Exorcise those ghosts from embarrassing high-school language classes. Many modern language classes are small and interactive, allowing little room for inhibitions. Whether you’re in a classroom or teaching yourself, self-confidence is a key. And remember: foreign language learning, especially your first one, is work.

Success at it requires practice and patience, in addition to the constant reminders that you CAN do it. Before tackling a foreign language, also ask yourself the following four questions: 1. How will this help me in my career? 2. How will this help me in my personal development? 3. How much of this language do I really need to know? 4. How much of this language do I already know? Your answers to the first two questions should be your goals and your incentives. Don’t forget them. The third question is crucial to setting a realistic language goal.

If you need to learn Russian or Spanish only for business meetings, focus your attention on the spoken language and steer clear of unnecessary areas, such as historical verb tenses found only in literature. You won’t need to know them, and consequently, you won’t enjoy learning them. The last question, that is “How much of this language do I already know? “, will help you realize that you probably already have some of the language under your belt, even if it’s just a little bit. Knowing “uno, due, tres” and the names of your favorite Mexican foods is a warm-up for Spanish.

Next recall how Spanish speakers pronounce these common words. For languages such as Japanese, the search for words might be a little more difficult. Instead, start with names, such as “Kawasaki” or “Mitsubishi”. Do you hear a pattern? Yes, they are all four-syllable names. Now that you are in the right frame of mind, here are some tips for learning process. Avoid crash courses. Crash courses often teach too much, too quickly not allowing the brain to absorb the beginning lessons before the later ones are taught. Language learning is incremental.

You have to understand the beginning before going on to the middle. Listen to audio cassettes for pronunciation and cadence, but be warned, some audio cassettes merely have you repeat phrases. This method does not help you retain what you’ve learned. Look for interactive audio programs that encourage you to answer questions and think in the language. Listen to foreign radio. In most areas there are radio programs and some times entire stations in a foreign language. If you have difficulty finding one of these, inquire at your local public radio station. Watch videos in a foreign language.

Whether they are for learning or for pleasure, videos provide a great way to hear the language in the context of natural conversation. Full-length films are loaded with idioms, hand gestures and other cultural and language specific characteristics. When you read in a language, don’t try to understand everything. You ought to avoid dictionary dependence. Certainly, you didn’t use a dictionary to learn your native language. Instead, skim and read what you can. By going for the gist of the piece you’ll enjoy reading more and progress faster. Newspapers and magazines are fantastic vocabulary builders, because you will find plenty of ontextual clues in the pictures and the topics will probably be ones you’ve already read about in English. Seek out native speakers. If you are unable to visit the country where the language is spoken, find native speakers in your area with whom you can converse. You can get in touch with them through colleges, consulates and cultural centres. Mimic foreigners speaking English as well as their native language. Some teachers start their beginner foreign language classes by having the students imitate foreigners speaking English. It helps the students in their pronunciation of the foreign language.

Don’t get bored down analyzing the language. Practice is the key to learning a foreign language rather than spending weeks memorizing every form of every verb tense. Practise with the vocabulary you have. The more you converse, the quicker the missing pieces of your vocabulary will fall into place. And, finally, write new vocabulary words and phrases on index cards with the English translation on the back. Index cards easily fit it the coat pockets and handbags and can be pulled out and studied just about anywhere. A few tips on the importance of how you go about learning a little bit about a foreign language.

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