What would we do without language? Such a scenario is almost too absurd to even imagine.
Language is intertwined with almost every aspect of our daily lives. No matter where we live, language is the means by which we formulate and express our sentiments, wishes, thoughts, ideas and questions to the world and those around us.
The challenge in this highly globalized world is that there is now a strong demand for people who can facilitate clear communication with those who speak a different native language to their own. After all, with global educational opportunities and the advent of global workspaces, no human can ever be an island; more so, language-wise.
Now, before you start complaining that learning another language is “just too hard“, keep in mind that the majority of people who inhabit this planet are multilingual. So there is no reason that you can't be as well. All you have to do is commit to the time and effort that is required.
What is a Global Mindset — and Why Do You Need One?
The Financial Times defines a global mindset as “one that combines an openness to and awareness of diversity across cultures and markets with a propensity and ability to see common patterns across countries and markets.”
In other words, having a global mindset entails an ability to think as if the whole world were your home.
As the world continues to grow smaller and more intertwined, a global mindset is a necessary professional trait. Only professionals who can think in this manner can assist firms in operating efficiently across countries and cultures.
By having a global mindset, you will be in a position to leverage everything you know about culture in general, your own culture and the cultures of other people, enabling you to think outside the box and to respond to circumstances in the most appropriate and productive ways.
How does language learning shape your worldview and prepare you for the future? Here are seven ways language learning equips you for the global here and now, and the even more globalized future.
Learning a language:
1. Sharpens Your Cultural Intelligence
Cultural intelligence is defined as “an individual's capacity to function effectively in situations characterized by cultural diversity.”
Think of it as something similar to emotional intelligence, but a more enhanced, encompassing version.
When you get together with old friends who grew up in the same town as you — as long as you are an emotionally intelligent person — there is a high probability that you’ll understand them and can interpret their sense of humor, social cues, and speech patterns.
Being culturally intelligent extends your understanding (or at least your attempt to understand) to those with a different culture, coming from a background dissimilar to yours.
How does learning a foreign language tie into this?
Well, language extends beyond being merely a means of communication and is also a system by which we create the reality in which we live.
When you learn a foreign language, you are gaining an insider's picture of how people's thoughts from that region are structured. Put it this way: if you want to understand how the Chinese view the world, then you need to take some elementary Mandarin.
Studying abroad is a fantastic way to increase cultural intelligence (more about that later on), but even acquiring basic conversational skills in another language can considerably boost your capacity.
2. Opens Up a World of Opportunity
Language learning is one of the most feasible ways to access overseas opportunities and experiences.
In this global age, many high school and university students have the option to spend some time overseas to focus on their language skills. Scholarships and grants are available for this type of program, and immersion is undoubtedly one of the fastest ways to become fluent in a language.
That being said, just because you are in another country doesn't mean you are automatically going to become fluent in the local language. You have to maintain an inquiring mind, and put in the work. Consider listening to songs, watching movies, and hanging out with locals to hone your language skills and boost your cultural intelligence.
Why should you face your fears and go overseas?
A lot of the joy of learning a language comes from living the language. It is the conduit through which you discover a people, culture, set of beliefs and value systems different from your own. Overseas opportunities and experiences give you the chance to try new cuisines and see how people all around the globe live, work, and play.
3. Develops Your International Awareness
As you become more involved in your chosen language and the people that speak it, you are inevitably going to become more aware of international affairs and events.
Thorough language instruction should always include classes and segments on history and art, and as you progress in the language, you may begin to read classic novels and watch groundbreaking films from the country or region you are learning about.
Maybe you opt to read the newspaper in your new language each morning while studying abroad, or perhaps you just keep up with national politics online. Whatever you decide, there is no denying that your engagement with the language and the culture will pique your interest in the international affairs and events of the region.
Let's not forget — not only will being interested in the world make you more knowledgeable, but it will also make you far more interesting.
4. Gives You Broader Choices for Education — Plus an Edge During College Applications
Ask the best admissions consultant; it isn't just firms that want global thinking employees. Universities also aim to fill their classrooms with global-thinking students.
By learning a language before applying to an overseas university, you are showing admissions officers that you understand how essential language acquisition is in this day in age. You are affirming your commitment to being a global citizen and proving that you are hardworking, goal-oriented, and willing to push beyond your comfort zone and be open to new ways of thinking.
Additionally, few people believe that learning a new language is easy, so you are also demonstrating that you are a diligent hard worker who continues on with projects and objectives even when things get challenging.
5. Opens Up More Job Opportunities
In our globalized world, learning a second language opens up a lot of career opportunities. As more and more firms do business in various countries, their demand for globally-minded people who can speak at least one foreign language is growing.
These firms know that if they are going to create an enduring, constant international business relationship, they need to communicate in the other party’s native language. If you have the skills to make this happen, you’d best believe your application is going to be placed ahead of your peers’.
One day you may even find yourself acing a job interview in a non-native language!
Even if you are looking to work for a smaller local company, the fact that you can speak a second language will still make you stand out from other applicants and will demonstrate your cultural intelligence.
And if you were to ask any hiring manager what is the best skill to gain to provide extra job security and better access to openings in an unpredictable economy, the ability to speak a foreign language would be the answer.
6. Develops Your Mental Agility for a Fast-Changing World
Recent research shows that the process of learning a new language has an immediate and positive impact on your mental agility. This is important because mental agility enhances your focus, productivity and your ability to remain calm, cool, and collected. Unfortunately, it is also one of the first brain functions to fade as you age.
Therefore, no matter what your age, speaking two or more languages can have a positive effect on your brain, including a longer attention span, a reduced risk of age-related cognitive decline, and a stronger memory.
7. Builds You a Global Network
There is something uniquely distinctive about a friendship that is made while speaking a second language. Usually, you remember it distinctively as a relationship that was formed while you were conversing in your non-native language, and the recipient recognizes you as someone who was trying extra hard to learn and appreciate their way of viewing the world.
If you choose to learn another language and spend some time abroad, you are almost always guaranteed to form some of the most important relationships of your life.
Even if you don't meet your BFF or future partner-in-crime, you are still expanding your global network — which is indispensable in the modern-day workforce. Language acquisition enables you to make friends all around the world, just as though you had stayed in your own neighborhood, but with a lot more interesting perspectives!
That being said, you don't necessarily have to travel across the world to learn a new language and develop a global network. Even in some of the smallest towns in the world, there are local restaurants and hangouts full of expats — some of whom would love to assist you in learning their language if you choose to try.
Conclusion: You Can Be a Global Citizen with a Global Mindset
Learning a new language isn't just about vocabulary lessons and chanting grammar sets. Instead, it is about developing a global mindset, pushing yourself, and learning to appreciate the way other people see the world. All of these aspects help you become a well-prepared global citizen in an increasingly multicultural work and social environment.