Learning another language seems painful to most – especially as you grow older and retain less. But in reality, it’s not impossible.
Free language learning sites, like Duolingo, are making it easier than ever to learn at your own pace. By completing bite-size language lessons in your spare time, you’ll create a basic foundation upon which to build.
But why bother? Can’t you get by in a foreign culture without learning the language? After all, English is the language of business.
If you are a native English speaker or you have a solid grasp of the English language, you most certainly have a leg up in communicating in the global business world. However, if you are living and working in a foreign culture, you will only scratch the surface of understanding if you don’t make the effort to learn.
Here are three reasons that language learning is so important to your integration.
Language is the bridge to understanding. Without it, how will you communicate your ideas and thoughts to your non-English-speaking friends and colleagues?
Although it may no longer be necessary to learn the native language to successfully manage within a foreign culture, doing so will still aid integration, as you communicate with locals in your host nation.
Think about renting an apartment, going to the bank, ordering a meal, etc. Wouldn’t it be great to have some fluency, so that you needn’t a translator to hold your hand?
Learning a language is a huge assist in learning about the culture. The two are interwoven.
For example, when my father became fluent in the Mossi language, new knowledge of their expressions helped him understand their way of thought.
One optimistic expression stuck with him: “When the crocodile is sick, then the buffalo can drink.”
This meant that everything in life has a positive side.
Knowing the language leads to insights about the host culture…and even insights into your own, from the outside, in.
As Benny Lewis mentions in his article 12 Reasons Everyone Should Learn Another Language, learning another language enables you “to ‘ride on a different bus’ and not only see what it’s like inside and even get comfy in there, but get a clear view of your own for the first time.”
If you’re working abroad but hanging onto everything back home – including the language – it suggests to your hosts that you’re uninterested in their culture.
Learning the native tongue shows respect and interest that is tangible. Any amount of fluency demonstrates that you’ve made an effort to develop that line of communication and to learn one of the most important mechanics of culture: the language.
Communication, learning the culture, and showing respect are just three reasons to learn a foreign language. Next week, we’ll talk about why you should also gain an understanding of your host culture’s religion.