Thanks to globalization, we live in an interconnected world. It is easier than ever to reach across cultural and geographic boundaries and connect with people who speak other languages.There are thousands of different languages of the world. However, most languages have fewer than one million speakers. Of languages with over a million speakers, most are only important at a local scale. There are only a handful of tongues that are really world languages.What Makes a World LanguageWorld languages have two main features. First, they have many speakers. Secondly, they are important internationally and are learned by non-native speakers.For the sake of brevity, this article will focus on the UN official languages: English, Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, and Russian. We will give some information about each language and discuss why it is important.EnglishInitially, English was the language of the British. Britain has been an important power for centuries. It integrated much of the world into its vast trading empire. This is why English is so widespread today.In the present day, English is the main language of the United States. It is also used heavily in India. Because it is such a widespread language, many international organizations use English to facilitate communication between people of different nationalities.SpanishSpain was the first European power to colonize the Americas. As a result, many countries in the Western Hemisphere use Spanish as their national languages. It is also a prominent language in the United States. Spanish has nearly 500 million speakers.FrenchLike the British and Spanish, the French used to have a vast international empire. As a result, French is spoken not only in France, but also in Quebec and much of Africa.France was at the forefront of culture and diplomacy for a long time, so for many years French was considered the international language. Today it is still considered a prestige language in many circles, and it is still used by international organizations.Mandarin ChineseChinese civilization has existed for thousands of years. Over that time, its culture has influenced many other cultures in East Asia and Southeast Asia.Today, China has a massive population of 1.3 billion people. It is a trading partner with many other nations, and its economy is growing rapidly. All of these factors help to explain why Mandarin Chinese is such an important language.Mandarin is one of several dialects of Chinese. Each dialect sounds different, and some consider each dialect to be a distinct language. However, all dialects of Chinese use the pictographic Chinese writing system.ArabicArabic is the main language spoken in much of the Middle East and North Africa. Arabic came to prominence in the early Middle Ages, when the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula conquered the surrounding regions.Arabic is the language of Islam. This has helped it to spread beyond the lands of the old Arab empires. Today, most major cities have Arabic speaking people due to the migration of Muslims around the world.Arabic comes in many varieties. International business Arabic is known as Modern Standard Arabic. Each country also has its own homegrown dialect of Arabic. These dialects can differ greatly from Modern Standard Arabic and from other national dialects.RussianRussia has been a major European power for centuries, and the Soviet Union was a superpower that lasted for decades. During this time Russian became an language of the world. In the early 1990s the Soviet Union split into 15 countries. Russian continues to be an important language in many of these countries.Russia also has huge natural resource reserves. These help to maintain the prominence of the Russian language.
Learning a new language can sometimes be tough especially if are required to learn it because of school or work. Those who learn a new language on their own accord find the process much easier. So the first trick in learning a new language is having a positive attitude about it.I always say tell people who are interested in learning a new language to always start by getting a good teacher or attending a language class. This is because having a good foundation is always important in learning anything.However, if for some reason you are not able to get a language tutor or attend classes, there are still many tools you can use to learn a language.Watch Foreign MoviesWatching foreign movies or soap operas are a great way to kick off learning a new language. I actually know someone who picked up Mandarin by just watching Mandarin soap operas with English subtitles while she worked on Singapore for two years. Although she can now speak Mandarin, she is unable to read or write it.You should start with foreign movies because it will help you familiarize yourself with the new language. This might be a stretch but think of it as getting used to a new accent.In addition, watching movies is fun and when you do something that is fun, it does not seem like a chore. And this helps the learning process greatly.Foreign Language SoftwareThe next tool you should get is good foreign language software. The latest foreign language software is quite advanced. There are even some that are utilize the cloud or internet databases to recognize speech.Although not yet perfect, this feature can help you improve your language skills to a certain extent. When you do not have a human teacher, this could be the next best thing.Most foreign language software also come with fun and interactive games which not only help you speak, but also read and write in a new language.Play Language Learning GamesIt is more fun learning in a group and a great way to get people to participate in a group is by playing games. There are so many types of language games available. There are board games, card games and, of course, the foreign language software based games as mentioned earlier.These games address basic everyday words and phrases you would probably use in your daily life. They would also help build you vocabulary and verb conjugation over time.Read Foreign BooksOnce you have got the basics covered, try reading elementary foreign books. Elementary foreign books are easily available on the internet and are quite affordable.You can move on from elementary curriculum to coffee table foreign books once your reading improves. Be sure to have a dictionary near you as you are bound to come across new words.
In this article I will illustrate the importance of learning a second language for the broadening of one’s life and opportunities. You will learn the role of a second language in:* Expanding your social life* Gaining more business contacts* More business opportunities* More employment opportunities* Increased knowledge of other cultures and places* Travel* Keeping your brain sharpThe importance of learning a second language is greater today than ever. As the world keeps shrinking with greater advances in communications technology and modes of travel, people are moving around both physically and in cyberspace at an ever-increasing rate. Immigration and tourism are growing rapidly in many countries. You may live in a country with one “official” language but chances are that many other languages will be spoken in that country. Your Social LifeIf you live in an area where your next door neighbors’ primary language is not your own, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to speak their language also? You can get to know them on a more personal basis, get invited to more parties and more easily ask for help if you need it. Of course, if you don’t care to talk to your neighbors or you live in an area where everyone speaks the same language, this would not apply. But what if you are the type of person who likes to spend a lot of time on-line? The Internet brings the world to your desktop! Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to chat with someone on the other side of the world in their own language?If you are a single man or woman looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right, why limit yourself to only those who speak your own language? The perfect one for you may speak a different language! Many relationships like this are made but are problematic because of the lack of communications. Having a good knowledge of the other’s primary language is a tremendous help. BusinessIf you own a business or work in sales, the importance of learning a second language should be evident. Knowing another language allows you to develop international business contacts, prepare advertising targeted to markets that speak another language or do sales work in neighborhoods with mixed languages. Expanding your market is one of the best ways to increase business, so why not learn the language of the market you are interested in? You have probably read stories of advertising screw ups where a product name or advertising copy did not translate well. You can prevent this type of thing from happening by learning the language. Your ResumeThe importance of learning a second language for business opportunities goes for employment opportunities as well. Having at least one other language on your resume is a big plus. It means that you are more valuable to the employer because you can help with more customers, deal with more business contacts or help prepare more targeted advertising. Know Your WorldIf you are the type of person who likes to increase your knowledge of the world, learning a second language can be very helpful. It’s almost impossible to learn another language without learning something about the people who speak that language as well as their customs and their geographical origins. Likewise, if you really want to study a different culture, learning their language is very important in developing a complete understanding of it.TravelThe importance of learning a second language for travel purposes is obvious. Although some English is spoken in almost all countries, if your only language is English you may have a difficult time of it. Take for instance an experience I had while traveling in Thailand. The restaurant at the hotel I was staying at had a limited menu for Westerners in English. Being unable to read Thai at the time, I chose what sounded like an intriguing breakfast item of Yam and Toast. While nibbling on the toast with butter and strawberry jam that was served, I patiently waited for my yam that I assumed was being cooked. I soon realized that I was actually eating the yam (Jam) on my toast!Even though people in another country may speak your language, sometimes things don’t get translated quite right. Having a good knowledge of the primary language in the country you are traveling in can make for a much more pleasant stay. Not only will you avoid some mix- ups but you will be more able to make friends or even develop a romantic relationship.Flex Your BrainScientists have known the importance of learning a second language for brain health for some time now. A 2004 study done by researchers from University College London found that learning a second language alters gray matter – the area of the brain which processes information – in the same way exercise builds muscles. So if you want to keep your brain healthy, learning other languages can help you do it.In conclusion, learning other languages is good for your social life, career, recreation and your health, so start learning one today!Copyright 2008, Terry Shurts