If the multiple Rosetta Stone commercials are any indication, there are quite a few people out there interested in learning a second language. I’ve seen posts on FaceBook asking about various software programs for SLA (second language acquisition). I’ve taken classes with people who were there to learn a few key phrases to use while on vacation. And I’ve known others who wanted to learn the language of their ancestors. But it wasn’t until my study abroad experience that I had the chance to talk with students who were abroad, studying another language, because they considered it a resumé builder, or good for their future careers.
Then, just last week I saw this article from Forbes, titled, “How Learning an Additional Language Could Influence Your Business,” which talks about the rise in international business relations, and how learning multiple languages (and about multiple cultures) can minimize financial losses due to misunderstandings.
It’s been my experience that, in the US, learning a second language, studying abroad, and international travel for extended lengths of time aren’t considered necessary, unless you’re aiming for a career in diplomacy or are majoring in a specific language. To some extent, I understand this. For example, the North American continent is made up of three countries (not including the various island nations in the Caribbean), the European continent: about 50, and the African Continent: almost 60. It’s much quicker for someone in Luxembourg to travel to Germany (445 km / 276.5 m) than it is for someone to travel from Boston to Los Angeles (4800 km / 2983 m). When you add crossing an ocean into the mix, the time and money required rises exponentially, and it’s just not feasible for everyone.
But if the US is going to be a part of a global business community, I believe international awareness should be more encouraged as part of our educational system, and acquiring multiple languages should be promoted beginning at an early age. By simply reframing the idea that international travel is less of a luxury and more of a valuable investment, we’ll be setting up the next generation to think and act globally. And that will benefit everyone in the long run.