Language Training Trends

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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Before going off to another country to work, think! You’ll need to know the language of that place and you should do some real life learning before you fly. If you know at least the minimum before going to a strange land, you’ll pick up more of the local lingo! I don’t know about you but I was never able to learn a language effectively in the classroom.

One of the measures of today’s maturing global economy is the explosion of the myth that successful companies only start in the West and expand globally. Now, big technology companies originate all over the world and expand into Europe and the US as part of their worldwide business strategy. So we’re working for them and its only polite that we should understand the paymasters’ language – if they talk ours.

Most people who learn to speak a second language choose one of the languages of international trade. This is especially true for people within international companies and organizations. These are the major international business languages because they are spoken widely or the home country(ies) are major international business countries.

We’re talking here of course about English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese and Italian. More and more, however, it is Chinese, Russian and Arabic that are needed in the world workplace – these and a second language group that is also important to international companies and organizations. I write of languages spoken within the countries that are becoming bigger and better economic players; Korean, Polish, Vietnamese and Hindi, for example. To do business with people from these countries, or to be assigned to one of these countries, requires a knowledge of the local language. Unfortunately, finding a qualified teacher for these less common languages can be very difficult. Polish is going to be an important language of the EU very soon – once this expansive nation joins up.

Teaching through innovative means – such as videoconferencing – may allow us to catch up but we have to realise that language training is important to the health of our economy. Today’s international business environment is fast-paced resulting in a real time squeeze for most people.

Large companies and organizations have offices or plants scattered around the world. As an employee, you could end up in large cities or even well as small towns or even rural areas. More and more, businesses include language training at their many different locations and students must learn the languages at the different locations within their companies/organizations. An employee, after all, may work at the Dublin office but could be at the Stuttgart plant next Wednesday for a business meeting. With today’s technology, “real life” teachers can be substituted by a lesson using the company’s videoconferencing equipment or a laptop.

The more far-flung the tongue, the harder it may be to learn. Russian, Chinese and Hindi all have different alphabets and scripts so there’s double work for you. But it’s also a great challenge. Don’t despair when learning Chinese, but you should know that while there’s a single method for writing Chinese, Chinese “dialects” are, in fact, as different from each other as French or Spanish is from Italian – the dialects of the south-east being the furthest apart. Then, each variety consists of a large number of dialects, many of which may themselves be referred to as languages.

But get this clear – the Chinese refer to themselves and their language as Han, a name which derives from the Han dynasty (202 BC-AD 220). Han Chinese is to be distinguished from the non-Han minority languages used in China – such as Korean, Mongolian and Russian. Han Chinese or Mandarin will be just fine to get yourself understood in any half-populated area of this huge and mystical land – honest.

Frank Bolger

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