Learning a Language= a Useful Waste of Time

Learning a language is a waste of time because…

  1. The best jobs don’t depend on knowing multiple languages. 
  2. There is little economic incentive to language learning. 
  3. Polyglots have an eccentric, if not somewhat negative reputation.

Learning a language makes you look smart, but it’s not going to land you that C-suite job. The most useful language you can learn in terms of business is English, and if you’re reading this blog, chances are you already have a good handle on that. The best jobs go to people who are able to use a diverse skillset when solving a complicated problem. Fluency in another language is useful, but it’s not a golden ticket to the East India Trading Company.

It takes an incredible amount of time to learn a new language. From an economic perspective, you could most likely learn a different set of skills faster, and then simply pay someone to handle the translation into English. In short, it doesn’t make much business sense to learn new languages. 

People tend to think that the kinds of people in language learning classrooms aren’t exactly “walking the party line”. In America, we often associate a foreign language student with a green Che Guevara t-shirt with a leather-bound notebook in hand. This isn’t the kind of reputation you want outside of Vermont.

Learning a language is a solid investment because…

  1. Learning new languages expands a person’s world-view.
  2. Discipline and long-term thinking are essential characteristics of successful language learners.
  3. People that can speak multiple languages better understand what it means to be human. 

Learning another language will force you to travel, either physically or mentally, to a place outside of your home. You will be forced to engage with new ideas and models for understanding the world. This is why people that like to learn languages have a broad world-view. Moreover, the specific of languages you learn will shape your personality and help others to understand you.

People that achieve a high level of competency in a foreign language are often disciplined and long-term thinkers. This is because reaching this level takes such personal qualities. Learning a second language is a grind that will test you, but ultimately the best language learners can push through these difficulties by using a variety of strategies and techniques. Many of these are transferable skills that you will be able to apply in other areas of your life.

When you learn another language you are, to a certain degree, rewiring your brain. Or, perhaps more accurately, learning how to momentarily rewire the part which manages language. When you rewire your brain, you begin to understand at a very deep level how a particular group of people think. Therefore your ability to achieve competency in another language enhances your ability to understand another group of people… in the most subtle of ways.

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