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Language Learning as a Career Booster

Why are language skills critical for career advancement?
Today, anyone interested in pursuing a career does not require professional expertise. In recent years, soft skills such as general communication abilities, networking, cultural awareness, and presentation abilities have become increasingly important. Additionally, there are core competencies such as digital competencies. In today’s globalized economy, a willingness to pursue an international career is also desirable, and companies encourage participation in appropriate additional training programs such as company language courses. Consider the following advantages that foreign language skills provide employees and businesses:
Language instruction is a form of brain training
Being fluent in multiple languages places a significant strain on our brain and, according to neuroscientists, even ensures that grey matter grows and becomes more connected. This is significant for mental performance at an age when we are still developing a career and holding our own in the workplace. Nonetheless, it pays off as we age and our grey matter begins to shrink, but our mental performance continues to be required. Thinking and speaking in more than one language place a particular strain on the brain’s executive functions. They enable us to concentrate and maintain our attention on a single task. With multilingualism, the brain performs even better at focusing on relevant information and blocking out irrelevant information – simply because it is geared toward maintaining an overview and distinguishing the important from the unimportant in linguistic confusion. This benefits the brain and increases the volume of the brain in the affected areas, similar to how a muscle grows when trained. As a result, foreign language training also improves cognitive performance via executive control, inhibitory control, working memory, and attention control. We benefit even more from this when it comes to physically demanding jobs. Which second language is acquired is irrelevant; what matters is how well the language is known, how frequently it is used, and its grammatical accuracy.
Thought is determined by language
We owe it to researchers at the Max-Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, to establish that our mother tongue affects our perception of the world. For decades, researchers have puzzled why some cultures lack spatial descriptors such as “right” or “left,” yet people can still self-orient. The assumption was that they also conceptualize and think about spatial relationships differently. The researchers conducted comparative language studies with native English, German, and Dutch speakers using scientific measurement methods such as EEG and visual field analysis. They discovered that the linguistic structures (in this case, grammar) with which people grow up significantly impact cognitive processes, such as how we perceive images or movies. The German and English subjects demonstrated that native German speakers tend to fixate on and respond to the storyline’s objective. In comparison, native English speakers tended to focus more on the storyline. Anyone who has studied a little English will understand while the progressive form, denoted by the “ing” ending of the verb, is frequently used in English, the progressive form does not exist in German grammar. Therefore, if the next round of negotiations with your English colleagues takes a little longer, they may value the negotiation process more than the outcome. Language training can help us better understand and possibly overcome what we perceive as cultural differences.
Emotional distance for more rational decision-making
Foreign language skills also aid in rational decision-making, emotional distance, and capitalizing on attractive opportunities. That is what researchers at the University of Chicago discovered. According to the study, “The Foreign Language Effect: Thinking in a Foreign Tongue Reduces Decision Biases,” a foreign language acts as a distancing mechanism, shifting people away from their immediate intuitive system and toward a more deliberate mode of thought. The researchers conducted the study with English-speaking students who had acquired Spanish proficiency. The experiment, which required students to make a financial decision, was conducted in English and Spanish. The experiment determined whether students were more likely to make attractive wagers based on the language in which they viewed their options. When the investigation was conducted in English, students acted emotionally and made rash decisions. By contrast, they made a more rational choice in the Spanish-language experiment. Perhaps the most important mechanism underlying this effect is that a foreign language elicits less emotional resonance than the native tongue, which reduces fear-based decision-making and increases the likelihood of opportunities being taken. According to the research report, the new findings are relevant to how people make decisions in a global society. An increasing number of people communicate in a foreign language daily. Thinking in a foreign language can be highly beneficial when making business or personal financial decisions.
 Foreign languages as a critical factor in global economic success
The Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft (Institute for the German Economy) also states that foreign languages are a critical component of economic success in its IW Future Panel. Traditional industrial sectors can only succeed if they can withstand structural change brought about by megatrends such as globalization and knowledge intensification. Globalization and knowledge intensification are fundamentally based on communication, which must function smoothly beyond one’s borders to succeed. Thus, knowledge of foreign languages and cultures is critical. For instance, we do not deny that translation apps can be a lifesaver when writing business emails. They do not, however, eliminate the need for language learning. Even apps that claim to use artificial intelligence are only helpful for translating factual texts. They, for example, lack an understanding of emotions, which can easily result in awkward misunderstandings. You will need your language skills to be able to check translations. Translation apps are, in short, a disruptive factor in oral business communication, as anyone can imagine. To begin, speak or type into the app, then listen to or read out the translation before the other person responds in the same way – conversations quickly take three times as long. What is more certain is that only those who can express themselves accurately while remaining aware of cultural differences will achieve their goal and continue developing professionally and emotionally, whether as a team member or team leader. Additionally, knowing more than one language fosters soft skills such as empathy, which are necessary for healthy employee relationships, tolerance, and respect, and increases adaptability to new work cultures. Contact ELAM today to get started on your career booster!

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