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Edge Out the Competition: Learn Another Language!

It might only be a matter of speaking, but fluency in another language aside from English is an advantage in an ever-growing global job market.


In today’s global village, where communication between people across the world has never been simpler, effective communication is a key element to success. Although English has widely been adopted as the universal language of business and commerce, it’s easy to forget that billions of people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America do not consider it their first language, or their language of choice.

As a student, it’s also important to realize that the English we speak in our day-to-day lives isn’t necessarily adequate it in a professional setting. Courses such as Business English and English for Lawyers will impress instructors and employers with your ability to communicate effectively, and can give the impression of experience and sophistication.Although the reality of the global village has introduced English to most of the world, the proliferation of mass media, international travel, and global commerce through gains in technology has also made other languages more influential to us. All you need to do is look around to see how different languages are infiltrating everyday life, particularly through television and the Internet.

In fact, the Alberta government recently acknowledged the economic significance of language education with the introduction of a new policy that makes second language learning mandatory in the province for a period of four years starting in Grade 4. The government is supporting curriculum development in French, German, Spanish, Japanese and Cree and the policy is expected to be fully implemented starting in 2006. “What this has achieved is it raised the whole issue of language learning to a different level in the province,” says Nicholas Zekulin, director of the Language Research Centre (LRC).

The number of jobs advertised these days demanding the knowledge of a second language is also a good indication of just how pervasive the need for language education has become. Companies with global aspirations are beginning to realize the significance of having employees who are multilingual and able to communicate with international clients. Simply put, while multilingualism may not yet be considered an essential job skill, in the business community, it is fast becoming an additional skill employers are seeking for. “If you’re in competition with somebody else for a job, and you have only the essential skills, the person who has capability and experience in another language gets the edge,” claims Zekulin.

Aside from the obvious, your ability to speak a second language also reveals something about your personality that many employers will be drawn to. For instance, learning a language isn’t as easy as learning a mechanical task. It requires motivation, dedication, and intuition. Therefore, what it subtly conveys to an employer is that you’re determined and able to apply and commit yourself to a long-term task. It also reveals that you have an “intellectual or cultural curiosity” and are “prepared to think outside the linguistic and cultural box in which you were brought up,” adds Zekulin. In a global economy those kinds of skills and attributes are highly sought after.

Of course, just as important as learning a new language is mastering the language you will use in most situations. Consider:
•    22% of adult Canadians have serious problems dealing with printed materials.
•    About 45% of new Canadian jobs created in this decade will require at least 16 years of education.
•    Canadians with the lowest level of literacy skills have an unemployment rate of 26% compared to 4% for Canadians with the highest literacy levels.
•    Almost three-quarters of 626 Canadian companies surveyed feel that they have a significant problem with functional literacy in some part of their organization.
•    A according to Statistics Canada, nearly half of Canadians have some difficulty with reading materials encountered in everyday life.
•    About 22 per cent of the population falls into the lowest level of literacy -- meaning they are unable to, for example, look at a bottle of medicine and determine the correct amount to give a child.
•    Another 26 per cent can read but they can only deal with information that is simple, clearly laid out and in familiar contexts.
•    Only 10% of Canadians see illiteracy as part of our economic problems.
These stats clearly show that most Canadians could use at least some upgrading in thir reading, verbal and written communication skills. And there are very few careers that require a post-secondary education that don’t involve an elevated vocabulary or communication skills such as presentation, negotiation, discussion, or persuasion.
In order to determine what language would be of a benefit to your future career goals, Education411.com advises looking at the larger picture. What type of profession or field do you envision yourself working in? What type of company? Who is likely to be the target clientele the company or field you see yourself employed in? You have to look at the business or professional area you want to go into and where its horizons are and then make the choice accordingly.
Luckily, sharpening your linguistic edge isn’t very difficult. With Canadian schools offering professional English, ESL, and foreign-language courses from Cantonese to Welsh for young and mature students, there is definitely a fit for you.

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