You’ve heard about learning coding languages–that’s the only language you need to worry about in tech, right? Well, as much as we’d like to tell you that it’s true, we have a secret: learning a foreign language is just as important. We understand your confusion: how can you work in web development without knowing how to code?! You probably can’t, and you may not have to prove proficiency in a foreign language to graduate with your degree or certification, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless.
Lots of people draw a distinction between the humanities and sciences, frequently assuming from a young age that they have to pick between one or the other. It’s similar to when, growing up, people feel they have to play sports or take part in theater. Although they seem quite different on the surface (and they are!), you can learn valuable skills from both sides which can help advance your career later on.
Before we dive into why foreign languages can help your tech career, let’s keep it simple and explain why learning foreign languages in general is a great choice for both your personal and professional lives.
Why Should You Learn a Foreign Language?
When thinking about foreign languages, you may just think about long lists of verb conjugations and boring vocabulary charts; while that is a part of the process, the benefits of dedicating your time and energy to such a pursuit are totally worth it.
Among lots of other reasons, foreign languages provide you with:
An increased understanding of other cultures: like we mentioned above, language learning goes much further than just learning words; when you start learning a foreign language, you’ll be introduced to an entirely new culture and way of thinking that can help you better connect with people from different backgrounds.
An increased understanding of your own culture: yes, you read that right! When you start to interact with another culture, you’ll better understand your own culture and what makes it unique.
Improved communication skills: have you ever tried to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you? It’s quite tough and those that are equipped to handle challenging and difficult situations are overall better communicators.
Improved analytical and problem solving skills: bilingual people have a higher capacity for both problem solving and analytical thinking.
Not convinced? Foreign language learners also benefit from:
Better listening skills and memory capacity
Increased tolerance and openness
Professional reasons to learn a foreign language
Now that you’re well-versed on why learning a foreign language is crucial to you personally, let’s discuss the professional reasons why it’s a great idea:
You’ll have more job opportunities: the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and if you’re able to communicate with those around you, regardless of their native language (and understand them culturally!) you’ll be seen as a great candidate.
You’ll be lined up for success: as we mentioned above, foreign language learning sharpens some of the most important skills, such as communication, teamwork, and cultural awareness.
You’ll be a better candidate: employers know everything we’ve outlined above; they’re looking for candidates who are willing to branch out, breaking down barriers and connecting with everyone.
We convinced you, right?! Now let’s see what’s next.
What language should you learn?
This is a specific question that depends almost entirely on you, your language skills, career goals, and interests. First we’ll explore some of the world’s most-spoken languages and then we’ll cover some important details about them, such as their difficulty or things to keep in mind.
Mandarin Chinese: there are more than 1 billion Mandarin speakers in the world–most are located in China, but it’s an incredibly crucial language as China continues to emerge as a world power in business. The language itself, however, is quite difficult as it uses an entirely different alphabet (symbols) which will take some time to understand.
Spanish: another widely-spoken language is Spanish, with over twenty countries boasting it as their official language and many more where it’s frequently spoken as well. It uses the same alphabet as English and shares lots of similar vocabulary words, which helps facilitate the learning process.
German: Germany has long been a major player in both the business and tech worlds and knowing German, despite the widespread use of English in the country, can help you land new opportunities.
French: French was the international diplomatic language for a long time and is still widely spoken; in addition, France offers lots of amazing opportunities for techies.
Arabic: 22 countries around the world speak Arabic and learning how to speak this frequently-spoken language will help you land more opportunities.
Things to keep in mind when choosing a language
Although you might have a clear idea of what you want to learn, there are some important things to keep in mind when making your decision:
Dialects differ significantly from country to country and even if you learn to speak European Portuguese, you might face challenges if you try to live in Brazil. Make sure you research the dialect of your chosen country and try to familiarize yourself with that specific branch of the language.
Check out the estimated difficulty of the language you want to learn; if it’s an extremely challenging one and you can only dedicate a short amount of time to learning it, it will be hard to make it worth your while. However, if you research what you’ll need to do and make it a priority, it’s definitely achievable.
Be realistic with yourself and your own abilities; if you already speak Italian and want to learn Spanish, the process will be easier. However, if this is your first language and you want to jump straight into Japanese to be fluent in just a few months, you may need to first lower your expectations a bit.
Foreign Languages in Tech
You may think that with just English, you’re all set. But as we mentioned above, your foreign language skills can help you land new jobs in all sorts of areas. And if you’re interested in going abroad for work, employers will also look for candidates who can fit in and interact positively with the rest of their company.
Following COVID-19, everything became increasingly digital and the distance between countries (virtually speaking) became much smaller. What does this mean? Well:
Companies are looking for candidates who are bilingual and can interact successfully with foreign markets/employees.
Remote working took off and digital nomad visas are popping up all over; if you’ve ever wanted to live abroad and work remotely, now’s your chance.
The increased cultural awareness that comes with foreign language knowledge is a skill that’s highly-demanded by employers.
Have we convinced you? We thought so! Now’s the perfect time to get into both tech and foreign language learning and make the world your oyster.