If you had to learn just one foreign language, which would be the most useful? International trade and communication is growing fast, companies are truly multinational and travel is the norm in many jobs. Learning a foreign language will help you take advantage of the opportunities, and will make you stand out to employers – but which language?
Learning Mandarin Chinese
At first glance, Mandarin Chinese may seem to be the best option – it is the native language of 14 percent of the world’s population, and most Mandarin speakers do not speak English. In addition the number of companies that are looking for executives who speak Mandarin has increased by 35 percent, according to Lifehack. With China set to become the world’s leading economic power by 2020 the best language to learn surely has to be Mandarin!
However, we have to consider the practicalities also. Mandarin is not an easy language to learn, and how long it takes will depend on how fluent you hope to become. The Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale sets out levels of fluency in a language – the more fluent you wish to be, the longer you’ll need to study, is a set of descriptions of abilities to communicate in a language. The scale ranges from Elementary proficiency (S-1), to Native or Bilingual proficiency (S-5). In addition, The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) categorises languages by level of difficulty. Mandarin, Arabic, Japanese and Korean are considered as “Languages which are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers”
So, Mandarin may be a hard language to start with if you have no other foreign languages under your belt. If you want to go for Mandarin, la Academia are with you every step of the way, but if you find Mandarin a bit daunting, how about Spanish?
Spanish has the advantage of a roman alphabet, and some similarities in pronunciation of letters, and common history of words. This may mean it’s a little easier to pick up for a languages beginner. The US Foreign Service Institute categorises Spanish as a “Language closely related to English”. They reckon it takes 23-24 weeks (575-600 hours) to reach “General Professional Proficiency in Speaking and reading” (S3) in Spanish. This compares to 88 weeks (2200 hours) for Mandarin.
Choose the language that suits you best, that interests you most or is more achievable given your timescales. Then come and talk to la Academia – we’ll help you reach a good level in your chosen language. Remember, you can learn any language if you get the right help and put in the hours. La Academia is here for you! 0161 491 1444 and firstname.lastname@example.org