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Xin chào mòi ngươi! That’s “hello everybody” in Vietnamese, just in case you were wondering.
If you’re here, chances are you’re interested in learning another language. In typical U.S. schools, pretty much all students are *forced* to learn either French or Spanish for two years.
And yes, I feel that I was actually genuinely interested in learning Spanish for the 3.25 years that I did. But it wasn’t until I started learning Vietnamese, that I finally made some realizations about American culture and western privilege in general.
No matter how challenging Spanish may initially appear, the language is easy for native English speakers to learn. Its acquisition doesn’t actually give English speakers any idea of the struggle those in developing countries face to acquire “first-world” languages.
Instead, we create this global imbalance where Americans focus on learning similar languages that inherently further develop their own English skills, while “third-world” citizens have to put in 100% of the effort to communicate with us.
We should all be trying to meet halfway. I’ve learned from my digital penpals that students in Vietnam are required to learn English for a number of years. But do you know how many English speakers I know that are trying to learn Vietnamese?
Nada. (And chances are you understood that word, even if you’ve never taken a Spanish course because the language is just that similar to English)
I get it, latin-based languages are the most practical options for busy Americans to learn.
But even a basic understanding of geography will tell you that we keep ourselves confined in a very narrow bubble by only attempting to communicate with people in neighboring countries.
And then we all find ourselves in a situation where we’re only able to connect with intra-continental residents while expecting the rest of the world to acquire our “universal” language of English.
It’s only universal if everyone can understand it.
And since there are very few people able to provide native assistance to foreign learners in the learner’s mother tongue, the world is still no closer to everyone adopting a language or even a broad dialect, that we can all fully understand.
Competing with native speakers in the workforce is a battle that very few win
That amounts to approximately 537.9 million total speakers who already speak the language with varying levels of fluency potentially way above that of yours.
Now I’m not here to discourage, but basic common sense will move an employer to choose one of these more qualified candidates to fill a company’s bilingual needs.
Especially in a country like the United States with a Spanish-speaking population of around 52 million.
And the fact that an extremely large percentage of students also choose Spanish as their language of choice further hurts your chance of using the language to get ahead in the job application process.
If I were you, I’d choose one of the 32 other languages listed above as having at least 45 million total speakers.
That way you’ll at least be competing with way less experienced speakers.
You’ll have a unique personal selling point
Cited from The Atlantic, back in 2010, 95 percent of all language enrollments were in a European language. (And remember, Spanish originates from Spain, making it a European language)
As you can see in the chart above, in 2016 more University students were learning Spanish than all other languages combined.
And that has been a national occurrence since 1995.
According to a study conducted in the early 2000s, German and “other language” speakers are those who obtain the highest rewards in the labor market.
The returns to speaking German or “other languages” are 4% percent; to speaking French, 2.7%; and to speaking Spanish, 1.7%.
The results indicate that those who speak languages known by a smaller number of people obtain higher rewards in the labor market.
And when thinking ratio wise, it makes sense. Just take a look at this chart:
What sets you apart from the 712,240 other students who also learned Spanish in the Fall of 2016 (Under some hypothetical situation that you too studied the language that semester)?
Suddenly the allure of being one of the just 9,827 University students who learned Korean is beginning to seem a lot more desirable, huh?
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t learn Spanish; I’m saying that you shouldn’t only learn Spanish.
After all, Spanish is the second-most spoken native language in the world, meaning that if your goal is simply to communicate with more people, I’d say the only “better” option would be Mandarin Chinese.
The thriving language industry that you can be a part of
The Globalization and Localization Association (GALA) states that the worldwide language services market is a $40 Billion dollar market with an annual growth rate of 5.52%.
The Joint National Committee for Languages reported in 2015 that language industry employees earn an annual median wage of $80,000.
Not only this, but the Department of Labor projects employment of interpreters and translators to grow 19% from 2018 to 2028, significantly speedier than the average for all occupations.
And arguably more interesting– thanks to growing international trade with emerging markets in Asia and Africa, we can also expect an increased demand for translators/interpreters for languages in those regions.
According to Forbes, the U.S. has been experiencing a “foreign-language deficit” for at least a decade. This is cited as being a real concern due to a growing need for a number of professions like diplomats, policy experts, politicians, business leaders, scientists, managers, technicians, and writers who are proficient in languages other than English.
To further complicate matters, the demand is even more profound for speakers of less commonly taught languages; with Farsi, Bengali, Vietnamese, Burmese and Indonesian being specifically listed.
You’ll gain international insights like never before
If you can’t tell by this site’s name, I personally love learning about different cultures.
There’s nothing like both realizing and acknowledging either first-world priveledges or societal norms I’ve been bred to overlook.
In the relatively short amount of time that I’ve been learning Vietnamese, I’ve learned so much about their culture and political structure.
To just list a few I’ve learned that:
- Vietnamese students are only given Sundays off from school (Saturdays are treated as normal days for children but days off for adults)
- All students are required to learn English (and often begin in Elementary School)
- The language’s sentence structure is similar to that of an English Elementary schooler due to the lack of education that occurred as a result of the Vietnam war back in the 1900s
- Everyone is allowed (and greatly encouraged) to go home in the early afternoon to take a nap and then return back to either work or school
And I learned all of those in just the last month! Trust me when I say that language acquisition is one of the most intrinsically educational hobbies you can ever take on.
It feels good to have not just an understanding of how the rest of the world views Americans, but to also know that you’re going against the expectation for Americans to be ‘naturally’ ignorant.
You’ll be able to serve as a very useful teacher for non-English speakers & refugees
If you’ve ever thought to yourself: “I want to make a difference in the world,” then you should seriously consider actively studying a language past your high school’s requirements.
There are so many people around the world who are dying to learn English, yet a drastic shortage of natives willing to teach it.
And even if you personally don’t want to teach English, there are still plenty of other topics/subjects that foreigners desperately want to learn more about.
Unfortunately, oftentimes quality teaching resources aren’t translated into more obscure languages and those speakers are forced to rely on the limited knowledge of teachers who speak their language(s).
You can really make an impact in their lives by sharing your knowledge and expertise in the language of their hearts.
Or even if you don’t want to travel outside of the country, you can still take refugees and disheartened immigrants under your wings.
Those are people in an entirely foreign environment that both sounds and looks different from everything they’ve been accustomed to.
It can mean so much to them to have just 1 person communicate with them in their native tongue.
You can help them to learn English while serving as a personal translator and confidant in the meantime.
You can even look for individuals requesting these kinds of services so you won’t have to feel guilty in making a bit of profit for your time.
So what can you do now?
I think I’ve presented a pretty sound case for learning foreign languages other than Spanish.
Though it may not sound like it, I personally really love both the Spanish language and culture. And I don’t want you to think that I’m saying they’re anything less than beautiful forms of expression with vital roles on both a local and global scale.
I just want to make sure you really understand all the advantageous aspects of language acquisition and why exactly foreign languages should be chosen based on something more than “ease.”
Since you’re here, I take it you’re at least mildly interested in learning a language, global social sciences, or both.
My goal with this site is to make sure that self-driven people like yourself are given a fair opportunity to make the language acquisition process naturally simple.
As in a practical, efficient learning process that mimics the way in which toddlers naturally acquire languages. The approach focuses on immersion on a digital scale, instead of the traditionally costly alternative of physically traveling to immerse yourself.
It’s a method for busy and/or financially limited individuals looking to reach fluency in a language without ever having to leave their house.
Sound like the plan for you? Then make sure you sign up to receive your free copy of Everything you need to know about the naturally simple language acquisition process.
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As always thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!