Bonjour! Je voudrais manger votre portefeuille!
If you understand French, you are likely running away in fear while clutching your wallet for dear life (and perhaps questioning my bizarre dietary habits). The rest of you non-Francophones out there will just have to trust that I wasn’t coming on to you.
For us English-speakers, learning a foreign language can seem pretty difficult. It takes years of study to become fluent in a new language, and even then we still find a way to mispronounce a type of cheese so that it instead sounds like a male body part. But that’s okay, because there are many benefits of being able to understand, speak, and write in a foreign language.
Before you decide that taking up a foreign language course or ordering instructional videos is a waste of time, consider some of the ways knowing a foreign language can help your bottom line:
- New business and employment opportunities. It should be obvious that having a foreign language on your resume can only help you score higher-paying and cooler jobs. And if you’re in business for yourself, knowing another language increases your potential customer base.
- Foreign website deals. There is some crazy stuff in the various internet shoppes out there, and some of the craziest stuff is on websites in languages you don’t understand. Learn a foreign language today and order all the Russian brides, Japanese robots, and French toast you want at incredible prices.
- Live in another country. News flash: America is expensive, Zimbabwe isn’t so much. Why spend $300 on an MP3 player in the U.S. when that same $300 can buy you an entire rock band in some third-world nations?
- Write better. People learning foreign languages tend to also learn the intricacies of their own language even better. I learned most of my English grammar skills in my high school French class. And regardless of your career, better writers make more money.
- Talk in “secret code.” You and your business partner are about to close the deal of a lifetime, but you need to discuss a couple of important details with him in private. Unfortunately you’re in their corporate headquarters, so they’ve likely bugged every room. Good thing you both learned Swahili back in college. Now your private conversations can be truly private, and eavesdroppers won’t be able to get an unfair competitive edge.
Once you decide to take up another tongue, the question then becomes which foreign language should you learn? For Americans, the following languages will have the biggest benefit to your finances:
- Spanish. This is a real no-brainer. It is estimated that, by the year 2050, over 300% of America’s population will be of hispanic origins. Understanding Spanish may become as basic as learning English in grade school. Today, knowing a bit of Espanol can help you snag new business clients, make social contacts, and understand more Mexican restaurant menu items than ever before.
- French. The only truly global languages are English and French. It’s an official language of most world governing agencies and organizations like the United Nations, NATO, and the International Red Cross. And if you’d like a job with the U.S. State Department, more positions require or prefer French than all other languages combined.
- Japanese or Korean. As Japan and Korea continue to dominate the world in many industries, learning their languages opens up a world of trade and business opportunities. Plus you can get lots of awesome videogames months before they come out here!
- Chinese. More than a billion people speak it. ‘Nuff said. Or try Hindi; 700 million people in India can’t be wrong!
Whichever language you pick, be sure to stick with it. Read books, take classes, try immersion–whatever works for you. Once you’ve learned one foreign language, the next one is even easier to learn. Soon enough, you’ll be able to walk up to any person on the planet and say, “Can I interest you in some quality Tupperware products?”