Foreign Language ? Oui! Doch! Si!

Employees who know the official language of the mother ship company are valued highly by their employers. But that is not the only advantage of learning a foreign language, says Radha Prathi.

Own only what you can carry with you; know
language, know
countries, know people.
Let your memory be your travel bag.

                                 Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Long, long ago when man formulated words to communicate with his fellow human beings little must he have realised that the recognisable sounds that he was originating were the cornerstones of the thousands of languages and dialects that were going to be formed in the future. Over a period of time, the obligation to record the spoken word gave birth to the concept of having a script, which in turn necessitated the need to introduce vocabulary, syntax and phonetics to the language.

We have come along way from then. The extent of man’s long term relationship with language is reflected in the fact that we have listed six thousand nine hundred and twelve living languages in the world in the Ethnologue. If we simply try to plot a graph to shade the number of languages we know against the total number of languages in the world, it will probably not exceed a minuscule dot even if we happen to have a command over a dozen of them.

Multi-lingual country

All the same, language learning has been the forte of the civilised man since time immemorial. When we observe the trend closer home one realises the fact that learning a different language is certainly not a very new concept to an Indian who is usually multi-lingual or at least bilingual because of his multi-ethnic, lingual and demographic exposure, no matter which part of the country he may belong to. Besides, Indians also have the privilege of learning at least two languages through their schooling years. If the student’s mother-tongue happens to be a different one then, he has the additional blessing of another language.

It is said that when a person learns a new language, his thought process attains a new dimension of personality with a higher level of confidence. Perhaps this is the reason why Indians are considered to be very receptive and creative where new ideas are concerned. When a student is out of college, after his graduate or post graduate studies, he is likely to find that the industry expects many things which are beyond his academic profile.

For instance, they evaluate his personality, his potential to learn, recognise and improvise besides his communication skills.

If the prospective candidate has the knowledge of more than one language his application automatically gains more weight in the eyes of the employer. This is true of any job, no matter to which part of the world one may belong to. Today we are living in a globalised world where one is likely to interact with various people from different parts of the world; hence the need to know more than one language has become mandatory to the employee of multi-national companies in particular.

The trend has continued till date for we can see youngsters pursuing the study of different languages during their leisure while many of them learn the language for professional reasons. Over the last few decades learning of a foreign tongue has reached new heights as recognised institutions offer certified courses. For instance Alliance Francaise teaches French, Max Mueller Bhavan coaches students in German, Navis introduces students not only to the above but also gives them an insight into Japanese culture. There are recognised institutes that teach Arabic, Russian and Spanish among other languages.

Structure of courses

Usually there are anywhere between six to eight and sometimes even ten courses for each language, which will help the student to master the language in different stages. The courses usually culminate in a written examination. Sometimes there are viva voce rounds thrown in to check the speaking skills of the candidate.

The candidates who successfully clear all the examinations are rated as graduates or post graduates in the language depending on the level passed.

Those candidates wishing to pursue the study of language as a full-time course could enroll themselves in EFLU (The English and Foreign Languages University) which is the only University in India devoted exclusively to the teaching and learning of  Foreign Languages. This university is autonomous in nature and was established to improve the standards of the teaching of English and  Foreign Languages in India.

Students who have never dappled with a foreign language have plenty of opportunities if only they display an earnest interest to imbibe the same. Several multi-national companies conduct foreign language courses including English and soft-skills in order to mould their staff according to the requirements of their company.

Employees who know the official language of the mother ship company are valued highly by their employers as they aid the organisation in writing and interpreting business letters, manuals and brochures, handling correspondence over e-mail and telephone, making corporate presentations and generally improving the relations between the mother company and its sister organisation.

Learning a foreign language can open new vistas of employment. One could teach, translate, host programmes as radio/video jockeys or can play the role of master of ceremonies in functions conducted by in international communities. The more enterprising can find employment in Interpol, embassies of various countries and investigation bureaus provided they have the requisite qualification in the given areas besides having command over a foreign language. It is easy to see that the  list of merits is endless. But if the fruit  of learning a foreign language does not tantalise you and if you find yourself happy with what you are doing presently, you could still learn a new lingo – just for the joy of doing so!

* It is interesting to note that Indians have always shown a keen interest in learning a foreign language even in the years of the yore.

* Chanakya encouraged the citizens of Mauryan empire to learn Greek.

* Native Indians learned Turkish, Kurdish, Pashtu and Arabic with the coming of the slave dynasty.

* Mughal rule introduced Indians to Arabic and

* European trading companies that flourished
on Indian soil encouraged Indians to master
English, French, Portuguese and Dutch.

* Looks like Indians have always been aces when it comes to learning foreign languages to either improve their business relations or simply for the love of acquiring command over a new tongue.

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