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Second Language

By Anonymous November 15, 2008 - 3:25pm
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How important do you think it is to know a second language today? Do you think that it should be a prerequisite in order to obtain a job?

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I also do not think a second language should be mandated for all jobs; it is difficult to think of one skill that is necessary for ALL jobs (beyond personal qualities of being courteous, punctual, etc.).

I believe having the skill and knowledge of a second language is similar to computer skills. Previous generations did not have computers; they did not exist! However, with this generation growing up being extremely computer savvy, it only makes sense that the older generation bone up on their computer skills, in order to remain competitive with these young whipper snappers!

Same with a second language. I think (or hope) that learning a second language is being taught in more schools, at younger ages. By the time our kids are in the workforce, I foresee the minority of workers being those that speak/understand "only" one language.

To remain competitive, Americans do need to learn a second language, depending on their location (for instance, I wish I knew Spanish, as I live in Texas) and depending on their career aspirations. We also need to learn computer skills, be savvy and comfortable with technology...and who knows what lies in the future that is not invented yet, that we will need to learn?

America seems to not be so ego-centric, and is open to "other" languages. It was though Americans felt that everyone else needed to learn English, in order to be able to speak with us. Now, we're seeing the errors of that thinking, as everything from international business to working with international students, is becoming mainstream, and America's ego-centric behavior is not costing them jobs, as they do not have the "edge" that other multi-linguistic job seekers have.

November 16, 2008 - 8:35am

I am pretty bias here. Having been born and raised in a non-english speaking country, learning a second language was a requirement to obtain a college degree. After coming to the USA, I was able to transition to this culture much easier than many other immigrants I knew. I also taught for 8 years ESL to adult learners, emphasizing the importance of having English as the primary language in this country.

On the other hand, I think the United States has got away with not encouraging second language acquisition for most of the past century. In a global economy like today, most employers with transnational business focus should require a second language from their employees, especially if the job location is in a market outside of the US. Our own national demographics are changing so many employers consider a second language as an additional skill thus making a candidate more competitive. A second language pre-requisite will be appropiate if the job requires it due to geopolitical presence in a particular market outside.

November 16, 2008 - 2:09am
HERWriter Guide

That's a great question!

I don't think it should be a prerequisite for all jobs. I don't think someone working at the local grocery store in a predominately English speaking town (or whatever the majority language is) should have to have a second language.

However, in many countries, English is a requirement. Most employers who are hiring business people in The Netherlands for instance, mandate fluent English.

If you work for the United Nations, you pretty much have to be fluent in both English and French.

But I think everyone would be well served to have a second language for many reasons. One, it opens up huge opportunities - not only for work, but for travel and further education. Two, learning a second language gears the brain to accept new ideas and changes what the brain has become accustomed to and how it has reacted to leaning something new. And the earlier, the better!

I also think that schools in America should introduce a second language in Kindergarten or first grade like they do in Asia and Europe. It's not hard for most children to learn a second language and it is not overwhelming. I also think a second language should be mandatory in high school, like it was for me, but maybe I'm biased in my thinking.

My kids speak two languages at home and will start a third language by the time they are 8 or 9. Not because we are pushy parents or are trying to force academia down our children's throats but we know from experience that the earlier it's done, the easier it is. And in the long run, their social and career options will be expanded a lot more than if they only have one language.

Apart from all that, learning another language is fun!

November 15, 2008 - 6:10pm
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