Foreign Language Opportunities

I have always been a lover of language.  Ever since high school when I first had to take Spanish, I’ve thought they were cool.  There’s something that fascinates my brain about the way languages are constructed and the way they change over time.  I can’t explain it.  I have books on linguistic theory that I read for pleasure.  I’ve studied a handful of languages both on my own as well as in school.  It’s like my secret nerdy hobby that I can really only talk about with other linguaphiles.  I mean, the average person took like two years of Spanish or French in high school and that was it.  They didn’t really enjoy it; they just took it because it was a requirement.  So when most people find out that I study foreign languages for fun, they think I’m joking!

Like I said, I mostly just do it for fun, but it has presented some unique opportunities for me as well, both in my personal life as well as in my professional life.

I met a girl in college who spoke Korean, who thought it was cute that I was studying Korean and offered to help me, but it was really just a pretense for us to hang out together.  By the way, Korean is by far the most difficult language I have ever studied.  I don’t want to get too off topic here, but basically it has a pretty simple writing system, but everything else is complicated.  And the thing that makes it so difficult is that so many of its phonemes (the sounds that make up the language) are so close to each other that non-native speakers often have a hard time distinguishing (and pronouncing) them.  I’ve been studying it on and off for years, and I still have a hard time understand what is being said, even if I already know all the words used in the sentence.

At a business convention for a previous employer, I saved the day by helping a Japanese client that didn’t speak English that well.

I was introduced by a friend to a pretty girl from Spain because I spoke Spanish.

I was offered a position in Paris because I had studied French.

I was able to get a good rate on Sriwijaya Air tickets when some friends and I took a vacation in Indonesia because I had learned a little bit of the language and was being polite and patient.  On a related note, Indonesia is beautiful and full of delicious food.

In addition to dealings with people, knowing another language also opens up a world of new movies, TV shows, and books (if that’s your thing).

I would recommend anyone study a foreign language if it’s something you find interesting.  It can open up doors that you wouldn’t have otherwise even known about.