It's a Polyglot's World


If you are fascinated by other cultures, enjoy speaking to people from different backgrounds, stretching your mind beyond the limits of your location or want to relocate to another country, learning a foreign language might just be the answer. The world today is a global village, where intercommunication is important for trade and industry, cultural endeavours and diplomacy. Versatility in a foreign language can launch your career with multinational companies and government organisations and secure you the job of your dreams.
Learning a foreign language, however, should be about passion, not money. You should be fascinated by the culture of the country, its language, history and people. After all, learning a foreign language will require you to immerse yourself in the culture of that country. Your worldview will expand considerably as your proficiency increases. You will be able to watch movies made in that language, listen to music, read great literature and converse with people from there. Learning a language then, entails more than just grammar and words; language is the carrier of meanings that make you a part of another culture. After all, when the British brought English to India, it was to impart their cultural values to natives here.
Today, the options for learning a foreign language are great. You can take a formal class through an institute that teaches the language with certification, or you can opt for more informal training through the ‘teach yourself’ range of DVDs and books. The Internet is a vast repository of free resources for language training. One can listen to the pronunciation of words and learn the basic tenets of grammar through free online websites. There are also some online training classes available where one can regularly converse with a native speaker or personal tutor on Skype to hone one’s skills. You can even download and install software that will teach you to read and write a language through audio-visual resources and translations.
Looking at the number of international companies that are coming to India today, knowing a foreign language is not a waste; it is almost an essential skill. French, Spanish and German are popular European languages in the business world. One can also give private tuitions or teach at a language centre if a teaching career is of interest.
Furthermore, to cater to the nomad in you, speaking a foreign language can get you short and long-term jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry across the world. Also, if you decide to move abroad, your language skills may come in handy; for example, if you move to the United States, it’s very important to know Spanish. Reema Dalal graduated in history and sociology from Sophia College, Mumbai, but her passion was in French literature which she studied for two years while in college. Her interest in the language was immense and she learned the language for six years until she was fluent. Currently she works with a multinational company, the Muzeo Artwork India Pvt Ltd, which provides art for hotels in France and the Middle East. Dalal is working as a project manager, coordinating with the team in France from India, getting in touch with the hotel owners, getting the order confirmed and making sure that the supply is carried. She says, “My language skills are important in my job; my team in France and even my boss speak only in French. Although I had always planned to do something with my language skills, the opportunities were limited in India in the 1990s. Starting off, I worked in the French consulate in the visa section for three months. From there, I got a break with the French Trade Commission as a trade officer, and that was a great opportunity. After that I worked with the Belgium Trade Commission; when the Prince of Belgium came here with 30 companies, I was setting up meetings for them. I was then working with Option International in 2007, a private firm that helps companies in France to establish business in India. My knowing French has been essential to all my work.”
Dalal has found her niche in the trade and business world, coordinating for companies between France in India. Entrepreneurs such as Neel Shah, director of NV Machinery Pvt Ltd, have found that it is much easier to work on projects across international borders if one knows the language. Shah today reads emails in Russian on his Blackberry and replies instantaneously in the same language. He says, “My business has grown by a 100 per cent since I have learned the language. Earlier, when I went to Russia to discuss trade of manufacturing parts, I would use translators. However, I found that they often got the meaning of my words wrong as they are not familiar with Indian English. One has to know all the idiosyncrasies of the language you are translating from to get the meaning right. Since I have learnt Russian, work has become that much easier and nothing is lost in translation. Furthermore, I can speak to locals as I explore the country and learn about their culture and values.
This is a gratifying experience.”
Steve Kaufmann, a Canadian diplomat who speaks over nine languages and founder of the Linguist Institute, has these tips to offer those who are learning a new language.

1. TIME: The more time you spend immersed in your language, the better your fluency and proficiency will be. Immersion means actual time spent listening, reading, conversing and studying the language, not discussing the language in your native tongue. Learning a foreign language is a painstaking process that requires a commitment of time and patience.

2. LISTEN/READ: Spend as much time as you can listening to audio files in the language you are learning. Read children’s books and when you are familiar with all the words, move to the next grade. Listening and reading in the language will familiarise you with its words and pronunciation. An hour spent on your mp3 player can be more productive than an hour in class.

3. MAKE YOUR OWN PHRASEBOOK: Pick out words and phrases that stand out while listening and reading and memorise them. Use the dictionary and make your own vocabulary list and learn it. Your vocabulary will have to be extensive and the more you learn each week, the better. Start using these words and phrases in your speech; don’t worry about accuracy until your vocabulary is extensive, just familiarise yourself with using the words.

4. TEACH YOURSELF: Don’t wait for someone to come and show you how to use the language or tell you what to do. If you want to learn the language, use some content of interest – say a favourite movie, book or song. Figure out all the important words and practice saying them. Teach yourself the way a curious child learns about the world, and you are sure to succeed.

5. HAVE FUN: The most important aspect of learning a new language is to have fun and make new friends. The logic of the language will become clearer to you in its own time. Meanwhile, remember to communicate as much as you can as often as possible without being afraid of making mistakes. This is the best part of learning!

There are institutes in India where you can learn a foreign language in a classroom setting and receive an internationally recognised certificate. We pick out a few of these:

Alliance Française in India.

Alliance Française has both online learning classes as well as taught classes. French is the official language of 41 countries and one of the most important languages in the world. The institute offers certification in DELF (Diplôme d’Études en Langue Française) and DALF (Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française), official qualifications issued by the French Ministry of Education to certify French language proficiency of foreign students.


The Goethe-Institut is the world’s largest provider of German language training courses. It is available directly at all major metro cities in India. You can learn at your own pace at an institute near you or through distance learning. The examinations are internationally recognised, and once you pass a level, you may take the next one at any time. There are online exercises available through the website for free, including chat and email options as well as a virtual Second Life platform for you to practise your learning.

Instituto Cervantes.

Spanish is the most widely spoken language in international communication after English. The Instituto Cervantes offers Diplomas in Spanish as a Foreign Language (Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera – DELE) that are recognised by the government. It is based in Delhi and has partnered with other institutes across metros to administer the DELE certification. Furthermore, the institute has parted with Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) to offer a Spanish Virtual Classroom with up to four levels of proficiency. You can learn with this cuttingedge technology with comfort and flexibility for only Rs.4,200.

The Chinese Language Institute.

Indian traders have already begun to learn Mandarin to strike business deals with China, as trade between the two countries is set to touch the $100 billion mark by 2015. Take a lesson in person at the Chinese Language Institute or via distance learning. The online crash course has 50 lessons from beginner to advanced levels, especially tailored to visitors and businessmen. The online course costs Rs.6,790 ($150) and lasts three months.

The Russian Centre for Science & Culture, Mumbai.

The Russian Centre has been in Mumbai for over 35 years, conducting morning and evening classes for Russian language learners. It has a library of over 20,000 books, including periodicals and Russian literature texts which learners can browse through. There is also an auditorium and conference room for events. The Centre has special intensive classes for businessmen, and will soon be adding a language training class for children.

Looking at the number of international companies that are coming to India today, knowing a foreign language is not a waste; it is almost an essential skill

With 45 letters, the longest English word is ‘pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,’
which refers to a lung disease caused by inhaling tiny particles of silica.

In Chinese, the words ‘crisis’ and ‘opportunity’ are the same.

Canada is an Indian word meaning ‘Big Village’.

The sentence ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ is a pangram, which is a sentence that uses every letter of the alphabet.

The Khoisan language from Namibia and Botswana, !Xũ, has the world’s largest consonant set: 48 click consonants and 47 non-click consonants, with 24 vowel segments.

Volume 1 Issue 4


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