Languages...choosing one!

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Oct 3rd, 2006, 07:31 AM
  #1
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Languages...choosing one!

Many of us come back from our trips stating we are going to learn a language from our travels. Rarely, at least from people, I have spoken to, have we followed through.

In order to further my career, I think I need to re-learn, or learn from scratch, a language.

My question is...based on the global market and your travels, which language would be the first one to concentrate on.

The choices (and feel free to interject) are as follows:

German
French
Spanish (Latin American or Spain)
Mandarin Chinese.

I would love to learn Italian because it was my grandfather's native tongue, but that would be more for pleasure rather than for business.

Suggestions?
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 07:42 AM
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French and or Spanish, no-one speaks German and the Germans generally speak good English and Mandarin is tonal and has nothing to do with any European language, so would be very difficult.
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 07:49 AM
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Mandarin was more of a business idea (not something I would enjoy at all).

As for the differences in Spanish, I noticed obvious differences in the High School spanish I learned and the words I heard in Granada last month.

Anyone have thoughts on which style you should learn. I guess the better question is, which spanish is EASIER TO ADAPT TO IF YOU KNOW THE OTHER AS THE PRIMARY SPANISH?!

Finally, anyone every use Rosetta Stone?
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 08:05 AM
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Arabic

There is no shortage of native English speakers who are also fluent in French or Spanish. I would opt for something that's important but much less frequently spoken by native English speakers.

That being said, I'm sure Arabic is a difficult language to learn, if only for its alphabet, which makes it much less obviously accessible.

But, you would really set yourself apart if you spoke Arabic.
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 08:12 AM
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I'd like to comment on Arabic. I don't think it would give the most bang-for-the-buck as perhaps Chinese, Spanish or Japanese would. Many to most upper class and businesspeople in the Arab World either learned English in school or learned it later. It's valuable to the U.S. Government, but I'm not sure it's as worth it as another language choice for business.

It completely depends on what your business is, but my top two suggestions would be Spanish or Chinese. Spanish if you were looking to sell to new groups of consumers in the U.S. or the Americas (not necessarily business-owner interaction, but actual consumer interaction), and Chinese if you were looking to do business with the Chinese. You'd have less consumer-level interaction in China.
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 08:37 AM
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IMO it would be very helpful to know what kind of "career" you have, i.e., what kind of work you do and most importantly, the likelihood of needing any of the languages you have mentioned.

I assume there might be more likelihood of needing one over another, or is there?

If you were working mainly in some parts of the US I would definitely recommend Spanish, for example.
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 08:50 AM
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This completely depends on your career, I think you should ask other people in your field, your boss, etc. For many people, only Chinese or Arabic could be useful in their careers. Spanish could be for many careers (certainly social service jobs) if you live in an area with a lot of Spanish speakers. French would be for many people who might work in technology or pharmaceuticals or some industry where they might have to work with French-speaking people a lot. German would be if you actually want to get a job in Germany, I don't think one can say it isn't necessary. I have a friend who tried to get a job in Germany because his wife is German and they wanted to move back there, and he couldn't get hired because he's not fluent in German. Why would a German company hire someone who can't speak German and communicate with everyone around him?

So, I really think this question can't be answered in a vacuum, and completely depends on your career. As for Spanish accents, many are different (I have some trouble understanding some in Argentina or Colombia vs. Spain or even Mexico, for example), but that's getting way ahead of yourself in terms of learning a language fluently just in terms of grammar, vocabulary, etc. If you learn to speak Spanish well in a standard way, you could be understood by others, most likely.

If you are serious about learning a language well enough to be fluent or use it in a career, I don't think you can do it with CDs.
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 08:56 AM
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Lawyer. And most lawyers refuse to learn a language because they are either lazy or dont have the time. I am neither.

My interaction would be client based...business.
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 08:57 AM
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And clients, of course, would be of all different spectrums (construction, start up biz, technology, pharamcutical, etc.).
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 08:58 AM
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The CD's btw, are just a start so I can get going and go into conversational langauge courses, one on one, with an instructor.
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 09:02 AM
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English
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 09:04 AM
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I agree with most of what has been said above, particularly Christina's post.

I think that Spanish would be the obvious choice, although as others have said, it does depend on your line of work.And it'd give you a great excuse to travel to Spain - they have some great language schools/programmes for foreigners.

I'm sure Chinese would be fascinating and a great asset, but the learning curve would be very steep and I can imagine it costing you a lot of work and frustration for relatively little "measurable" progress.

Can you tell us a bit more about your current line of work or sector?
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 09:05 AM
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Sorry pmgoosed, I was writing my reply at the same time as you.
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 09:32 AM
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Corporate lawyer? If so, ensure you learn more than simply conversant [language] -- you will need to learn the language at a business level. If you are with a large firm, your firm should pick up that cost.
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 09:41 AM
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Spanish would be number one choice. Followed by French. But that is based on the places I like most to travel.

I wouldn't worry about the nuances of regional variations just yet -LOL! Just get started studying something. *Especially* if you are serious about getting it to a level you could conduct business in, that takes years.

p.s. You can count me as one of those people who actually DO study languages both before and after trips. I have no expectation of fluency by continue to build both Spanish and French at an extremely basic but helpful tourist level.
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 09:45 AM
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Very easy answer (after the subsequent information you provided)... learn whatever language is the one that the majority of your clients speak! Which one is that?
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 09:48 AM
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I agree with Christina. If you learn standard Spanish, you'll have no problem. Problems arise when people speak using too much slang.

I am native speaker of Spanish (Venezuela). I once rented a mexican movie and fortunately it came with titles in English because people on it used so much slang when talking, that sometimes I had a hard time trying to understand what they were saying.

In terms of accent, they vary from country to country. Even inside a country, accents vary from region to region. Just as it happens with English.

In Venezuela, there are around 5 kinds of accents. Of course, we all understand each other, but they are all very different. I speak with the central region accent, which is considered to be standard.

I speak american English because in Latin America we're more exposed to that one, and after 15 years of travelling to the US, watching TV in English and dealing with that culture, I still can't say that I've mastered the language.

When I decided to learn a second language, I chose Italian, first, because my mother is from Italy and second, because it's spoken in Italy and the southern part of Switzerland, so I knew I wansn't going to have such a hard time with slang. Of course, in Italy every region has its linguistics particularities, but I think that languages such as Spanish are harder to learn. Not because the language itself is more difficult than others, but because it's spoken in so many countries and it's such a rich language, that mastering it would take a lot of time.

When you learn a language, you also learn the culture of the people who speak it, and, even though in Latin America we all consider ourselves to be "siblings", believe me, we aren't, we're more like cousins. You can find some similarities in terms of culture if you compare Colombia and Venezuela, but if you put together an argentinian, a mexican, a spaniard and a venezuelan, the only thing they'll have in common is the language, that's it.

I hope this doesn't disencourage you to learn Spanish. I think it is a beautiful language and I feel very lucky for being able to speak it. I just wanted to give you my personal opinion being a native speaker of Spanish.
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 10:16 AM
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I've learnt French out of necessity and think I should study Spanish but I've decided to take Chinese for the challenage.

"Tell me more" is a wonderful DVD system for learning languages which helps to correct your pronunciation
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Oct 3rd, 2006, 10:31 AM
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Thanks everyone. As for specifics, MichelleNYC and suze, I am trying to move from a high level/profile Govt position to a huge corporate firm with clients world wide. Every firm is different, hence why I am torn between Chinese, French (EU, Olympic, UN official language), and Spanish.

As for picking up the cost, I need to get enough knowledge on my own to sell a firm on the idea of "hey, i am this good...if you hire me and pay for the lessons you will get a good attny and someone ahead of the game in language...so it is worth your while to both hire me and pay for my advanced courses."

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Oct 3rd, 2006, 10:42 AM
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From a practical standpoint, particularly in parts of the US, Spanish would seem to be the obvious choice. Ironically, due to that reason, we are attempting to get our oldest in a language immersion school to take French. As we believe it will improve her chances of getting in (in lieu of choosing Spanish). In most of the EU countries, English is at the very least the 2nd language, if not the first.
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