Dilemma! Learn a “Useful” Language, or the Language that GRABS You?
September 18, 2019
Hi, guys today I’m going to talk about
whether you should learn a language that is a marketable skill
or a language that is “useless”. Good evening, guys,
how are you doing today? So you are interested in learning languages,
you have looked into it. You think it’s a interesting thing to do.
You want to be bilingual But you are wondering which language to learn. Maybe you should study Spanish
because there are lots of Spanish-speakers. Maybe you should study Chinese, because Chinese will
be the language of the 21st century, some people say. Maybe you should study Arabic, because there are
lots of Arabic speakers in lots of countries . Maybe you should choose one of those.
But maybe you’re interested in Burmese. Maybe, for some reason yours,
you want to learn Burmese. Or maybe you’re interested in Hebrew,
which is only spoken in Israel. Or maybe you’re interested in Esperanto
which is spoken nowhere. Maybe you have some kind of desire or some interest
to learn some language that’s not really spoken
that widely spoken in a lot of places. So a lot of people ask me which kind
of language they should study. The first foreign language
that I ever studied was Hebrew. And that’s a language that’s only spoken
in one place. Only in Israel. Pretty much. So it’s not a language that was really
all that useful for me in a lot of places. Unless I met some Israeli people here and there
and spoke Hebrew with them, basically it was just I learned it out
of irrational cultural interest. I became interested in that country and
in that language and I really wanted to study it. And people at the time said: “why don’t you study French?
Why don’t you study Spanish?
Why don’t you study Chinese?” Uh… I kind of tried to do that. But I was always drawn back to Hebrew,
because that’s where my interest was. So I couldn’t really focus on the other languages. So I think that’s really the answer to this dilemma
of which language, which kind of language to study? It’s study the one that you are passionate about, the one that you can focus on,
the one that engages you. Because learning a language is, well,
if we’re talking about learning a language, full-on, like all-in, to learn it well, then
that’s a process that takes quite a while. You have to work at it over a couple years, a few years
if we’re talking about getting really good at it, right? Including being literate, you can be conversant
in a few months but if you want to … if you want to be really good at it, all language skills,
that it takes longer than that. So if you’re all-in, if you’re long term in a language,
then you have to be really interested in it. You have to be motivated and that motivation comes
from just your deep interest, that irrational… irrational magnetism of that language that you feel, right? If you decide to learn a language
because it’s a marketable skill. That’s what some people think they should do,
they want to learn a language because, someday,
in the future, it might be… marketable, it might be useful on my resume,
it might help me get a job. Um… Well. It probably won’t because, first of all, you won’t
have the motivation to stick with it. Most likely. When you learn a language, there are a lot of
speech bumps along the way, right? It’s never just a smooth road.
There are always times when your skill drops. There are times, when there’s a plateau for a long time. plateau you get frustrated sometimes
because your level isn’t improving. Now, if you really love the language, then you just fight
through it and stick it out, because that’s a welcome challenge But… if you’re not really interested in the language
in the first place, if you’re just learning it, because, someday, it might be useful on my resume,
then you’re going to say “Screw it!” and give up probably. So the best thing is is to stick
with the language that you’re interested in. If you happen to be passionate about a major global
language like Spanish or Chinese or maybe Arabic or… one of these, then consider yourself lucky
because you will have the motivation
that comes from your interest in the language. But, at the end of the road, you will have that skill that
can be applied to potentially to a lot of different jobs or… travel in a lot of different places. So…
you lucked out. Your interest landed in the right place. Unfortunately you can’t control where
your interest lands. But you were lucky. So… go with that if that’s the case. If you happen to be interested in less commonly spoken
niche language, Hebrew or Burmese or whatever like I said, something that’s only spoken in one country, Go with that anyway.
There are a lot of benefits you can get. One of the benefits is that you learn how to learn
languages. You learn the process of learning a language. Maybe now I’m learning Hebrew. That was
the case for me, my first foreign language. I was learning Hebrew,
but I learned how to study, right? I learned what you need to put in.
I learned what about the consistency. I learned about how to study vocabulary,
I learned about … the importance of training my ears
and connecting my brain and my mouth, for oral communication. I learned
all these things that I applied to later languages. So now, even though I don’t really use Hebrew that often, except to listen to Hebrew media on the internet, It’s still helped me because
it helps me learn other languages now. So that was my base. It was where I gained
my understanding of how to learn languages,
how to follow that process. That’s the beginning for me and it helped. Also uh… It’s just a wonderful hobby to have, right? When you learn a niche language like that,
one that’s only spoken in one country,
by not that many people, they appreciate it so much. When I learned Hebrew and I spoke to
Hebrew speakers, they couldn’t believe it. They wondered why I would speak their language
out of all the languages of the world.
“why our language?” they had asked me. They say: “are you Jewish?”
and I’d say “No, I’m not Jewish.” And they’d be even more shocked,
which I was found kind of funny but… That opened up a lot of… a lot of friendships
and a lot of great interactions with people. And I got to know a lot of people really well
because they were just so impressed that
I loved their culture and love their language. So it’s just a great experience to be all in
a language that not that many people are studying. Because you really stand out to the people who speak it. Uh… another thing is… A niche language can you ironically be
more marketable than a major language, right? If, in your company, 50 people speak Spanish,
like in Southern California, I don’t know how much of a marketable skill it is
to study Spanish as a second language. Because so many other people speak it
and I’m from Vancouver. In Vancouver, if I studied Chinese,
like Mandarin or Cantonese, probably that’s not really a marketable skill for me
because so many other native speakers live there. And they’re bilingual in english too. So… They’ll always have a leg up on me.
It’s not really marketable but… If I knew Burmese or I knew Thai…
Thai is not a minor language but,
it’s only spoken really in Thailand. If I know Thai, let’s say, then that might be
more marketable in my company because
probably not that many other people speak Thai. So, if we’re doing business with Thailand, I could be
the person, the only person who can fill that position, right? So don’t assume that
a niche language can’t be marketable. You might have to look around
and see how you can market it but… it’s not necessarily unmarketable. Some people learn a language for
a slightly different kind of motivation. They’re really motivated by a goal or their dream. Not necessarily the language itself
but the language helps them achieve their dream. Now here’s what I mean. I have some acquaintances
or some of my students here. I teach at a university. Some of my students are studying
to be flight attendants. And they have to speak English to be a flight attendant. They don’t really care about
learning English itself necessarily. But they want to be flight attendants.
That’s their dream job, they’ve sought after
since they were kids, always wanted that job. So, to help achieve their dream, they need English.
So the dream motivates them to learn the language. So, if you have a dream like that,
if you have some goal for the future, then… Maybe you should look at what language might fit in
with that goal, and then, that’s the one you go with. Because your dream or goal will provide the
motivation and passion that will drive you, and push you through
all those speech bumps along the way. and give you that long term vision
for studying the language. So, if you are, I don’t know, …
if you’re a filmmaker and you love French films, and you really want to go to the Cannes Film Festival,
you want to schmooze or work with French filmmakers, then maybe French is the language for you, right? I have a friend who’s a musician
and she often travels to Austria. Because she says that the best instructors
or the best piano mentors are in Austria. At least the ones she knows and
I know Austria is well known for orchestras and for music in general. So she’s studying German. Because that helps her live out her dream
or achieve her dream more fully, by being in Austria, right?
So that’s the language for her. So whatever language helps you achieve your dream?
It might be the best one for you. So the basic point is: go with your passion. Unfortunately you don’t choose your interests.
Your interests choose you. So, if you were chosen by an interest in Chinese
or in Spanish, then good for you. If you were chosen by Esperanto,
then ‘sucks to be you but… you’re going to enjoy it because
that’s your passion. So go with it. And maybe in the future,
you will choose a different language and re-use a lot of what you learned and re-apply
all of that new knowledge and experience. Alright, so that’s what I would say:
go with your passion. And don’t ignore that advice
because you won’t stick it out… Alright, thanks!