The Importance of a Second Language

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.
‒Nelson Mandela

Learning another language can be both challenging and time-consuming, but it is certainly worthwhile. My interest in international business at a young age encouraged me to begin developing a second language that would show its value soon thereafter. I decided to study abroad for the first time in Central America to test my fluency in Spanish and enhance my understanding of Hispanic culture. The culture shock hit almost immediately as I struggled to communicate my thoughts as well as I thought I should have been able to.

It was the first time that I was forced to not only use the words, but understand them in their true context. I was no longer talking about subjects or ideas related to Hispanic history or culture. Instead I was in the midst of a Spanish society talking to people who had their own stories to tell. My fluency and understanding grew quickly as I spent more time there, but my understanding of the world around me is what changed the most.

Knowing another language exposed me to another world. The meaning that is typically lost in translation was now so clear as I listened to the narratives of people in their own words and not mine. I learned to articulate my experience there in the words and way that I experienced them in the context of that society.

While much business is still conducted in English, the ability to communicate in the language of guests in their language has become invaluable. The respect and understanding gained in such authentic communication goes beyond business. Throughout my early career, I have been able to connect with more people than I ever could have if I was content with being comfortable in my own language.

A second language is a second perspective that you can take you much farther than expected, so take the time to develop another language for yourself.

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