This week saw the race to be the Republican presidential candidate hit the headlines around the globe for all the wrong reasons!
The reason wasn’t any pending legal issues or personal life discrepancies; the reason was much more worrying than that!
This week the Republican candidates, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, were targeted through ad campaigns because they are multilingual! Mitt Romney was discredited for being able to speak French, whilst Jon Huntsman viewed with suspicion because he speaks Mandarin. I’m not an expert on the manifestos of each of the individual candidates, but I think it’s beyond belief that a perspective leader of any country would face suspicion due to the fact they are multilingual, let alone the campaign to be the president of the United States of America.
English is spoken by many people around the globe and is considered the lingua franca of the modern world. However the percentage of the global population able to speak English as either a first or second language is about 25%; far less than what is usually thought and almost equalled by the percentage of mandarin speakers. The perception that everyone speaks English is an old wives tale that was never really true in the first place.
Knowing a language can lend you much in life! First and foremost, it makes you much more employable; although evidentially not for Presidential elections.
Corporate institutions are focusing their efforts all over the world, requiring communication and integration between staff; the problem with this is often the language barrier. This is one of the main reasons that corporate industry is hiring more and more multilingual corporate staff; it’s nice to have staff with different life experiences as well.
Then there’s the effect on your intelligence! Whether you learn a language as a child or later on in life, there is an increasing amount of evidence that being multilingual provides an added advantage in communication, cognition and social interaction than those who can’t speak a second language . There is also research that shows that the ability to speak more than one language may reduce the susceptibility to mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s .
You might use your languages on holidays and travelling, maybe you like connecting with new people all over the world, or perhaps you learnt your second language just to understand your native language better.
What ever the reason, there has never been a better time to be multilingual for your career and for your personal life!