Ideally, we should judge our professional interactions based on the merits of the arguments one puts forth.
However, a person’s comfort in speaking or writing in a particular language impacts the merits of the argument they put forth in that language. Even if you’ve studied the language, if you’re not fluent, sometimes you just can’t come up with the words to clearly convey your message in that language.
And this negatively influences your counterpart’s perception of you. It’s difficult to distinguish between someone who doesn’t know and someone who has difficulty communicating what they know.
As a result, being fluent in a language is a big asset to achieving professional success in a country where business is done in that language. The more communication a particular role requires, the greater the value of this asset.
Yesterday evening, I was browsing YouTube when I came across some popular songs from my childhood. I spent my childhood in Belgium. Belgium’s three official languages are French, Dutch, and German.
I remember how I pushed back against my parents as they tried to convince me of the importance of taking advantage of living in another country by learning its languages. If it was up to them, I would probably speak all three languages today. Instead, I only speak one. French.
As I listened to these songs in French yesterday evening, I realized that the only reason why they’re meaningful to me is because I understand what’s being said. And if my parents hadn’t pushed me to learn French, this wouldn’t be the case.
If only I had also learned Dutch and German, I would be able to enjoy the great songs in these languages as well.
And the joys resulting from learning a new language aren’t limited to just music. A new language gives you access to all the unique content, ideas, and perspectives that the countries and cultures which speak that language have to offer.
And from these perspectives comes not just a tolerance, but a deep appreciation for diversity. Once you realize that the perspective through which you see the world is strongly influenced by the arbitrary countries, cultures, and languages that you were born and raised in, different perspectives that were once inexplainable to you suddenly become understandable.
In other words, learning a new language is about much more than learning a language.
In case you’re wondering which songs I was listening to, the first one was “Tombe pour elle” (“Fell for her” in French) by Pascal Obispo. I’m sharing the song below. The other songs came from following YouTube’s recommendations at the end of this song.