“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” Although this quote by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is already more than a hundred years old, it is especially relevant again in today’s world. Languages open doors for you in many ways. How best to learn languages and what role stays abroad play in this.
The language portal “Ethnologue” currently lists around 7100 spoken languages worldwide. Anyone who speaks only one of these can quickly feel small and insignificant in the face of this large number. However, speaking just one or even several foreign languages can be a great advantage in numerous situations in life. Not only can you make yourself understood abroad, but knowledge of foreign languages can also be an enormous advantage in a professional context. Those who master foreign languages are in demand in many professions. Good examples of this are the catering industry, the IT sector and the retail trade.
The importance of languages in the era of globalization is particularly topical and is becoming increasingly important.
Igor Botchkarev, founder and CEO of the VOX Language School, provides information about the special relevance of foreign languages in today’s world: “The importance of languages in the era of globalization is particularly topical and is becoming increasingly significant. Languages are not only an instrument of communication, but also an important component of human personality, because our identity is mostly expressed in the act of speaking.” According to the expert, the constantly changing professional world directly influences the importance of language skills: “At our time of specialization in every conceivable profession, the role of multilingual communication is increasing enormously. A good specialist can no longer be a lone wolf, but must bring his or her efforts to bear in interaction with a wide variety of company departments in a very often multicultural context.”
Language learning made easy
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But this does not apply to learning a foreign language, as expert Igor Botchkarev reveals: “To learn a language successfully, there are few simple rules to follow. The prerequisite for a successful learning process is a properly chosen internal motivation.” But learning a language is much more than just cramming vocabulary: “Next, you have to understand that you can’t learn to speak without actually speaking a language – just as you can’t learn to play a musical instrument without playing it. Because what we’re actually practicing when we play the guitar is the connection between the brain and the muscles in our forearm that are responsible for the corresponding movements. When we learn to speak, the exact same thing happens: We train the connection between the brain and the articulatory muscles, which is responsible for speaking.”
The prerequisite for a successful learning process is a properly chosen internal motivation.
According to popular opinion, children learn languages more easily than adults. But why is that? According to Igor Botchkarev, in adulthood it’s simply a matter of the mind: “The difference between children and adults in language learning lies mainly in the psychological limits that get in the way in adults, which disable the imitative tools once mastered.”
The Role of Time Spent Abroad
Stays abroad are particularly popular among young people, for example as part of a gap year after graduating from high school. But to what extent do stays abroad really contribute to learning a foreign language? Igor Botchkarev says: “When learning a language, the brain needs to be flooded with information so that it understands that the language is now an inseparable part of reality and starts to help you integrate it. This is best done abroad, where you are surrounded on all sides by the language, accordingly, a stay abroad is a great way to make rapid progress in a language.” In addition, he provides another valuable tip for learning foreign languages: “Just don’t be shy and have fun imitating.“
But to what extent are stays abroad actually useful? “Stays abroad make sense in that in a language area you get many more points of contact with the linguistic reality and opportunities for imitation, so that you can build up your new linguistic identity more quickly,” explains Igor Botchkarev. However, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of living abroad for a long period of time, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of kilometers from home. Consequently, the question arises: Why going abroad? You can learn languages just as well in your home country. That’s true, but learning a foreign language at home can have a significant disadvantage, as Igor Botchkarev reveals: “When you learn the language at home, there’s a danger that you focus too much on writing, comprehension and grammar. Then you still have to learn how to speak. It’s quite important to focus on active speaking and pronunciation from the beginning, whether at home or abroad.”
Foreign Languages as a Professional Door Opener
Those who master foreign languages generally gain an enormous professional advantage. “Nowadays, it is impossible to imagine everyday business life without different languages,” clarifies Igor Botchkarev. “When you speak a person’s language, you are suddenly a part of their culture and consciousness. When you speak the same language, it’s a perfect icebreaker and an access door to faster and more complex interaction, which definitely brings many advantages in the professional environment.” So if you want to boost your resume, learning foreign languages is a good idea.
Interview of Igor Botchkarev to Fokus.Swiss