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Has Learning a Second Language Helped your Business?

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Has Learning a Second Language Helped your Business?

  • Yes

  • No


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Mike Partee

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See Title. Not "Is Learning a Second One Worth It" as that depends on what you want to accomplish IMO.

This is just a general curiosity across the forum -- Has your second language helped in ways you didn't expect?

I'm practicing Spanish heavily as I live in a LATAM country, but don't use it for business.

Interested in hearing the stories. Go!
 
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MTF

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English is my second language. Without it, I'd be nothing.

Seriously, if you're a native English speaker and you don't thank God/Mother Nature/your parents/whatever every day for being born a native English speaker, you're an idiot.

I know I shouldn't do it, but I still often catch myself thinking how "unfair" it is that I have to learn English and will maybe (hopefully) one day, after decades of learning and living it, reach the level of mastery that native speakers enjoy by default.

Spanish is my third language. Business-wise, it helped me judge the quality of my book translations. I also reply to my Spanish-speaking readers in Spanish.

Indirectly, both English and Spanish provide other benefits, too:
  • As weird as it sounds, I have three personalities, one for each language.
  • I understand different cultures and different ways of thinking.
  • I can make new international friends.
  • I keep learning new skills every day.
  • I find travel way more enjoyable when I speak the local language fluently.
  • Online, I do virtually everything in English (reading, watching, listening, chatting with English-speaking friends) so without English I wouldn't learn or enjoy most of the things I know/do.
There are many other benefits but the above ones are the most important things.
 

Madame Peccato

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Hah, English is my second language.

Learning a new language opens up a new world. Aside from the usual suspects (neuroplasticity & experiencing a different culture), I have an hypothesis.

A person thinks and acts differently based on the language they're using at the time. I'm definitely a different person in Italian and in English. I can't tell you why, but I see I'm not the only one.
English is my second language. Without it, I'd be nothing.
100% same. I probably wouldn't even be alive today.
Seriously, if you're a native English speaker and you don't thank God/Mother Nature/your parents/whatever every day for being born a native English speaker, you're an idiot.

I know I shouldn't do it, but I still often catch myself thinking how "unfair" it is that I have to learn English and will maybe (hopefully) one day, after decades of learning and living it, reach the level of mastery that native speakers enjoy by default.
I disagree.

The only real advantage a native speaker has is in pronunciation. But 99.99% of the people don't even pay attention if you butcher the occasional word when you talk.

Writing-wise, it's a matter of practice. There are plenty of native English speakers who can't write. Heck, my Italian writing is easily 10 times worse than my English one. I practiced a lot writing in English, and very little in Italian.
  • As weird as it sounds, I have three personalities, one for each language.
Same. It's a phenomenon I've seen reported a lot. I can't tell you what causes it. But I can tell you it's extremely common. Language is magic.

I'd like to learn a 3rd language. But I'm always stuck at the picking phase.
  • Arabic fascinates me, but there are so many dialects and variations that it's hard to justify. I know there's a "standard" Arabic language, but how many people do actively speak it?
  • Spanish is a solid choice. It's useful because of the sheer number of native speakers in the world. It also uses the same alphabet as the 2 languages I currently speak.
  • Russian would be cool too. In theory I studied it in university. In practice I wasn't a good student, so learned 0.
  • The Asian languages are another world, but I wouldn't even know where to start from.
I studied Latin for 5 years in high school but I remember 0 about it. The wonders of studying a dead language.
 
Last edited:

Togata

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Hi @Madame Peccato, from my experience If you pick Arabic you should go with the standard Arabic language so the classical Arabic. This will help you write, read books and speak with almost any Arabic native country.

There are many dialects, I would advise learning one only If you choose to live or frequent a lot a certain country. Each dialect is different than the other, but they all diverged from the classical Arabic.

So, with classical Arabic you should be fine understanding globally most dialects (Except the Moroccan dialect which seems to be hard even to other native Arabic speaker).
Arabic is my native language, if you need more information do not hesitate.

Asian languages: Mandarin should be great for business with Chinese suppliers.
 
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Bekit

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Because I speak Spanish fluently, I was hired in 2014 by a large company for a sales role to their potential customers in Mexico. The two years I spent in that business were invaluable for me to build me into who I am today. The ability to sell, plus the insight into small business that I gained by talking with hundreds of small business owners while I was in that role, have been huge.

My Spanish helped me again last year when I was looking for a manufacturer in Mexico. I was able to do all my communication with them in Spanish, which was a big help for landing a factory that I wanted to work with and then communicating well with them through the manufacturing process.

Being fluent in a second language also has a lot of parallels between getting fluent in the "language of business." Learning a language expands your brain in a unique way that I think is similar to the way entrepreneurship expands you.
 

JamesQB8

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I'm currently learning Spanish. For those who have learned a second language, what helped you the most to learn and speak it?
Full immersion. Move to a Spanish Speaking country, study at a Spanish school and speak minimal English. It'll be uncomfortable at times but you'll learn very quickly and have some fun along the way
 
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David Fitz

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Full immersion. Move to a Spanish Speaking country, study at a Spanish school and speak minimal English. It'll be uncomfortable at times but you'll learn very quickly and have some fun along the way

Thanks. Yes I'm moving to Spain in the new year. I want to be able to speak it or understand it before I move there.

It also opens up a world of business opportunities for me if I can learn it.
 

Madame Peccato

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Hi @Madame Peccato, from my experience If you pick Arabic you should go with the standard Arabic language so the classical Arabic. This will help you write, read books and speak with almost any Arabic native country.

There are many dialects, I would advise learning one only If you choose to live or frequent a lot a certain country. Each dialect is different than the other, but they all diverged from the classical Arabic.

So, with classical Arabic you should be fine understanding globally most dialects (Except the Moroccan dialect which seems to be hard even to other native Arabic speaker).
Arabic is my native language, if you need more information do not hesitate.

Thanks a lot for your post!

I was afraid standard Arabic was more of a convention than a reality. Sort of like Esperanto.

I find Arabic culture extremely fascinating, that's why I'm interested in the language. Studying a culture from non-native sources always gives a distorted / romanticized / propagandized view of it.
 

OleksiyRybakov

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My native language is Ukrainian and it helped me a lot to learn English and German. For instance, I probably could not read any of MJ's books, since as far as I know they have not yet been translated into Ukrainian.
 
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Kevin88660

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See Title. Not "Is Learning a Second One Worth It" as that depends on what you want to accomplish IMO.

This is just a general curiosity across the forum -- Has your second language helped in ways you didn't expect?

I'm practicing Spanish heavily as I live in a LATAM country, but don't use it for business.

Interested in hearing the stories. Go!
Absolutely.

I know two languages that have the most market value, English and Mandarin Chinese.

I cannot imagine not knowing anyone of the two operating in Asia.
 

BizyDad

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  • As weird as it sounds, I have three personalities, one for each language.
  • I understand different cultures and different ways of thinking.

Growing up speaking two languages, I think these two points are what led me to the career/business choices I made. At a very young age I developed appreciation for multiple ways of thinking. And at a very young age I got to experience what I'll call the different mindsets of utilizing the two languages.

I also switch personality a bit in the two. For example, I am more confident and boisterous in English. In Spanish, I'm more careful and measured. I find it difficult to raise my voice in Spanish. If you've met me, you know I don't have that problem in English. Lol.

The personality thing isn't just when I'm talking, it's overall though. When I think in English, I tend to be skeptical. "Yeah, but" is often my first reaction. When I think in Spanish, I tend to go with the flow. "Si, bueno pues" is often my first reaction.

Because I experienced that at a young age, I specifically gained an appreciation for the fact that "everybody" thinks differently. And that makes everybody interesting to me.

Which led me to take jobs where I dealt with people a lot. I don't think I set out to be a marketer, but I can't imagine doing something else with my life now. Even as I start businesses, I feel like I'm constantly marketing the business, marketing myself, marketing to customers, marketing to employees. And I'm always trying to figure out how they might be thinking or approaching a situation. I try to see the world through other people's eyes.

That probably wouldn't have happened if I didn't speak two languages.
 
Last edited:

Consolation

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Yes.
All of the skills that I learned for entrepreneurship was by the utilisation of the English language - my second language. I'll say it's a curse. Because when things get technical (or sometimes spiritual), I have to force myself not to speak in English. Only by doing that, I was able to communicate clearly in the language that's being used.
 
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Raja

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See Title. Not "Is Learning a Second One Worth It" as that depends on what you want to accomplish IMO.

This is just a general curiosity across the forum -- Has your second language helped in ways you didn't expect?

I'm practicing Spanish heavily as I live in a LATAM country, but don't use it for business.

Interested in hearing the stories. Go!
English is my second language
 

Raja

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I'm currently learning Spanish. For those who have learned a second language, what helped you the most to learn and speak it?
it is very simple
1. learn the top 200 most used words with their meaning.
2. learn very fundamental grammar(what you can learn in a day or two)
3. practice forming sentences.
after 7 to 10 days you practiced, Now the fun part.
4. watch Spanish movies, dramas, news, songs. anything which is in Spanish. (write the words and sentences you don't understand and practice spaced repetition)
 

OleksiyRybakov

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4. watch Spanish movies, dramas, news, songs. anything which is in Spanish. (write the words and sentences you don't understand and practice spaced repetition)
Great advice, this is exactly how I learned English after finishing school. I would also recommend to join a forum or social media platform where the people write in the language you would like to learn.
 
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GvTmK

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I'm from Italy too as @Madame Peccato and i'm learning russian seriously. I already speak/studied french and spanish.

While english gave me the edge in many situations, french and spanish were not particularly useful until now.

As for russian, i've been amazed of what i'm able to understand from russian websites about open-source software (remember that i've no business right now but i'm a tech consultant) so i definitely recommend it if you've got the time and the willpower to pursue it.
 

Ronak

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2 stories:
One of my suppliers was Miami based, or, the republic of Miami as I jokingly call it. He didn't (or claimed not to) speak any English. I had to make an in person visit to get things going, and ended up unexpectedly stumbling through a broken conversation in Spanish. The message got through, and I got my order filled. Of course, the guy later screwed me and all other resellers over by selling wholesale pricing direct into retail, but that's another story.

Another time, I was in China on a sourcing trip. At the hotel breakfast, I was enjoying a nice plate of fried rice, when two Peruvian ladies at the next table over started commenting in Spanish on how weird they thought my choice of meal was, not expecting a random foreigner in China to understand. I get up for a refill, casually sit back down, and started a conversation in fluent Spanish. Their initial shock was from the unexpected, followed shortly by the realization that I understood every word they'd said. Not much business relevance, but funny nonetheless.

Overall, I don’t do much business in the Spanish speaking world today, but it’s been much more helpful on my leisure travels to Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, PR, etc. But it will come in handy at some point, I suspect.
 

Walter Hay

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I studied my native English at High School where as elective subjects I chose to learn French and German as well. In addition I picked up a few words of Mandarin in my frequent visits to China.

Unfortunately those few words were of little help in negotiations, but they did at least impress my Chinese contacts with the fact that I was making some effort.

Having operated 2 international businesses during which time I have driven in 14 countries I found it helpful to at least be able to read road signs in European countries. Business discussions in French or German were slow, but I managed OK.

Having conducted business negotiations through interpreters I can say it is a painful process and puts you at a considerable disadvantage.

Walter
 
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Thoelt53

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English is my second language. Without it, I'd be nothing.

Seriously, if you're a native English speaker and you don't thank God/Mother Nature/your parents/whatever every day for being born a native English speaker, you're an idiot.

I know I shouldn't do it, but I still often catch myself thinking how "unfair" it is that I have to learn English and will maybe (hopefully) one day, after decades of learning and living it, reach the level of mastery that native speakers enjoy by default.

Spanish is my third language. Business-wise, it helped me judge the quality of my book translations. I also reply to my Spanish-speaking readers in Spanish.

Indirectly, both English and Spanish provide other benefits, too:
  • As weird as it sounds, I have three personalities, one for each language.
  • I understand different cultures and different ways of thinking.
  • I can make new international friends.
  • I keep learning new skills every day.
  • I find travel way more enjoyable when I speak the local language fluently.
  • Online, I do virtually everything in English (reading, watching, listening, chatting with English-speaking friends) so without English I wouldn't learn or enjoy most of the things I know/do.
There are many other benefits but the above ones are the most important things.
I just want to say, your written English is indistinguishable from any native English speaker I know.

The only discernible difference is that your written English is better than the vast majority of native writers.

In your writing you appear to be a native English speaker with excellent grammar.
 

Thoelt53

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Hah, English is my second language.

Learning a new language opens up a new world. Aside from the usual suspects (neuroplasticity & experiencing a different culture), I have an hypothesis.

A person thinks and acts differently based on the language they're using at the time. I'm definitely a different person in Italian and in English. I can't tell you why, but I see I'm not the only one.

100% same. I probably wouldn't even be alive today.

I disagree.

The only real advantage a native speaker has is in pronunciation. But 99.99% of the people don't even pay attention if you butcher the occasional word when you talk.

Writing-wise, it's a matter of practice. There are plenty of native English speakers who can't write. Heck, my Italian writing is easily 10 times worse than my English one. I practiced a lot writing in English, and very little in Italian.

Same. It's a phenomenon I've seen reported a lot. I can't tell you what causes it. But I can tell you it's extremely common. Language is magic.

I'd like to learn a 3rd language. But I'm always stuck at the picking phase.
  • Arabic fascinates me, but there are so many dialects and variations that it's hard to justify. I know there's a "standard" Arabic language, but how many people do actively speak it?
  • Spanish is a solid choice. It's useful because of the sheer number of native speakers in the world. It also uses the same alphabet as the 2 languages I currently speak.
  • Russian would be cool too. In theory I studied it in university. In practice I wasn't a good student, so learned 0.
  • The Asian languages are another world, but I wouldn't even know where to start from.
I studied Latin for 5 years in high school but I remember 0 about it. The wonders of studying a dead language.
Your written English is also excellent. If I didn’t already know you were in Italy I’d never have a clue.
 

OleksiyRybakov

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I studied Latin for 5 years in high school but I remember 0 about it. The wonders of studying a dead language.
Yeah, I also studied Latin at school and I totally agree on that. I also think that I should have selected French instead of Latin. Ego etiam non iam valde bene Latine scribere vel parlare possum. By the way, ScorpioMartianus is a great YouTube channel when it comes to learning Latin.
 
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Zaratustra

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Having conducted business negotiations through interpreters I can say it is a painful process and puts you at a considerable disadvantage.
I've read somewhere about Japanese businessman hiring interpreters, even when they knew fluent English, just to have more time to digest information during negotiations.
 

Andy Black

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@MTF and @Madame Peccato

Your English is almost too good to be native! Your vocabulary puts mine to shame.
 

Madame Peccato

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I'm currently learning Spanish. For those who have learned a second language, what helped you the most to learn and speak it?
Join communities that exclusively speak Spanish. Forums / Facebook groups / Discord servers are great starting points. You'll see first-hand how people talk to each other.

I find books and movies more artificial. They are great if you have an advanced knowledge of the language, but you want to start from how people interact in their daily lives.

I have the same issue with language learning groups. They are fine for accountability and the occasional group exercise, but true language learning should be more natural.
Yeah, I also studied Latin at school and I totally agree on that. I also think that I should have selected French instead of Latin. Ego etiam non iam valde bene Latine scribere vel parlare possum. By the way, ScorpioMartianus is a great YouTube channel when it comes to learning Latin.
I didn't have a choice. The rationale behind teaching Latin is that it expands your mind. Great, but that's what learning a new language does. Why then don't we study an alive one? One that is still evolving, that I can appreciate in full?

Greek and latin culture are the basis of Western civilization. It's important to know our ancestors' ideas (some academic institutions would disagree). But what you learn in school about Latin is canned knowledge.

You can read and translate it, but can you write it from scratch? Who will read it? How do I learn something if nobody is around to give me feedback? I can't even talk with someone in Latin!
 
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Saad Khan

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English is my 3rd language. Had I not learned it, I wouldn't be here today.

I started taking English seriously in 6th grade. Me and my cousin, promised each other to only speak in English, no matter what. The first year didn't go too well, I had a tough time getting rid of my accent. 2nd year, we started talking in English with minimal stutters! In the third year, both of us were able to speak flawlessly! To this day, whenever we meet, you'll always find us talking in English.

Games, videos, and forums have helped me expand my vocabulary by many folds. I'm still working on improving my English and will continue to do so.

Some guys at college try to imitate my flow but they don't want to put in the effort.

Looking back on those 3 years, I thank myself for taking the time to learn English.

Books in English are also a plus point. I like reading, writing, talking, even thinking in English.
 

woken

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I see nobody mentioned this.

Once you learn the fundamentals of another language, full immersion is recommended, yes.

But what helps even more is trying to think in that language. For me, at least, it helped immensely.

Also, whenever I pick up new words & expressions, I immediately integrate them in sentences or stir the conversation towards that subject.

English is my second language.


As for business, I would’ve done absolutely 0 without speaking English.
 

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