Why Learn a Foreign Language

Language Learning: The Past…..

India, with its multi-lingual culture has a fantastic advantage over many countries in the world, we are a country with over 400 live languages; of which 13 (listed in the constitution as "scheduled languages") each spoken by approx. 1% of the population or 100 lakh/ 10 million people! It is not surprising that English is spoken and understood so widely across the country today, in numerical terms higher than in the United Kingdom!

Till the early 80s a school going child in India, who only knew her native or "mother-tongue" could continue to learn it at the school, along with some English. Additionally, a few children living in South Indian cities also learnt a third language, along with English and their mother-tongue; the third language learnt was usually Hindi, Sanskrit, Kannada, or Telugu. It was common then for a limited number of city schools especially the "convent schools" and a few private/residential schools to offer exclusive English-medium education; while the majority of children attended schools with local/ regional language as the medium of instruction, thus the number of people having a working knowledge of English was minimal!

In a country with 1.3 billion populace only 2% own cars. Since owning a sedan in India could cost you around Rs. 40,000 a month.

From the late 80s, with globalization, the demand for English at the work place increased, and expanding job opportunities in the IT/ITeS/BPO/MNC and Corporate sector to a large extent, drove the demand. As a result the number of schools providing English language education increased across the country! English, considered a language of the "elite few" until then, became a common Indian language across urban India; so much so that, a number of Indian languages seamlessly adapted English words and phrases within their respective vocabulary, thus contributing to a wider usage of "Indian- English" as a medium of communication across the country. A number of English language coaching centres operate across the country, educating many who may not have had the advantage of learning English in school. While usage of English, its accent, grammar, syntax and the finer nuances of the Queens English may vary across the states, the interest and enthusiasm of the ordinary citizens wanting to learn English is unlikely to abate. It is obvious that the key reason for citizens wanting to learn English across urban and rural India continues to be "for bettering ones job prospects".

While many in India continue to be multi-lingual i.e., knowledge of English + 2 or more Indian languages, it is only a small minority of Indians who proactively learn "other foreign languages". A few urban Indian children learn French at Why Learn a Foreign Language CompeTense Indu Palaniappan, Executive Director, TACT India Pvt Ltd September 2013 I 41 the school level, but hardly any other foreign language. This is primarily because of the lack of foreign language courses at Indian Universities and colleges; while a few foreign language training institutions such as the "Max Mueller Bhavan-Goethe Institut", or the "Alliance Francaise" offer German and French courses in major Indian cities, these are insufficient to meet the likely demand.

Global Market for Language Sensitive Work

Continued globalization means ever increasing interaction between people, business leaders, business organizations, institutions and others. Though English has been the common link language for business globally, many continental Europeans and Asians find it difficult to communicate well in English; this is felt more acutely when it involves understanding and transferring technical know-how and/or information specific to the business or industry.

The Present…..

As the third fastest growing economy in the world, India, despite the current economic slow-down, is expected to expand its business and trade links with countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America in the coming years.

Challenged by the global economic slow-down, the Indian corporate sector has begun re-strategizing its business outlook from seeking the traditional US & UK markets to a wider network of countries in the Far East, Latin America, Africa and others. Indian firms across sectors are increasingly becoming proactive and seeking new business opportunities in IT, KPO, BFSI, Manufacturing, Healthcare and Pharmaceutical, Hospitality, Media, Education and Service Industries. While some of these new markets have robust consumption patterns and opportunity for business, English may not be the primary language of business in these markets! The knowledge of a local language, in a non-English speaking country, is thus becoming a crucial factor for Indian firms seeking to do business overseas. These firms are realizing the importance of hiring people with specific knowledge, language and culture of the non-English speaking country to improve their business prospects. Since effective communication is a key ingredient for any business, Indian industry is increasingly investing in training courses in foreign languages, culture and soft skills for its staff.

A recent market survey by Evalueserve, an international research company, indicates that the need for professionals with knowledge of European & Asian languages: German, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese, in addition to English is growing rapidly across the world. The global market for language sensitive work is likely to be worth approx. $14.4billion; there is scope for a substantial portion of this market to be outsourced and Indian firms are expected to be proactive in creating capacity in this sector. In addition, the Indian IT/ITeS/BPO and KPO industry, renowned for its services to the global market, expanding its services in the above countries is expected to be hiring foreign language experts in the next 5 years to address this component.

Currently, English is the language of business and government to a large extent in India; a majority of us living in cities, have fluency in one or more language in addition to English such as - Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi etc., besides our "mother-tongue", we also learn a second or third language which comes in handy when we travel outside our native state or region on business or tour. Travelling overseas for business or work is increasingly the norm for Indian professionals; therefore it makes eminent sense to learn a language in addition to English, to improve ones career prospects!

While a few children learn French as a second language at school level in India, presumably to score higher marks, there are few institutions at college level which offer foreign languages as an option of study. Colleges and Universities in India, especially those offering engineering, medicine and other technical courses at the under-graduate level do not have facilities to teach languages! This is possibly likely to change once the thirst for "other foreign languages" becomes rampant!

A study on Indian Student Mobility to selected European countries conducted by researchers at the IIM Bangalore observes that "Indian students are looking at countries where education is considerably cheaper and part-time jobs are easier to secure." While Indian students continue to choose the US and UK as the top two destinations for higher education, countries such as Canada, Germany, Ireland, France, Italy, Denmark, and Sweden have increased their efforts and are succeeding in attracting substantial numbers of students through attractive incentives such as: study-scholarships, ease of student visas, work opportunity during and after completion of study etc.

Indian students entering US Universities for higher education, are surprised when they become aware of the importance of foreign languages other than English - Spanish for instance - as they realize Americans living in a predominantly English speaking country are proficient in other languages for economic reasons!

Language Learning is Important!Read More

HIn a survey commissioned by UK industry for finding right candidates for employment, featured by BBC a year ago, UK companies ranked fluency in a second language (a foreign language other than English) as second only to Information Technology!

Learning a language other than the mother tongue requires one to use ones creativity and analytical skills and if a person learns a new language it will give him/ her a marketable skill which can be a standalone skill or an additional qualification that differentiates one IT graduate from another!

In todays globalised economy proficiency in a foreign language can help one become location independent, or the chosen candidate for a specific project in a country / region where English may not be the main language of business! And this is not only true for the IT / ITeS industry. As global corporations across the board including the IT / ITeS / Biotech / Pharmaceutical / KPO / Medicine / BFSI / Food and Beverage sectors re-engineer their strategies to enter new markets in an attempt to overcome the global slow-down, it is increasingly becoming evident that knowledge of foreign languages such as: Mandarin, Spanish, German, French, Korean can be a major plus!

The UK Industry ranked Foreign Language Skills as important for Business

The Confederation of British Industry and Skills Survey 2012 in which 542 UK firm managers were asked which languages are useful for their business listed as follows:


The evolution of these radio cabs also create a demand for the software products used for fleet management, tracking, utilization reporting, driver management etc. Companies may also look to expand into providing cabs for weekend-only outstation trips to maintain the high utilization rates. Ride sharing, widely proclaimed as the "next big thing" in radio cabs, might come up in the next few years and has a substantial potential to bring down costs significantly for consumers and reduce costs for taxi players. Already small ride sharing startups like LetsRide, Ridingo, PoolCircle, Rocket Internets Tripda etc. have started this initiative. Scope for M&A activities with consolidation may help these companies to fuel its fray in ride sharing.


It may be in seemingly terminal decline as a subject of study in our secondary education system, but proficiency in French remains a highly sought-after skill among UK employers, with 49 per cent rating it as useful for their organizations.


Valued as a major European language but also as the leading language of fast-growing Latin American economies - as well as its continued rise to prominence in the United States - Spanish is rated as useful by 37 per cent of the employers surveyed.


The official language of China - the worlds most populous and economically dynamic nation - features highly in managers preferences. In 2006 Brighton College became the first school in the United Kingdom to make studying Mandarin compulsory for all 13 yearolds.


Polish makes the top five, with 19 per cent of UK managers rating it as useful for their organizations. Large-scale Polish migration to the UK after the countrys admission to the European Union made the headlines, but as the largest consumer market of the new EU member states and the only EU country to avoid recession since the downturn began, business ties with Poland extend considerably further.


Anyone who doubts the importance of Arabicspeaking business to the United Kingdoms economy should take a look at The Shard - the tallest building in Western Europe was largely made possible by Qatari investment. Or they could just ask a Manchester City fan


The majority of the UKs Cantonese speakers have ties to Hong Kong, where it is the official language. But Cantonese is spoken much more widely around the world, with nearly 70 million native speakers


Relations with Russia havent exactly been warm since the end of the Cold War - from the Litvinenko poisoning to the infamous Moscow "spy rock" - but according to the Governments Trade & Investment website, Russia is the UKs fastest-growing major export market.


Brazil recently overtook the United Kingdom as the worlds sixth-largest economy, and with the football World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics just around the corner, all eyes will be on this Portuguese-speaking "Bric" nation.

The five best websites for learning a Language Free:

A good internet connection can be a boon to language learners, since online portals offer multiple choices for self-study. There are a number of web sites providing language training. However, language study is not a onesize-fits-all exercise, and no single style of learning will appeal to all learners! Websites, apps, e-books, online study communities, and translators can be great assets for language learning. But considering the many online resources and the range in quality, learners can end up wasting a lot of time seeking the perfect fit.

The multiple options in online language learning portals with visual aids and sleek graphics, motivation provided by quizzes, scores, and games which enable one to track learning, or the options to study grammar, or the listen-and-repeat exercises can provide substantial scope of self-learners. However, the online learning method may not be the option for many interested learners due to time/ access/ connectivity constraints.

In a recent review, to identify the best fit for different types of language learners, the Telegraph Group UK listed the four free online language learning resources as: /p>

1.Busuu, 2.Duolingo,3.The American Foreign Services Institute, 4.Livemocha

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