When you’re an Anglophone geek, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that you don’t have to learn a foreign language. After all, nearly every piece of software comes with an English localization. Most programming languages use English words and phrases. Indeed, English is overwhelmingly the language of the Internet.
And yet, there’s never been a better reason and a better time to learn a foreign language. We’ve talked about ways in which you can learn a language over the Internet, but we’ve not really talked about the benefits learning a new language can deliver to a geek. Indeed, there are many riches to be had.
Your Job Opportunities Improve. Drastically
A few years back, I took the drastic step to drop everything, leave my life in England and move to Switzerland. I found a job in a technology company in French speaking Switzerland, where I worked alongside English, French, and Spanish speakers.
Possessing a conversational degree of fluency in these languages helped me endlessly. I was able to culturally fit in, and engage in conversations about the challenging technological problems we faced on a daily basis.
I couldn’t have coped in that job without my language skills. And indeed, I probably wouldn’t have gotten it if I didn’t know how to converse in French. Perhaps that’s the most major advantage of learning a foreign language. The places where you can work open up exponentially.
Not convinced? Just look at this site. We’re a stunning example of this, as we employ a lot of talented, technologically minded people, many of whom do not speak English as their first language.
Obscure Programming Libraries Become A Bit More Useful
So, you’ve got a challenging coding program. You look around to see if anyone has faced your problem in the past, and it turns out someone has! Even better, they created a library for your favorite language!
You download it, and head immediately to the documentation. And… It’s all in Japanese. You don’t speak Japanese.
This has happened to me in the past. In the end, I had to delve through the library’s code, working out how it works by reading each function declaration. Each class.
Whilst it’s not feasible to know every language ever, having a command of a foreign language can be a huge benefit to any software developer. Especially one who works with open-source, community built libraries.
You Can Learn From Foreign Language Speaking Experts
Last year, I was working on a simple video game. I was using the challenging C programming language, along with the SDL graphics and sound library. Not many people use SDL as a stand-alone library for making video games. It’s just… too tedious.
As a result, there are not many tutorials or guides for this language and library combo. Late one night, I was searching YouTube and I came across this video.
It was an entire course for C and SDL. It was free. And it was good.
Even though it was in French, I was still able to follow what was going on, and apply it to my project. It’s not just programming either. Whatever you are interested in, be it gaming or photography, being able to speak a foreign language drastically increases the amount of people you can learn from. That can’t be anything but a good thing, right?
Got Something To Say? Say It To More People.
So, if you have a Twitter account or a blog, you might have noticed that you’ve curated a following of people who hang on every word you say. The reason why you have this following is because you speak in a language they understand.
Why limit yourself? By speaking a foreign language, you can address a larger audience. You can influence more people. You can engage in lively debates and discussions with more people than you could previously have even imagined.
Speaking a foreign language is incredibly empowering. It’s never too late to learn with the tools we have. The Web makes it so easy with immersive language learning. Indeed, I know many people who started learning their first language in their late twenties. When you do gain some fluency, you will immediately see the benefits of being multilingual.
Do you speak a foreign language? Tell me about it in the comments below. You can use French, Spanish or English. I’m really not that fussy.