Europe is a multicultural region. In most cities, people from different backgrounds live together. People who speak different languages use the same services all the time. Banks, public transport, hospitals and so on. They hang out in the same pubs, malls and parks. Some of them even share their flats. A Romanian speaker lives with a Spanish speaker. In Milan.
Yet there are very few polyglots who could speak to every European around them. You don’t have to be a polyglot. Learning a second language is enough for a start. Because you have to know more than your native language to live a life with open opportunities in Europe.
Really? It’s not like everybody’s learning a second language in Europe, is it?
Well, not everybody, but it’s a close call. Every other European student learns two foreign languages. One of these languages is English, of course. Other languages are also popular. Two out of three students in Europe can speak French, Spanish or German. Russian and Italian reach the same popularity in certain regions of Europe.
As for people outside of educational institutions, there’s no significant difference. Roughly every third working-aged adult claimed not to know any foreign languages as of 2011. The number decreased by more than 5% since 2007. So, if the same trend persisted, three out of four working Europeans know at least one foreign language today.
In other words, the majority of people can speak multiple languages. How does this concern you, fellow European? This means that:
Only a multilingual can be a competitive employee in Europe!
This is only natural with everybody speaking more than one language. Besides, many workplaces require a certain foreign language knowledge. The growing migration and globalisation around the world directly affect such demand. The need for multiple languages in many services is rising along with the number of foreign users of those services.
Every language that you know will open more opportunities for you. In many cases, language is actually the most important skill, to begin with. There’s little you can do with your accounting skills if you can’t understand what your French customer is talking about. So, if you don’t have the language skills, start learning a second language. There’s a very high chance that it will pay off.
Eurotrip isn’t the same with only one language
If you’ve seen the movie EuroTrip you know that one language isn’t enough. Even though the movie was based on stereotypes that do no justice to anybody, it got something right. Lacking the skills of foreign languages is detrimental and can lead you to misunderstandings. On the other hand, knowing other languages to some extent can give you much more genuine experiences. The natives treat you in a completely different way if you start speaking their own tongue. This difference is beyond comparison.
This effect influences your life even if you never travel anywhere. Since migration is more popular than ever, the world will travel to you. And you shouldn’t ignore it because:
No contact with people from different cultures impairs your social life
A significant part of the population around you are people from different cultures. Every day, they walk the same streets that you do. They help to develop your city and bring life to it. They are an integral part of everything that is going on around you. If you have no contact with them, you don’t really know what’s going on around you. Besides, having friends of different backgrounds will improve you as a person. It will teach you tolerance. You will learn more about what it’s like to be a human and how to see things in another perspective.
That’s why you should be able to talk to the people around you. Most of them probably know your language. However, some don’t. And those who do will still see you more favourably if you can make them feel at home by speaking their native language. There’s no need to be fluent in it. You just have to understand and be understood.
So learning a second language is an absolute must in Europe. (And learning a third one is an enhancement!) Without any foreign language skills, your life can become very limited. You won’t be able to compete for a promising workplace. Travelling around Europe won’t be as memorable. You won’t get to know locals from other countries just as well. Language is the best skill to make your life better.