illustration/LINDSAY ALEXANDER

English is the lingua franca of the world. It is the language of international business transactions. However, the business world is changing and English speakers who learn foreign languages benefit not only economically but culturally and intellectually as well.

International business calls and transactions take place every minute of every day. Calls from Saudi Arabia to the United States and from the United States to China are here-say in the realm of international trade and commerce. Face-to-face meetings and interviews are also conducted on a regular basis.

While translators can be used, the international business employment market is becoming more competitive. Graduates of top business schools in America compete with global graduates who know several languages. International businesses, as well as local businesses, will take multilingual employees over monolingual ones, as long as both employees are equally qualified in other areas.

At New York University in Abu Dhabi, students from around the world taking classes ranging from Chemistry to Anthropology, learn, speak and study in languages not of their native tongue. This educational attempt at experiencing a diverse global society is preparing students for the real world of international business.

International business is not the only occupation where multilingualism comes in handy. Anyone flirting with an espionage occupation will find benefit in speaking foreign languages for jobs with the State Department or the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Still, citizens looking for conventional jobs will find speaking another language helpful in public relations, social services and health care.

Knowledge of a foreign language is especially helpful in states like Florida, New York and California where immigrant and ethnically diverse populations are high.

English speakers who learn other languages improve themselves culturally as well. People around the world learn English, which is a convenience for English speakers. If English speakers in turn attempt to learn other languages, they communicate a kind gesture. In the year 2011, 1.3 billion people spoke Chinese natively and 341 million people spoke English natively. Even a small percentage of English speakers learning Chinese is a wise decision both economically and socially.

Furthermore, languages are art forms. Marcel Suarez-Orozco, a globalization professor at NYU and editor of Educating the Whole Child for the Whole World, a series on globalization and education, says, “Aristotle is turning in his grave.” Using a lingua franca is progressive, but society cannot forget the beauty of different languages. Speaking a language allows people to connect culturally and relate to each other. Conversing with a person in his own tongue beats roughly conversing through a lingua franca any day.

A little known fact about multilingual persons is their gray brain matter, a component in brain tissue that passes along sensory information to different parts of the body, is denser than the rest of the world’s monolingual inhabitants, indicating higher levels of intelligence. According to the Center for Applied Linguistics and webmd.com, researchers have discovered being bilingual changes brain structure, especially in the left brain’s gray matter density.

Whether it is to advance in the business world, to advance one’s social graces through the art of learning a language or trying to boost brain power, English speakers who study and learn a second language will reap the benefits.

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