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Do you think learning a new tongue will enhance career opportunities ???

Lalit Mehra
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 08, 2010
Posts: 384

Hi,

I was thinking to learn a new language to enhance my career.
Does anyone think it is profitable ?



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Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 38509
    
  23
Which language? Where are you planning to go?
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1671
    
  14

Presumably you mean a natural language like French or Mandarin? Depends on the language, on your other skills, and what kind of career opportunities you want.

Knowing another language well can be very helpful in your career. For example, the best jobs I have had in my entire career were the ones I was able to secure in Germany because I spoke fluent German. But if I hadn't wanted to work in German-speaking countries, German wouldn't have been much use in my IT career. Although being a qualified German-English translator has been very handy as a secondary source of income during periods when I have been unable to find IT work!

Of course, some customer-facing jobs may require you to speak to people abroad in their own language - this might be anything from first-line support to business analysis, sales and customer relationships etc - and it can sometimes be handy having somebody around who can at least make the occasional phone call in a foreign language.

But it takes a lot of work to learn another language well enough to function competently in it at a professional level. It's not just knowing the basic vocabulary and grammar, but also understanding how native speakers use the language in different ways in both formal and informal settings. If you want to work professionally in another language, you need to be able to contribute actively in meetings and informal conversations, create and understand formal documentation, make presentations, discuss serious topics with colleagues and customers, and build working relationships with colleagues in their own language. In order to develop these skills, you really need to be able to immerse yourself in the language for longer periods e.g. by living and working in the relevant country for many months at least

As many UK users of offshore customer support services will tell you, there are a lot of people working on those offshore phonelines who may have learned English at school/college but cannot communicate very well in English over the phone. I've worked with far too many "onshored" IT staff whose technical skills and qualifications may have been excellent, but there was no way to find out because nobody could understand what they said or wrote, and they couldn't understand what was being said to them either. Having worked in a foreign language environment myself, I have a lot of sympathy with the challenges faced by people working in a foreign language, but if somebody is being paid to do a job, they need to ensure they have - or acquire - the skills to do that job competently, and communication skills are as vital as programming skills in software development. After all, you can probably teach someone Java a lot quicker than you can teach them French or Mandarin, and most workplaces have plenty of people who can speak their local language far better than you can: the only distinctive thing you can offer is your professional experience and skills.

So you would need to be highly motivated in order to put enough time and effort into learning a new language successfully to a professional level. And even then, you might still not find it makes much difference to your career opportunities e.g. perhaps there is no real need for people with your technical skills/experience who can also speak that language. You need to decide for yourself if you have that motivation, and what the career opportunities in your target language might be.

To be honest, unless you have a particular language that you would love to learn for its own sake - not just for a potential job - I would advise you to invest the time/effort in improving your professional skills instead, and take every opportunity to practice/develop any foreign language skills you already have, because this is more likely to give you a relatively quick return on a far smaller investment. If you have always wanted to learn a specific language, do it for the love of the language and the culture it will open up to you, not just to get a slightly better/different IT job.


No more Blub for me, thank you, Vicar.
Lalit Mehra
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 08, 2010
Posts: 384

Hi Campbell,

I'm not going anywhere as of yet ... just wanted to know if a new language will help me in future with my career; say if I learn german, it might be easier for me to look for a job in germany.

:-)
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1671
    
  14

Lalit Mehra wrote:if I learn german, it might be easier for me to look for a job in germany.:-)

Only if you learn German well enough to function at a professional level e.g. could you manage a full technical interview in German? But if you are just another ordinary Java developer and you can't even speak the language properly, why should any German-speaking workplace employ you, when they have access to thousands of highly qualified and experienced German Java developers, and thousands more from neighbouring EU countries where German is widely taught as a second/third language? There are eighty million people in Germany who already speak German, so what are you offering that's sufficiently valuable to an employer to justify the extra cost, bureaucracy and inconvenience of bringing you halfway around the world to work in Germany?

If you have already decided to look for work in Germany, then learning German is certainly very important, but if you are just looking for an easy(?) way to access another country's labour market, you need to think more carefully about how to invest your own time and effort in order to provide potential employers with what they really need. Maybe look at this thread to get a better idea of the importance of being able to use a foreign language in a professional capacity.
Lalit Mehra
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 08, 2010
Posts: 384

Hi chris,

I respect your opinion and guidance.
I know it's not an easy thing to find your way among 80 million peoples as you said but to grow one needs to improve himself in all respects that's why i put up this question over here so that guys like you who are well informed, much more than i am, in this respect can provide their valuable guidance.

Please guide me as to how and what i can do to improve myself and my career.

respect.
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1671
    
  14

Hi Lalit

Sorry if I seemed a little blunt in my remarks, but in my experience people seriously underestimate the effort required to develop foreign language skills to a professional level, and failure to do this leads to people being unable to work productively when they find themselves forced to actually use their foreign language skills. This can be very difficult not just for the individual concerned, but also for their colleagues and managers who cannot depend on them to do their job properly.

If you are serious about working abroad, then you probably need to look carefully at the particular countries you would like to work in, what skills are required on those job markets, and how far your existing skills - including English and any other languages - would allow you to compete in those markets. But also think about the wider skills you would need - how you will cope when everything you do has to be done in a foreign language, from buying groceries to dealing with bureaucracy to simply sharing jokes with colleagues over lunch, how you will respond to both subtle and profound cultural differences - and ask yourself how far you are willing and able to take these challenges on.

But I'm just one individual who's been through this process in a relatively smooth fashion (degree in the relevant language, moving from one Western European culture to another very similar one, etc) some years ago, but even that wasn't always such a smooth experience, and I don't live in Germany any more either. You need to talk to lots of other people, especially from your own country, who have done this kind of thing and see what you can learn from their experiences. Good luck.
Lalit Mehra
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 08, 2010
Posts: 384

Chris,

No need to be sorry, your opinions are always welcome.

Thanks for your support.

chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1671
    
  14

Lalit Mehra wrote:

Prost!
Lalit Mehra
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 08, 2010
Posts: 384

Chris,

Already started with German ... "prost" my first german word

Thanks
 
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subject: Do you think learning a new tongue will enhance career opportunities ???