LANGUAGE LIES OF MYTHIC PROPORTIONS

By Robert J. Jones

1. Language X is easier.

A commonly held belief, and a matter of personal opinion based on nothing more than emotion and anecdotal evidence. All languages have their difficulties in second language acquisition. Don't choose a language because is might be easier. You'll probably live to regret it.

2. More speakers means more important.

Not really. More money, whether thatís good or bad, generally means more important. The primary languages of the ten largest economies in the world are in alphabetical order: Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish.

3. Language X is more useful.

All languages are useful. If you learn a language and want to use it, you will. For example, I speak Welsh, and find it very useful.

4. Why study a foreign language, everyone speaks English.

While it is true that most of the educated people in the world have studied English at some point in their education, it is not true that everyone has.  More importantly, relatively few of those who have studied it have ever gained any appreciable level of proficiency.  It would be foolhardy to rely on the broken English of a potential foreign business partner, than rely on the well trained person who speaks the market area language well.

5. One foreign language is enough.

To really be competitive in the international marketplace, everyone needs basic proficiency in at least 2 foreign languages, and that means at least 4 semesters in each.

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