LEARNING THE LANGUAGE OF WORK

In Business & Technology /

By Carmen Chai

Students who want their resumes to stand out from the pack should sprecken more than just ze English, language experts say.

“A second language is definitely an advantage in the Canadian work society,” said Avril McFarlane, a human resources specialist with Simplicious, an employment centre.

“Companies are expecting and appreciating when employees are able to communicate with clients in other languages,” she said. “It’s even more beneficial because they don’t have to hire a translator.”

And considering more and more Canadian businesses are expanding into burgeoning economies in China and India, you might as well start getting ready now if you want to become a working jetsetter.

McFarlane suggests students in the arts should pursue French while students in business should study Mandarin.

Students in other fields should consider where they plan to work and what languages are spoken there. But if you only learn one language, French is a safe bet, especially in Canada.

“By 2009, there will be a huge shortage of people who can speak French,” said Corinne Beauquis, a French professor at the University of Toronto.

“So because I speak French, I am an asset and I make more money than others,” she said. Beauquis said her French-speaking students get paid more at their jobs as bank tellers or telemarketers than their unilingual colleagues.

However, you don’t necessarily need to be fluent to be successful. Even having simple conversational skills will get you a leg up on the competition. So where can you go to brush up on the language of love? The easiest option is Ryerson’s Chang School, which offers French, Spanish, Mandarin, Hindi and Japanese courses.

For between $400 and $500, you can get two three-hour sessions a week. “You can get a fair bit of language under your belt over the spring and summer,” said Desmond Glynn, director of arts for the Chang School. The courses even count towards your degree.

But Helen Tremblay, a language coordinator at George Brown, doesn’t recommend condensed language courses, because the reduced time frames make it harder to study and absorb the material.

“We find that people do not want to give up two nights a week. It’s probably a lot harder to study for,” she said.

Beauquis agrees, but said getting your butt in a classroom is important, no matter how long you’re actually there for.

“A condensed course is good if you can devote the time, otherwise you won’t have good memory retention of what you learn,” she said.

“Going to a classroom where you participate and get feedback is crucial.” Don’t forget: the more practice you have speaking the language, the better you will be.

Audiotapes, beginner’s books and even computer games can also be useful study tools, but don’t depend on them exclusively.

“The problem with them is that people have to be disciplined. They have a lot of good intentions but lose interest quickly,” Beauquis said. Ultimately, condensed language courses are a sound investment for anybody who needs to learn the basics of a language right before they leave for a trip, she said.

But Kavita Trehan, a business operations manager at Simplicious, stresses perfecting your English before running out to learn Punjabi.

“All job postings demand that you speak, read and write English,” she said. “You can speak 20 [other] languages and it still won’t get you the job.”

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