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The Value of Learning Another Language

It's a competitive job market out there these days. There's no doubt about it. Everyone wants skills that set them apart from their peers. While people are scrambling to be the most tech-savvy and forward-thinking when it comes to social networking, don't forget about a classic skill that can help you land a job: learning a second language.

Knowing a second language can help you in lots of ways. To start with, you can make more money, which is always nice! Salary.com found that positions that require bilingual employees pay between five and 20 percent more than similar positions that only require one language.

Speaking another language also looks great on your resume.

"The more you bring to the table, the more 'marketable' you are as an employee," says Steve Schneider. Schneider is a school counselor in Wisconsin. He is also a vice president at the American School Counselor Association. "Being bilingual or trilingual sets you apart from others. It's a specialized skill that employers are willing to pay more money for."

Schneider adds that there's another reason that it pays to learn a second language. No one really talks about this reason, but it's a good one. And a simple one.

"You'll have more friends," he says.

By knowing a second language, you can network and communicate with people from different cultures. This helps you grow as a person.

"Learning a second language can help you get in touch with your roots," says Vanessa Gomez-Lee. "So many cultures lose their language; it is never too late to learn another language."

Gomez-Lee is a school counselor in California. She is also the past president of the California Association of School Counselors. She adds that knowing a second language gives you an advantage at a time when finding a job can be tough. She has noticed this in her own profession.

"As a school counselor in California, many school districts want people who speak both English and Spanish, due to the fact that we have so many Spanish speakers," she says.

Brent Van Arsdell is the California-based president of a website that offers language-learning packages. He says that if you learn a second language the right way, it's worth the work. And for him, the right way is a three-step process.

"The first thing you should learn is greetings," says Van Arsdell. "The second thing you should learn is being disarming. So if you're going to learn French, you're going to learn several nice things to say about France in French, right away. Then when you meet a person who is French, you say, 'I love the Alps,' or you love some French movie, and you say that in French, and then you're off and running."

The third and final step to successfully learn a second language, according to Van Arsdell, is learning how to "speak French in French." What he means by that is learning a few key phrases that indicate you're learning the language.

"Learn to say, 'How do I say?' in French, then point to something," he says. "You turn the average French person, who may not be a very good teacher, into your teacher. You turn people you hang out with into teachers and everyone has a good time. You learn to say, 'Did I say that right?' in French to get the responses."

Gomez-Lee says that learning a second language is a step towards learning another culture. And that's something that can enrich your life in many ways beyond just employability.

"Learning a second language also helps you to understand another culture, which is a life experience that is so valuable," she says. "You can learn about poetry, films, literature and music that you wouldn't have had the opportunity to without knowing the second language."

Nicolas Lejeune is the director of a language school. He says that, among other things, learning a second language helps your credibility, changes your thinking process and adds to your life philosophy.

"You're going to learn different aspects of life that are not so emphasized in one language, but are going to be emphasized in another language," he says.

Lejeune says there are many positive outcomes of learning a second language that may not seem obvious at first. For example, it will help you have a better grasp on English.

"If you learn another language, it will help you in English, because the only thing you can compare it to, if you're an English speaker, is English," he says. "So you're going to have to start thinking about your own language and the way you use it."

Lejeune says that, believe it or not, learning a second language can be fun. He says he's learning Mandarin right now, and is having a fun time doing it. And he says that even if you're not having a good time now learning a second language, you just might later on.

"I know it's difficult for students in a class to understand that, especially if they have the wrong teacher or are bored... it's maybe something you can appreciate when you're a bit more mature. But if they don't appreciate it now, they for sure will appreciate it later. They have to be patient."

For Van Arsdell, it all comes down to enjoying it. Learning a second language can be fun. And, really, it should be fun. If it's not fun, maybe you just need to approach it in a different way... or, like Lejeune says, just remember to be patient.

"You don't have to wait a long time to have fun with it," says Van Arsdell. "If you're not having fun with this inside of a week, you're doing something wrong."

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