If you are like many Americans, you probably studied a foreign language or two when you were in high school or college and have not used it much since. You may remember a handful of useful phrases in French or Spanish that help you get by when you travel, but you aren’t confident conversing extensively. You might even think you are too old to become proficient in another language, but it’s not too late.
Learning to speak another language not only improves your communication skills, it can also be very beneficial for job development. If you organization has clients or vendors or other contacts in foreign countries, speaking their native tongue is an invaluable asset. Don’t worry if you don’t have time to take classes or travel abroad; there are plenty of useful language resources you can use right here at home.
3 Foreign Language Resources to Try
1. Chat through interactive language websites.
The key to improving your proficiency is practice, practice, practice. Even if you are just starting to learn a new language and aren’t very confident in your skills yet, it is essential to use it as much as possible in conversation. Sometimes it can be difficult to find native speakers to interact with, but luckily, the Internet is making the world a much smaller place. Sign up for Livemocha, an online community of 8.5 million people worldwide, and learn from native speakers while you teach others who want to learn English. You can also use Skype to find people in foreign countries to have live video chats with.
2. Find an in-person conversation partner or group.
If you live in a larger town or city, you may be able to improve your foreign language communication skills in person. Sign up for meetup.com and join or start a group for people who want to practice a language. Often, at these meet-ups, there will be a good mix of native speakers and foreign language learners for you to practice with. You can also use Craigslist, MyLanguageExchange.com or other websites to find a language exchange partner– you can learn Italian or Japanese or Mandarin (or whichever language you are interested in), while your partner practices English.
3. Practice at home on your computer.
There are a wealth of different options for at-home language learning, from the free BBC Languages website to the immersion method of Rosetta Stone technology. Find the program that best suits your needs and schedule several blocks of time a week to practice your communication skills.
Do you speak a foreign language? How has it helped you in your job?
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