Learning multiple languages does not only help entrepreneurs communicate better (especially with global business partners). There are also life lessons you can learn while picking up a new language that can shape you into a better leader.
Some of those lessons are overcoming uncomfortable situations and expanding your ability to adapt to different cultures. Learning a new language isn’t just about memorizing new sets of vocabulary and grammar rules, a certain level of understanding of the culture and history of the country where that language is native is also necessary.
This teaches you empathy and effective communication, as well as embracing diversity. When you allow yourself to be open and immerse in cultures vastly different from your own, your worldview widens. You are able to understand others and see the situation from their vantage point. This allows you to adapt the way you communicate, in order for the right message to come across, with as few nuances as possible “lost in translation.”
The more you understand where individuals are coming from, the more effective you can deliver your message to them, and empathy allows you to deliver a more meaningful message to your audience.
Not only that but the discipline and perseverance you need to learn a new language can carry over and apply to your personal and professional growth. When you are accustomed to being exposed outside your comfort zone, it becomes less daunting, and can even become exciting.
This kind of tenacity is something that leaders can teach by example to their teams, and at the same time encourage and reassure them that the one leading them is reliable. This increases team morale and loyalty and amplifies your influence as a leader.
Studies have also shown that learning a new language helps you become more intelligent, flexible, and creative, and helps you make better (more rational) decisions.
Bilingual or multilingual persons have more neural connections that allow them to recognize patterns and identify associations, and allow more creative and flexible thinking. They are able to observe things from different perspectives, recognize and understand new concepts, and can “think outside the box” better and faster than others.
Multilingual persons are also able to switch tasks faster, as speaking in more than one language calls for task switching naturally. This helps you prioritize, organize, and focus better, all skills necessary for more effective and efficient decision-making. Plus, it can help you make more rational decisions because language learners use a more analytic approach when thinking and speaking in a different language. There’s a level of mindfulness and objectivity involved in speaking multiple languages that help us zoom out from, and not always be reactive to, our emotions.
Lastly, learning a new language prompts us to become active listeners, be better observers (for social cues and other contexts), and teaches us how and when to ask for help and when to challenge ourselves. Yet, it also helps us learn how to not always take ourselves too seriously, be more self-forgiving and laugh off some of our mistakes, and allows us to understand that walking away isn’t necessarily the same as quitting.
And, of course, the impact it has on improved international relations can help our business scale globally.
If you could learn a new language, what would it be?
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