Three Ways Multilingualism Opens Doors In An Interconnected World

In the past, meeting a person who spoke more than one language was a rarity; before the advent of modern transportation and communication technology, contact with other nations was limited, so knowing more than your native tongue was not, for most people, a necessity.

However, today we live in a very different world. Cell phones, the Internet, and air travel have significantly increased our connectedness to people in other countries, and as the world becomes more globalized, those connections will continue to intensify.

Much has been made about the benefits of being multilingual on the scale of the individual; after all, people who know more than one language have been shown to have greater mental agility, better job prospects, and a sharper understanding of the world around them. But increasing multilingualism around the world also confers distinct advantages on our macro-level, global society.

Take a look at the following ways that greater multilingualism provides opportunities for increased understanding between (seemingly) disparate groups:

More Clear and Open Communication Between Governments

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, most national governments have recognized the importance of remaining in close contact with those of other countries around the world. Forging good relationships with other nations is a key to maintaining international stability, which is, of course, to our mutual benefit.

Multilingualism among world leaders allows governments to communicate clearly and openly with one another, and serves to break down barriers where they may exist. For example, it’s hard to forget President Kennedy’s powerful “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” (“I Am a Berliner”) speech, delivered in West Germany1963; he gave large portions of the address in German, thereby conveying his camaraderie with the citizens of the divided nation. Despite his famous mistake, in which he accidentally referred to himself as a jelly doughnut, the speech went far in establishing a relationship between the U.S. and West Germany.

It’s important for officials to be able to convey their wants and needs as directly and accurately as possible, especially in a tense situation. Multilingualism allows this, and it helps create a more tangible bond between leaders who are looking for common ground.

Easier Business Dealings and Negotiations

It’s true that the world is becoming more interconnected overall, but more specifically, business has reached international heights more rapidly than most other spheres. For the first time in world history, it’s fast and easy to conduct business transactions between distant nations, and multilingualism is the key making those deals happen.

Although it’s true that English is often the lingua franca, and thus the dominant language when it comes to business deals and negotiations, as countries in the developing world become bigger players in the world economy, multilingualism will be critical in high-stakes negotiations. This is because the nuanced nature of the back-and-forth involved in a business deal requires more than just a basic understanding of one another. Multilingualism among business professionals will allow both parties to convey their interests clearly and maintain a good working relationship. This is why major companies such as Apple, BMW, and Coca-Cola are actively recruiting leaders with the ability to speak more than one language.

Deeper Understanding of Other Cultures

It goes without saying that being multilingual will allow international travelers to interact with other cultures much more easily. For example, having an intimate understanding of Italian will make your trip to Rome a much more satisfying experience.

But the need for cultural sensitivity runs much deeper than a one-week summer vacation; as the expectation that we all become good citizens of the world increases, it’s critical to understand the ins and outs of other societies in more than just a superficial way. Increasing multilingualism provides us with the ability to understand the complexities other cultures in a genuine way. Language is complicated, and word choice means a lot in explanation and descriptions – multilingualism means that none of these fine distinctions will pass us by.

Multilingualism has the power to transform our world – consider learning a language to be a part of the movement!


This blog article was contributed by Sara Collins, writer for NerdWallet, a site that helps users stay informed about the best ways to save money on travel.

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How to Teach a Language

How to Teach a Language cover

This post is aimed at language teachers, but may be of interest to learners of foreign languages too. Besides, we do get a few Kiwis who are keen to travel the world by teaching English overseas.

Marty Pilott has recently published a book entitled How to Teach a Language.

Marty is a linguist who has been involved in studying, teaching and writing about language for over forty years. He has taught ESL and English in the UK, Iran and New Zealand and given presentations on language teaching in New Zealand, Australia and China, as well as learning languages while travelling or in classes. He is the author of text books and editor of a range of language texts. Currently he is working on a PhD on how employers accept migrant pronunciation. He has written this text to share his extensive knowledge of good teaching practice.

We recommend all teachers of English and foreign languages check this out. If you're a language learner and keen to understand a bit more about language teaching, this is useful for you too. You can purchase How to Teach a Language from in paperback ($21.98) or kindle ($3.99) format.

Here we publish an extract from his book:

Chapter 2: Central concepts of teaching

The time problem

Most people don’t have the option of studying a language full time, so your learners may have no more than a few hours a week to gain the proficiency they want in your language. This means that your time – and theirs – is valuable. In this brief amount of time you want to develop your learners’ skills as quickly as possible, which means teaching effectively (your methods work really well) and efficiently (no time is wasted). This doesn’t mean that each lesson has to be turned into a grim language factory – far from it! Learning a language should also be fun, otherwise learners will be put off or lose interest. But if the teacher uses effective teaching methods then the learners are going to have fun, enjoy the lesson and learn twice as much in the time.

How much time have you got?

You can estimate how much progress your learners are likely to make in the time available. For courses which run for only a couple of hours a week, the total may be very small – but this is where effective teaching and learning will make the best use of your time.

Let’s start with a full time course in English as a Foreign Language, as studied by many overseas learners. Full time study is about 25 hours per week, and it takes three to four months to move up one level in IELTS, the standard examination for overseas students enrolling at many universities. That’s 300-400 hours to move from, say, Elementary to Pre-Intermediate. So if your class is two hours a week for ten weeks, then you have only 20 hours in which to achieve a significant change – a pretty big order. But please don’t give up! There are some pointers in favour of your learners.

  • Full-time learners don’t really learn for 300 hours – the actual learning time may be half that, taking into account how much time is being used effectively and attentively. Learners in short classes can give the language a higher level of attention.
  • You can ensure your learners are working in between classes
  • You can teach them how to learn better
  • They may have family or friends to help them practise
  • You can use this book to make sure you are using the most effective teaching methods.

So if we agree that TIME IS LIMITED, we can work on a strategy to overcome the shortage of time.

Strategies – a quick summary

Use effective teaching methods

If your activities use effective ways of teaching, your learners will remember much more. Chapters 4 and 5 in particular will explain how to do this – as well as some do’s and don’ts.

Plan your course well

If you are well organised, then your lessons will run smoothly, and every minute will count. You also need to keep your learners engaged. You may be busy all the way through your class, but are your learners? What are they doing while someone is reading aloud, or while you are talking with another learner? Plan your lesson so that each learner always has a task to do. Chapter 4 provides effective teaching methods and techniques and Chapter 7 explains ways in which to plan your lessons.

Have some good resources to teach

It’s all very well reading about the theory of teaching, but it’s much harder to convert that theory into actual classroom practice. This book describes communicative language teaching, but what does that mean when you have to put a lesson plan together? Chapter 6 gives examples of resources  you can use to enhance your lessons.

Teach learners to be independent

To make progress, your learners will have to make use of time between lessons and become independent learners once they have finished your course. Most people don’t know much about learning a language and become dependent on their teachers, but this is not going to help them once the class finishes. If you provide your learners with these skills they will be equipped to learn faster and to go on learning. See Chapter 5 for suggestions on how you can do this.

Base the course on your learners’ needs

Learners will be far more responsive if you are doing what they want and need, but this doesn’t mean constantly changing your lesson plan every time someone asks a question. Chapter 3 explains how to do this.

Manage your class effectively

Becoming more learner-centred means that the teacher needs new ways of making sure that they are still in control. Chapter 4 shows you how to organise and manage a classroom, and use your lesson planning to ensure that management is not a problem for you.

Adapt classroom lessons to 1-1 work

Working 1-1 with a learner is very intensive and does not have the opportunities for group work. However, planning for variety is still important. Find a variety of sources, including authentic written material from newspapers, magazines and the internet; and use a variety of voices and accents by downloading audio and video samples of language. This also takes some of the pressure off you to “perform” the whole time.

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Why some languages sound faster than others

Ever wondered why some languages sound like they're spoken much faster than others? Yet, in dubbed movies the words seemingly fit the actors' mouth movement. That's what researchers at Universite de Lyon wanted to explain when they set out to research one phenomenon: the speed of language. This infographics shows how they did it, and what they found. Design by Sofya Yampolsky.


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Meet Heather Warne – Japanese language student at Euroasia

You may have seen Heather Warne in the Mitre 10 ad currently running on TV.  Or at one of the many theatre productions she has been part of over the past few years.  A long-term client of Euroasia, she progressed from the Japanese Level 1 course in 2010 to the Japanese Advanced class with Takako. We talk to Heather about her wide range of interests in food/acting/singing/learning.

heather warneWhat do you do professionally?

I work for a charity called the Leprosy Mission – we do overseas aid and development work with people affected by leprosy. I'm also an audio-book narrator with the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind.

What's your favourite food?

Ooh, so many options! I really love variety and trying new combinations and foods from different cultures, but a few old favourites are pizza… chocolate mousse… teppanyaki prawns with Yum Yum sauce…

What do you do when you aren't working?

I like basically any singing opportunities I can get my hands on – musical theatre, recording projects, jamming with bands. I also act, which is sometimes work and sometimes not! And of course enjoy both these things as a spectator, at concerts, theatre and movies. I probably also spend far too much time on computers.

How did you get involved in acting?

Acting is something I've done since I was a kid and been very interested in since college, so I then went on and did a degree in it at Unitec. Singing too – been singing since I was about 5, but a show I did a couple of years ago introduced me to a group of cool singers and I've since then had more training and got further involved in music, and really enjoying all the different avenues of it. I know a few songs in Japanese – it's a fun language to sing in.

What has surprised you most about learning Japanese?

How many verb forms there are… and the number of different words you use to count things!

What's the best thing to happen since you started getting into Japanese language and culture?

I suppose as far as the language, it was pretty awesome when I was watching some old Japanese movies I hadn't seen in a while and found that I wasn't always needing the subtitles. I haven't been to Japan yet – I'm sure that will be the highlight once I have!

Do people recognise you in the streets? What do they say when they do?

Haha, no I'm definitely not at that point yet! Occasionally I'll meet someone who's seen me performing on a stage before we've actually met – but never in really anonymous situations like on the street.

What's your dream job?

Singing, either on the West End or in the Tokyo jazz scene. Perhaps flitting between one and the other.

Heather with her Japanese class and Sensei Takako at the Euroasia Xmas party
Heather with her Japanese class and Takako-sensei at the Euroasia Xmas party (Dec 2011).

What's it like to be learning Japanese at Euroasia?

Really positive environment, great learning from a native speaker and everyone's there of their own accord so they're keen to have fun and also learn.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about learning Japanese?

Go for it! It's a fun language to learn – there are fiddly bits, but it's also not too hard to get your mouth around. As far as a tip, start learning kana (the writing) early – the sooner you know them, the sooner you can start practicing as you continue to learn

What's the difference between a Japanese and a Kiwi?

Hmmm… I haven't personally met a lot of Japanese people so I can't really speak from my own experience. The Japanese appear to be much more stylish, pop-culture-wise, much more outgoing. Also driven – whereas kiwis are often quite laid-back. Though if Takako-sensei is anything to go by, the Japanese must smile a lot!

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Meet Sean Shadbolt – Photographer and Chinese Language Learner

We recently interviewed Sean Shadbolt, who has been learning Chinese Mandarin at Euroasia for a number of years. Sean is in Elaine Wu's Advanced Chinese Class on Wednesday evenings.

Euroasia: What do you do professionally?

Sean: I am a commercial photographer. I shoot a lot of different things but mostly centered around food and lifestyle photography. Its always changing and while it has huge ups and downs as far as work and income are concerned, its always interesting with the people I meet and the experiences I have.

E: Tell me how you first got involved in photography.

S: I first got involved in photography when I managed to talk my way into a temporary job as a photographer for the Wellington city council in 1983. After that I worked as a trainee photographic technician at the tourism and publicity department for two years and after that two years of study at Wellington Polytechnic. In 1991 I started my own business.

E: What do you do when you aren't taking photos/working?

S: When I’m not planning for or doing photography I am either studying Chinese or working on my own or my friends houses. I would like to spend more time travelling but recently have been unable to but hope to go back to China within the next year.

I usually just tell people I am a photographer and not much more, technical details of what it is exactly I do can be dull and complicated, Most people’s experience of photography is wedding photography which I engage in occasionally. My family still isn’t really sure what exactly it is I do.

Euroasia client and commercial photographer Sean Shadbolt talks to us about his life journey
Euroasia client and commercial photographer Sean Shadbolt talks to us about his life journey

E: What has surprised you most about learning Chinese?

S: The thing that has surprised me the most about learning Chinese is how many Chinese speakers there are now in New Zealand. I hadn’t really noticed too much before I started although through my work I was quite aware of Chinese culture here. I also have some close friends who are either Chinese or have Chinese heritage. I also taught a number of Chinese students when I was a photography tutor.

E: What's the best thing to happen since you started mixing with Chinese people/learning Chinese?

S: I think the best thing to happen to me since I started learning Chinese is a much wider appreciation of the culture and heritage, also having a window into Chinese perspectives on life and values.

I also enjoy learning Chinese because it is a language that is spoken everyday in New Zealand, unlike the European languages I studied many years before. You can go into any Chinese restaurant or shop and get a little bit of practice.

E: What would you tell someone who is thinking about learning Chinese?

S: I would advise anyone thinking of learning Chinese to be prepared to do a lot of extra study and practice, especially at first, as progress can be very incremental, also to consider doing the HSK exams, that can really give a goal to focus on.

E: What's it like to be learning Chinese at Euroasia?

S: I enjoy the classes at Euroasia because of the after hours times. It is difficult to fit in any study during the day so it fits in with my schedules. I don’t miss too many classes. The classes are also very social and I enjoy catching up with the other students every week and also in our trips to Chinese restaurants.

E: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?

S: If I wasn’t doing photography I would probably do some kind of teaching. I taught photography for a long time and also did a CELTA and language teaching course a while ago at Unitec which I thoroughly enjoyed.


Thanks Sean for sharing your thoughts.

For more details about Sean, check out Sean's website.

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Language learning tip: No fear

Often people think they have “failed” if they haven't mastered the language they are learning. There is no such thing as failure in language learning. After all, what is the purpose of language?

Language is a tool to get a message across. Don't get caught up with being absolutely perfect. You're not in school anymore. The locals in Mexico or China don't care if you make a few mistakes. By any yardstick, you've succeeded if you can order dinner in the target language. Be proud.

If all you're interested in doing is scoring an “A “, then by all means go do a technical language course at university.

If however you're keen to just chat with locals and don't mind laughing at yourself once in a while, just embrace the language learning journey. You'll discover far more than a new language along the way.

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Language learning tip: Know what you want and practice, practice, practice

People learn languages for a variety of reasons. Some wish to read poetry in another language, others wish to conduct business, and yet others simply want to talk to natives in their travels. Different language learning strategies apply, depending on your motivation and goals.

Most people who come to Euroasia wish to converse with native speakers when travelling or doing business. Most seasoned businesspeople will understand “doing business” is largely about developing relationships so there's a large degree of overlap between those learning a language for business and social reasons.

business language

If your priority is to learn the written word, then you should focus on reading from Day 1. In some instances this may not be possible (think Chinese/Japanese/Korean), but for most European languages this is very do-able. You may need a dictionary but start with a few sentences a day, and with kids' books.

If you wish to speak with natives, then do so from Day 1. Aim to spend an hour or two every week with native speaker(s) in addition to your usual Euroasia language course. Don't worry about making mistakes. The idea is to expose yourself to the language frequently, and to practice what you've learnt.

If you live in Auckland, Wellington, or for that matter any New Zealand city, chances are you will find native speakers of the language you're learning. Where? Try community groups. By this I mean joining groups where the majority of members are from the culture you wish to immerse yourself in. If you wish to learn French, join the French group learning about Kiwi culture, NOT the local group of Kiwis appreciating French wine. There are plenty of French travellers coming to NZ on working holidays and they are very keen to meet Kiwis. And all these French people congregate at Frogs in NZ.

Plenty of South American groups (ok usually by country eg Argentinian, Chilean, Colombian etc) exist, as well as Russian, Dutch, Japanese etc. Korean groups usually meet on Sundays (seeing most are Christians), and countless Chinese groups are dotted across the country along cultural, religious and provincial lines.  These migrants always welcome interactions with Kiwis and you will be treated very well. Don't be put off if their website is in Chinese – similarly don't be surprised if some of them speak better English than you!

If you live in Invercargill, you may need to resort to skype for virtual penpals. Distance and isolation is no excuse.

And most important of all – Have Fun!

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Language learning trends at Euroasia

Traditionally, the greatest interest has been in the ‘big four’ European languages (French, German, Spanish and Italian). Euroasia has offered course in six levels in all these languages, together with higher level classes when there has been sufficient demand. In recent years, there has possibly some movement away from European towards Asian languages. In contrast, though, there has been growing interest in the three other European languages which we offer, namely, Portuguese, Russian and Dutch.

There's clearly growing interest in Asian languages, especially Mandarin.
When we started offering Mandarin about 6 years ago, it was very much a minority interest, and students seldom continued beyond level one. Now it’s the most popular language (surpassing Spanish), and we have students returning for a whole series of courses. We offer six levels, plus we have an advanced class for those who wish to continue beyond that point. Some of our students have been coming along for years, and are very happy to do so.

Interest in Japanese is fairly stable overall. We have a dedicated group of people who keep returning to study in our highest level class.  We also regularly have new beginners starting.

Korean is fairly popular. Perhaps this is because of Korean drama, K-Pop etc.

This year, Euroasia is also offering Cantonese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Arabic, in response to requests from clients.

euroasia parnell

Our clients are predominantly young to middle-aged European professionals, although there's a small but growing number of Asian clients. We also find that people originally from Asian countries are interested in learning another Asian language. Sometimes the reasons are surprising: for example, Chinese and Japanese people may express an interest in Korean soap operas!

Kiwis learn foreign languages for the following reasons:

– Personal travel

– Business

– Partner speaks that particular language

– Descended from speakers of that particular language

– General interest

Reasons vary from language to language: with Mandarin, often business; with Italian, usually personal travel; with Dutch, generally family connections.

We are often asked what can people realistically achieve by attending our courses.

To achieve near-native speaker competence takes years of study, together with a substantial amount of time in the country in question. Realistically, there are not that many people who achieve this level of competence. But there are many other levels of competence, and achieving these can be immensely rewarding as well as of practical benefit. Even a short, introductory course gives insights into the way the language works and the way people think, as well as providing a useful range of vocabulary for everyday situations. The more you study, the wider the range of experience you’re able to discuss in the foreign language. Language learning is an ongoing process, much like keeping fit. Just because you've managed to develop a summer beach body doesn't mean you can stop working at it.

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