Friday, March 12, 2010

Multilingual is the Future.

The census bureau cannot find enough people to fill jobs that require bilingual applicants. A recent Wall Street Journal article specifically notes a shortage of Spanish, Russian, Korean, Urdu, and Kirundi speakers.

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google noted the the web of the future will be mostly Chinese.

English will be the language of academia . . . as long as the best universities in the world remain in the United States. Take note of the "if."

For business, English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Portuguese, Arabic, Spanish, and Russian battling it out for the top spot1. I'd put English and Mandarin ahead of the others, but neck-and-neck in the race to be the most important. However, that doesn't mean that the others will go away!

The monolingual person is losing power to the multilingual one.

I've worked in multilingual environments (specifically Chinese-English, Chinese-French-English and Japanese-Chinese-English). When a person was missing one of the languages, he or she was essentially a child among adults. The person with a 5-year-old's vocabulary was lost whenever the others began "grown-up talk."

My parents' generation will be alright if they're monolingual. My generation will have an advantage if they are multilingual. I'd bet money that most people in my kids' generation (and I don't have any kids yet) will be at a disadvantage if they are not multilingual.


1 Note that I did not mention any Indian languages. That's partially because the language situation there is very fragmented. It's also partially because I'm unfamiliar with the choices given that fragmentation. Perhaps a dialect or two should be included.