Don’t learn foreign languages

by Translation Guy on April 21, 2009

Everyone seems to think that learning a foreign language is a good idea. Wrong. It takes a lot of time, and causes a lot of headaches, literally. Its exhausting, and most importantly, it’s bad for business.

According to the Department of State, it takes about 2500 hours of serious study to learn a language sufficiently well to function diplomatically in that language, if the language is closely related to English, and as much as 4000 hours for a language less similar, say such as Japanese. Now I don’t’ have time to give you a citation for that, since it’s bound to take as much as three minutes on Google, but you can take my word for it. This also poses the questions: just how much of a foreign language does a diplomat need to know to be a good diplomat. I’m thinking, “Well, did you ever say, ‘what a swell party this is?'” That can’t be that difficult to say in many languages. So is it safe to assume that other professions require additional hours of study for language mastery? So let’s say 3000 hours on average. So if you value your time it’s a pretty serious investment. And where’s the payoff? For love… to talk to grandma, (or to pick up girls or boys) it’s time well spent… but for business, stick to business and let the translators do the translation. I think I’m going to have to work on that pitch.


  1. Serlozrod says:

    Problem is if people don´t study foreign languages, who will be the translators? I agree, it does take a lot of time and effort but it is not impossible. It depends a lot on how much you want to know or need to know. Someone who talks to Grnadma, drives a taxi or carries luggage in a hotel does not need to quote Shakespeare, but needs only a basic grasp of the language. Of course if you want to give a talk in front of an audience you will need a lot more language. Actually there are more researchers, businessmen and executives that need a foreign language than diplomats. Don´t worry, I don´t think language students will put translators out of business.

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