On the international language scale, Dutch is about as useful as being handed a spoon to cut bread. When counting the number of native speakers, Dutch ranks below languages like Tamazight, Odia, Awadhim Kannada and Jin – and I did not make those up. It is structured like German, sounds a bit like English, but neither of these speakers can decipher The Netherlands’ official language. To make it even worse, the Dutch speak German, English and French better than your high school language teacher.
Upon moving to Amsterdam I bet against this royal flush and learned Dutch, even though the official office language is English. The large payoff from learning the language of my new country was not just being able to read my telephone bill or order coffee, but five unexpected professional payoffs. These took me three long years to finally realize, so you’re winning big time with this five-minute summary.
Commitment to Position or Company
If your company relocated you to a new country, they already love you. They believe in you. Really. Absorbing as much as possible on and off the job counts towards your overall success. Learning the language demonstrates your commitment, and even appreciation, of the unique situation you’ve earned. The golden ticket is in your hand, so make the most out of it!
Proven Ability to Learn a Language
There might be an opportunity that comes up in Italy, but snap, you don’t know Italian. Before completing a Duolingo crash course prior to your interview, consider what languages you do know. Showing that you learned Dutch, as an example, for cultural reasons proves that you can and will learn another language if necessary.
Gets Your Learning Gears Going
Learning a language is yoga for the brain. Once flexible, you’ll find your mind trying to understand what others are saying in airports abroad, even if you don’t know the language. Dutch opened up my curiosity to Germanic and Nordic languages. When in Stockholm, I at least know utgång, which is very similar to Dutch’s uitgang, means exit. Step one of many.
Rank Higher in Expat Scale
Being an expat pretty much brands you as a ticking time bomb. Your intentions are unclear to many and your long-term schedule unwritten. Your strengthen in the native language gets you bonus expat points. Locals respect you a bit more and – this is a big plus - you can understand what your colleagues are saying.
Capable to Deal with Local Clients
Even if your company deals in English, learning the local language will open up possibilities later down the line. There’s a strong chance a percentage of clients deal in the local language. Showing your proficiency in the native tongue can mean the difference when under consideration for a management position. You’ll also find even if a meeting is in English, many times side conversations are not.
We live in a global economy, but still local offices are, well, local. Sensitivity to location shows a degree of empathy that writes commitment and leadership across your forehead. So go ahead and try. Whatever level your language learning gets to will be appreciated.