We will be in Korea for two years, and we don’t know where we will be heading after we leave Seoul. I just spent many months studying Korean, and I’m now living and working in Korea, so you would think that I am busy studying more Korean. Au contraire! I’m busy studying another foreign language. "Why?" you might ask. Well, here’s why. Korean is primarily spoken in the two Koreas. I won’t be heading to North Korea anytime soon, and really there’s no other place I can really use my Korean unless I head to northeastern China or Los Angeles. Thus, I have to look ahead to the next two years when I know I’ll be heading to a place where another foreign language, perhaps English, is spoken.
Early next year I will bid on assignments around the world. I can bid on jobs that require English or Chinese, my second language, or I can tackle learning another language. To maximize my chances of landing a good assignment, I’ve decided to polish two other languages I’ve previously studied, Spanish and German. If I can improve my speaking and reading in both languages, I will qualify for additional training in those languages should I be chosen for an assignment that requires Spanish or German. I decided to focus first on Spanish because the number of Spanish-required assignments worldwide exceed German-required assignments. Moreover, German-speaking locations such as Germany and Switzerland tend to be highly competitive (who doesn’t want to work in Zurich or Berlin?). Should I be successful in improving both Spanish and German I may also try to improve my French. I took all three European languages years ago in high school and college, but I have not used them in years. I have not studied Spanish for over 15 years. Still, the level I am required to speak and read Spanish to receive additional training is not much higher than where my level is now. Learning Korean, one of the world’s most difficult languages for English speakers, has emboldened me to tackle Spanish and German, languages I consider far easier to learn. My challenge now is to find adequate resources to polish these languages before I retest. Spanish and German resources in English, not Korean, may be a bit difficult to find. I have about one year to improve both of them and retest in each language before I bid on my next assignment.
While I want to continue improving (or at least keep from backsliding) my Korean, I believe that I now need to place higher priority on learning another language for my next assignment. I will continue to take Korean classes one hour per day at work and try to study other languages at home. That is one of the unfortunate aspects of working in a job that moves you often. You sometimes have to focus more on where you’re going than on where you are now.