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Send Stacie an email; she will answer as many questions as she can here. Due to volume, she can’t respond to each email personally.

I don’t have a Kindle. How can I read Go Global!?

Many people write to me asking if Go Global! is available in any other format since they don’t a Kindle. I have GOOD news!

First, Go Global! Can be downloaded from Amazon, or iTunes. If you choose Amazon, you don’t need to have a Kindle, you can download the book for $5 and the relevant FREE app to read it on your PC, Mac, smart phone, iPad or other eReader. I published it as an eBook to keep the selling price low.

Second, due to popular demand, Go Global! will soon be released in paperback! The response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive, and I appreciate that some people just like to page through a “book.” It will be sold through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, PLUS you’ll be able to ask your local bookstore to order it. Keep an eye on this site for exact dates!

What language is best for students to take?

Many parents and students have asked me this question lately. With all the hoopla around China, shouldn’t all of our children be learning Mandarin? Not necessarily. While it’s true that Mandarin is the second most important business language to learn, according to a recent Bloomberg Rankings, many K-12 programs don’t offer it. But many do offer Spanish and French. So which to choose? If you look toward the Bloomberg Rankings, you’ll notice that French is second to Mandarin, followed by Arabic and then Spanish. But it’s hard to argue with the continued rise of Latin American economies so close to our borders, combined with the large percentage of Spanish speakers in the U.S. Spanish seems to be a natural second language for American students to learn. In fact Nicholas Kristof wrote an oped in the New York Times that I agree with wholeheartedly. He argues that “the language that will be essential for Americans and has far more day-to-day applications is Spanish. Every child in the United States should learn Spanish, beginning in elementary school.” Chinese ranks second after Spanish.

That’s the practical argument. What about actually learning a language? Most language teachers will tell you that it’s critically important for students to a) start learning any language, hopefully before the age of 14, and b) pursue what interests them. Becoming proficient takes a great deal of time, focus and study; many compare it to playing a musical instrument. It takes years and years of dedicated practice. So if your child can’t stand Spanish but loves French, that may be what makes him learn and enables him to become proficient. Just encourage him to stick with the language he takes.

In my family, my daughters had the opportunity to switch from Spanish to French in the sixth grade, after having taken five years of Spanish. My husband (who speaks French), and I wouldn’t let them switch; we wanted them to stay the course and, if they were truly interested, could add French in high school. They are, instead, adding Chinese before that because we’ve inspired in them an interest in Chinese culture, and we are fortunate to live in an excellent school district that values world languages.What matters is that they are studying another language and are interested; that’s half the battle. The other half is advocating for change within school systems across the country to begin teaching languages earlier.

What level of language proficiency makes a difference?

The combination of my last blog and the New York Times “Room for Debate” discussion sparked lots of comments and quite a few emails. Many comments came from students (and even a few parents) wondering how proficient or fluent they’ll need to be to differentiate themselves in the job market.

Let’s face it, it’s tough to achieve fluency and many of our students aren’t there. But that doesn’t mean they won’t become fluent – or that their current level of proficiency doesn’t matter. It does. It’s not just about learning to speak, read or write. Language also matters for appreciating cultures, connecting and building relationships around the world. Trying to speak, making the effort and, even if you’re not able to have a business conversation in another language, if you try, you’ve conquered a great deal.

Many employers may ask graduates if they speak another language. I always advise students to answer the question honestly and with as much information as possible. If it’s fluent, the answer “Yes” is obvious. If it’s proficient, say so and offer an example of what you’re doing to keep those skills sharp. If it’s a working knowledge, say so and offer, if appropriate, an additional point that you’re interested in learning more and feel that once you’re in the environment, your skills will improve. The fact that you have some level of a second or third language shows that you have aptitude, interest and potential. You probably don’t have to be ready to conduct an entire meeting in Mandarin the first day on the job.

If you don’t have second language skills, you can talk about your interest in a particular culture, provide an example of your global awareness or your experience volunteering, interning or working in a particular country and what you learned about that experience that will make you a great employee.

For more tips on improving your language skills and developing a global mindset, check out Go Global!

What will help improve chances of getting a job after graduation – more language study or business courses?

Of course, it depends, and so rather than answer one or the other, I recommend trying to find one avenue that offers both. For example, a volunteer assignment in China will both improve your Mandarin as well as offer some real-life experience on the ground. Teaching English or taking a short volunteer assignment with an NGO or not-for-profit organization will offer similar benefits. Experience is probably the most important qualification a graduate should have on his or her resume besides the degree.

Studying a foreign language is a hot topic and so language matters, especially if you have some skills, but why not search for a means to improve language skills AND get some real work experience to add to a resume. Or, if you plan on taking an intensive language assignment, look for an opportunity to work part-time or network with fellow Americans on the ground. It’s amazing how many connections are made if you’re in a country where you’re considering launching a career.

Another tip for soon-to-be graduates: Take a business course or two before you graduate even if you don’t plan on going into business. Business makes the world go ‘round and so even if you’re an engineer, a linguist or an international affairs major, a basic understanding of business will help. If you don’t have time, then start paying attention to business news. Read business periodicals, follow international stock markets, check out websites and Twitter feeds of companies within industries you’re interested in. Even if you don’t think you’re going into business, you probably will be affected by the business world.