One experience at BARcamp Chicago stood out for me – it was unusual for me. I’m not one to take part in multiuser dungeons (MUDs), or anything of the sort. However, one person who was ran into a person who spoke no English, but spoke French.
Now I speak passable French, and can type, so I become a sort of interpreter. Thus, here I was conversing with (it turned out) a Belgian and helping the two gameplayers to converse.
Learning a foreign language can be a benefit, and it can help you professionally as well. One notable time was when I helped my employer (a bank) to understand a French check that was returned for non-sufficent funds (in English, NSF).
There are a lot of foreign language technical resources as well – don’t forget to visit them and try to understand them if you have the knowledge. If you don’t, then use services like Babelfish to translate them.
If you know a foreign language, keep it up by listening to it often and reading foreign language news. You can start to lose some of your proficiency if you don’t. You can listen to foreign language podcasts, or read foreign language newspapers online, or attempt to read or edit online foreign language wiki entries – or even read foreign language corporate sites.
Here are some possible resources (using French, Spanish, and Russian as examples) – search Google for others.
- LeMonde – A French newspaper
- Microsoft France
- French Wikipedia
- Spanish Wikipedia
- Microsoft Spain
- El Pais – a premier Spanish newspaper
- Pravda – a Russian newspaper
- Microsoft Russia
- Russian Wikipedia
Many sites can be found just by using the appropriate domain: the Esperanto Wikipedia would be at http://eo.wikipedia.org, Apple Germany at http://www.apple.de, and Microsoft Germany at http://www.microsoft.de. You could even use Google France (http://www.google.fr) or Amazon France (http://www.amazon.fr) to search for more French materials, for example.
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