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Olea’s 6-step strategy for UK teens to future-proof their career.

I’ll tell you the secret straight up, it’s language learning. 

Initially, I wanted to write an article suggesting all the fun careers you could do with languages, but for most of you reading this, your future career doesn’t exist yet! The future is not guaranteed, but your actions and habits right now are. 

Invest in future you. 

Learn a language.

Here’s how. 

Did you know that on average, Erasmus students have better employability skills after a stay abroad than 70% of all students? Or that the economic costs of “language ignorance” in the UK were estimated at up to £48bn in 2006, or 3.5% of national income? Yikes, right? I know I sound like a boomer, but stay with me here. 

There is serious money to be made once you have another language under your belt, and persevering with a foreign language to A Level could future-proof your career for life. 

Besides the obvious of expanding your opportunities in terms of where you can work, language learning enhances your ability to think more creatively, to multitask, to empathise etc. As the world becomes more techy, having another language will distinguish you as unique, competitive, and more adaptable in uncertain and ever-changing environments. 

I’ve put together a six-step strategy so that you can discover what language you like the most, stick with it, and then fully leverage that language to unlock more exciting, more lucrative, and more adventurous opportunities. Here goes.

Step 1/ Think global  

There is a language for everyone, and it may well be the case that if you aren’t enjoying languages at school, it’s because French, Spanish or German are not the right language for you as an individual. Brexit was a bummer for British social mobility in Europe. An utter, total, massive bummer. But if there is one thing that this nation is very skilled at, it’s keeping calm and carrying on. 

So, we must now get creative. Think about what foreign food you like, what music you gravitate towards, what Netflix series you enjoy. Korean? Catalan? Mandarin? At the time of writing, there are 7,139 languages in the world. That’s a lot to choose from.

Challenge: Head to Google Maps, pick up the little man in the right-hand corner, drop him into a random part of the world, and start exploring the streets. 

Step 2/ Visualise 

In the year 2124, visualisation will (hopefully) be on the national curriculum due to its incredible power to strengthen human determination and drive. For now though, I’ll have to do this undercover. 

Before you get stuck into a language learning session, whether at school or at home, spend 5 minutes visualising yourself speaking the language fluently (even if you don’t understand the words); your brain will start to knock down walls of insecurity, discomfort, and embarrassment.

As far as your brain is concerned, the “end goal” of your language learning journey is in sight. This will also reframe your language learning approach towards more of a “growth mindset”. Instead of thinking “I can’t do it”, think, “I can’t do it YET”. 

Challenge: Draw a multilingual timeline with language milestones you want to achieve within your lifetime. It might be via the CERF framework e.g. A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. Feel free to get creative with this and celebrate all your language milestones so far! 

Step 3/ Habit formation 

Once you have found your language soul mate, the hard part begins: habit formation. I highly (highly) recommend reading Atomic Habits if you haven’t already. It will change your life.

When it comes to language learning, you need to find ways to incorporate your foreign language into your routine so that it becomes a part of your daily existence. Here is a list of tips (not taken from Chat GPT) that I have implemented myself with French and Mandarin over the years.

  1. For one week, take notes of all the times you were completely relaxed. E.g. reading / watching Netflix / hanging out with friends etc. Little by little, you can then integrate your language into these situations to create a positive association. 

  2. Change your phone language …but take a video of the process in case you can’t change it back.

  3. Download language reactor which will put foreign language subtitles on all YouTube / Netflix videos etc. Link here:

  4. Write down 4 x lists of commonly used verbs / adjectives and save them as your phone background every week. You will become familiar with them by the end of the month. 

  5. Change your alarm clock to a foreign language podcast or radio. Even if you can’t understand it, you will become more attuned to the sound of the language.

  6. Post It notes! Label everything around the house in the foreign language. 

  7. Follow only foreign language accounts so that when you get stuck in a TikTok / Instagram rabbit hole, you’re at least exposed to a foreign language.

  8. Text Chat GPT in your target language. Sounds weird but it’s pretty effective. 

The point here is that habit formation should be as effortless as possible, so much so that over time you don’t realise the extent to which your language has become an integral part of your life. 

Challenge: Try at least two of the above.

Step 4/ Your community 

Humans are social creatures; when you are getting started, I strongly recommend finding friends to establish little study groups as well as making friends with natives directly. You might initially have to communicate with hand gestures, but getting creative with communication will be an experience in itself, and incredibly funny. 

When you are more advanced, you’ll see that speaking another language fluently will change your personality. Yup, you read that right. Imagine having a different personality in a different language. Your friendships will be slightly different. When you touch down in another country, it feels like you’ve changed your skin, your eyes, your senses. Everything is different; you enter a new world.

As the world becomes more uncertain, being able to communicate and empathise with people in their native language will go a long way. Trust me. You’ll stand out as the Brit who went above and beyond to learn another language … when you didn’t have to. 

Challenge: As you’ll see with Private Joke ®, exploring languages will open your mind, enhance your personality, and make you the life and soul of the party! Two of these three prompts exist as a single foreign language word. Can you guess which one doesn't?

Step 5/ Resilience 

Making it through the hurdles of foreign language learning will be a real testament to your resilience, ambition and perseverance. There will be times when you want to give up, when you embarrass yourself, or when you feel less able than those around you. This is character building, and it will mark you as unique. If you learn another language, you can do anything you set your mind to.

Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

When you learn another language, your personality is enriched. It's like your soul multiplies (shout out to my Harry Potter fans). You don’t have to learn 18 languages. Just one (in addition to English) is enough. But if you're going to do it, go all the way and get stuck in.

Challenge: Set yourself the challenge of learning 3 new words a day for one week. Keep a diary of how this went and try to work out what stopped you from committing to this challenge.

Step 6/ Be creatively competitive 

The sixth step of our process is revealed in Olea Createahton workshops, where we demonstrate all the ways humans learning languages are more powerful than AI robots. Ultimately, we believe that students’ competitive advantage is their personality, creativity, and interpersonal / intercultural communication skills. All of which are elicited through language learning. 

Schools: Email Olive at olivia@oleaeducation to book now.

Students: I hope this demonstrates that through language-learning, you also become more resilient, communicative, confident, empathetic and ambitious. There are never any negative effects of learning a new language. 

Yes it can be a challenge, but nothing worth having comes easy. 

Author: Olive Halsall, Founder @ Olea


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