“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” ‒ Nelson Mandela
Language learning was once considered as a mere hobby. But, as the world continues to become increasingly connected, learning a foreign language (other than English) is considered a necessity.
Multilingualism is good for any economy. Approximately 1.5 billion people around the world speak English, whether as their native tongue or as a foreign language, and this number is still growing. What about the other 5.5 billion people who don’t speak any English at all?
Not only does learning a foreign language provide personal fulfilment, but it can also provide a career boost along with substantial financial reward. For instance, in Florida, workers who speak both Spanish and English earn $7,000 per year more than those who only speak English. Then, according to a Canadian study, bilingual men earn 3.6% and bilingual women earn 6.6% more than their English-only peers.
In this post, Anuradha Dutta will talk about the importance of learning a foreign language and which are the best foreign languages to learn in today’s job market.
Foreign Languages as a Key Skill Set in Today’s Globalised Job Market
By Anuradha Dutta
Knowing a foreign language can be an added advantage, and sometimes even the sole advantage, especially in a job where knowing a particular language is a desired skill. It is a skill that can be developed alongside other academic pursuits and even professional career.
For students, the best time to learn a foreign language can be in college as it prepares them for a variety of career options which may require knowledge of a particular language as a compulsory or desired skill. Knowing a language, such as German can help access advanced courses at a fraction of cost in a country like Germany than an English speaking country like the US or UK. This apart, knowing a foreign language like Spanish can help you to directly communicate with a large population and relate to them at cultural levels.
Who can Learn a Foreign Language?
We cannot say there is a certain age to restrict your learning path, more so in case of learning a new language. To be able to speak a foreign language can be an exciting experience for anybody. If the idea of learning a new language excites you, it is a reason enough to go for it. If you do not have a fascination for a particular language, the language you choose to learn should depend on your objective. If it’s more than a hobby that you are looking for, learn a language that matches your career goals or at least sets it in a direction.
How to Learn a Foreign Language?
Mastering a foreign language requires focus. It requires consistent effort just as you would need in achieving any task, for example, meeting weight loss targets. If you have been lured by one of those courses which claim to make you fluent in a few weeks or months, you would end up learning a few general phases but proficiency in the language would remain elusive.
Regular study and revision are like exercise and diet plan that you have to stick to achieve long-lasting results. The main ingredient here would be a regularity. Practising every day or at the most, every two days is essential to succeed in your language learning goals. A study conducted on students enrolled in various language courses has shown, a gap bigger than this has eventually resulted in their abandoning the course altogether.
According to language instructors, students who study for a fixed period of time every day and stick to a consistent number of lessons are found to be successful learners.
Why Learn a Foreign Language?
The importance of learning a foreign language is more than you think. People who are fluent in at least one foreign language are considered valuable human capital for a country. A country can give its economy a boost of billion dollars if it invests in developing a workforce fluent in a foreign language.
The multilingual workforce can be an asset for any company, which intends to expand its business in foreign lands. In fact, many companies would only employ multilingual employees due to their international business operations. While local translators are sometimes employed, most companies want their top employees to be fluent in the native language of their country of operation.
Languages open up a new world for the speakers, for they not only help to communicate but also connect the speakers to the speakers on a cultural level. It is far easier to develop a deeper understanding of the customs, beliefs, ideas and information when one is familiar with the language of its people.
As more and more business trying to reach out to a bigger market, the significance of knowing another language can be hardly exaggerated. Many companies not only want their employees to be able to deliver in diverse cultural environments.
Language is a core cultural element and speaking the same language is a great way to gain the trust and confidence of your clients and customers.
Hence, knowing a foreign language can help you to become a star-employee.
Effective communication is the key to building long-lasting relationships with clients. What can be a better way of achieving it than communicating in the language of those we intend to impress. English is the language of international business, but other languages such as French, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, and Russian can help close deals on more profitable terms.
How do Foreign Languages help you to Get an Edge over other Job Seekers?
Bilingual job seekers are preferred over ordinary candidates. Again, in the globalised environment, no business survives in isolation and is continuously on the look to penetrate overseas markets or at least get a comparative advantage that other countries may provide. This can be available in any sector, including law, communication, tourism, banking, retail, public relation, sales, manufacturing, education, logistics and warehousing.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Estimate, demand for translators and interpreters is going to increase by 42%. While this indicates a good scope for those interested in making a career as an interpreter or translator, it also shows how important it would be to earn proficiency in a foreign language. Read why knowing a foreign language makes you more employable.
More jobs and a better chance of being hired
Lack of multilingual employees keeps a corporation from doing business in a foreign country. This is what the British Chamber of Commerce reveals. It says, more than 60% of companies can’t take a leap abroad as they don’t have employees who can speak the language of the country where new opportunities are available.
Export companies; specifically look for candidates fluent in a foreign language. Being able to speak a foreign language automatically places you ahead of other applicants. For example, India is the biggest exporter to Germany among European countries and therefore knowing German can increase your chances of being hired in the export sector.
In countries like the US where the population is of mixed ethnicity, landing a job becomes easier when you are multilingual. As Spanish is the mother tongue of over 10% of the US citizens, knowing the language makes you an attractive proposition.
With the growing number of BPOs, KPOs and multinationals, it is easier to get a well-paid job in India in the IT industry as these companies offer services to companies that have customers across the world.
According to experts, a person who can speak a foreign language can easily get paid 10% higher. This is mainly because not many people are capable of speaking a foreign language which increases the demand of search workers. As they come with more than just the needed qualification, any company would want to hire them with more than just the usual pay.
In the US the multilingual or bilingual employees can earn over a thousand US dollars. In India, jobseekers proficient in languages like French and Spanish can get a starting salary of Rs 50,000 in companies like Amazon, according to a post on Quora. Language teachers can start at Rs 60,000. And, what more? Housewives and retired persons can earn Rs. 500 to Rs. 700 per hour giving tuitions.
Opportunities in Career Growth
Multinational companies need their officials to travel overseas to oversee operations or close deals on foreign lands. They want to build a relationship with the natives to secure their business prospects in the overseas markets and employees who are fluent in the specific language. Multilingual employees bring to a company a lot of liberty in terms of opportunities abroad and establish operations.
If you just have a working knowledge of a foreign language, still you can expect to have a competitive edge over your competitors. The reason is simple. While most companies would hire translators and interpreters, they would still need officials who can communicate with clients and meet and greet them without much inhibition.
Communicative skills in a foreign language are always effective in ensuring higher wages, job security and advancement in your career path.
Top Foreign Languages to Learn
If you have made up your mind to skill yourself in a foreign language, it would be suitable to make an informed decision to ensure it helps you get a competitive edge in your career.
Let’s check out the top foreign languages that can maximise your chances of getting hired for the top positions:
Apart from Spain, the language of the Spaniards is spoken in Ecuador, Bolivia, Panama, Paraguay, Venezuela, Guatemala, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Colombia, El Salvador, Cuba, Honduras, Uruguay, Peru, Equatorial Guinea, Puerto Rico, Chile, Costa Rica and Argentina.
The language is also spoken in US, Gibraltar, Belize and Andorra by a large population though not as an official language.
Spanish is the native language of 470 million people and the language has at least 100 million non-native speakers.
This language occupies the top position as it covers almost entire South America, apart from the US and of course, Spain the country of its origin.
The national language of China is spoken by 70 per cent of the natives or around 1 billion people. Another 200 million people, who are non-native, speak Mandarin Chinese.
China is the 2nd largest economy in the world, and it plays a significant role in the world economy. The country has offices and manufacturing units of some of the biggest companies in the world, making Chinese speaking employees one of the most sought after people.
Knowing French was indicative of elite and polished society. While this may still be true, the language is being learnt by a large number of people for various reasons. France is the hub of high fashion, the best food, wine and cheese and art in every form. Hundreds of students reach France to study and learn all this and enrich themselves for the rest of their lives.
With 80 million native French speakers and 153 million non-native speakers from countries like Sweden, Canada, Congo, Madagascar, Djibouti and others, the language allows plenty of scopes for its speakers to work and interact with the people of at least 51 countries across the globe.
Over the years Arabic has gained importance, owing to the economic activities and development of the tourism industry in the middle-east region. The official language of the region can better the prospect of lucrative jobs for those who have at least some knowledge of Arabic. Fluency can improve the scope even further.
Arabic is the in the official language of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Algeria, Sudan, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Morocco, Mauritania. Being oil-rich, middle east continues to attract political and economic leaders of the world and much of the international decisions are strategised based on the state of affairs of this region. Hence it goes without saying that professional with the knowledge of the language would be in demand.
Arabic has 290 million native speakers and 132 million non-native speakers.
With 110 million native speakers and 52 million non-native speakers, German makes to the list of top languages that job-seekers can learn. Countries like Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein also have German as their official language. German speakers are also present in countries like Russia, Romania, Poland, Italy, Czech Republic, Brazil, Ukraine, etc.
Germany is one of the top seats of higher learning and university education is cheap for foreign students also. Being conversant in this language can be extremely beneficial for students seeking to get admission in the top universities of the world.
Further, India has a great deal of economic interest in this country. Being the biggest importer of Indian product among the European countries, German can definitely help in bolstering one’s career.
Even though just 63 million native and 3 million non-native people speak Italian, the language is being studied the most among the foreign language. The rich cultural heritage of Italy which are reflected by its art, architecture, history, music, is the reason why people learn the language.
The official language of Italy is also one of the official languages of Switzerland, Croatia, Slovenia, Vatican City and San Marino.
It is also spoken in eight other countries, including Germany, Greece, Belgium and France.
The bottom line is that foreign language skills continue to be in demand, in particular, “contextual language learning for specific purposes (i.e for managers, engineers, international marketing and sales)”.
Author Bio: Anuradha is business, health and education journalist. She is an avid reader and loves to travel. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.