5 Reasons Why Learning a Foreign Language Helps Your Career (and Makes You a Better Person)
“A special kind of beauty exists which is born in language, of language, and for language.”
- Gaston Bachelard
Language was developed tens of thousands of years ago as a way for humans to relay information and express emotions. We rely on it so much that we can forget it is there. Language is the most basic tool of our everyday lives and one of the most complex, something we use to make our grocery lists or write poetry. It is easy to take language for granted, even though once we learn a language, it becomes the key instrument through which we process and understand the world.
It's no surprise then that mastery of language is a valuable skill for any job. Learning more than one language is more beneficial and can advance your career by further enhancing your hard and soft skills. Not only does language acquisition help you perform better at your assigned tasks at work, but it also comes with intangible benefits that will make you a sought-after employee in your field. Or maybe for your dream job!
Companies today have an ever-expanding reach around the globe, and many have international offices or business partners. Not only do they need to find ways to appeal to foreign clients and customers, but they must find ways to engage an increasingly multicultural population in their home countries. With the recent surge in remote work, the chances of working with overseas colleagues grow every day. This trend gives candidates who know a foreign language a distinct advantage in the job market. And this goes beyond the language piece. Learning a new language increases cultural awareness, which allows you to build better overall business relationships.
Here are five reasons learning a new language can help you and your career.
1. You Become More Competitive in the Job Market
Foreign language skills are increasingly valuable to companies. A recent study found that one-third of companies depend highly on language skills other than English. Of those companies, only one-third reported current employees were meeting their needs. Many companies meet their translation needs with employees whose primary functions are not directly related to language or interpretation. As a highly sought-after skill, knowledge of a second language can boost your marketability and move your resume up to the top of the pile.
Moreover, knowledge of another language is turning from a nice-to-have into a must-have for companies. Two-thirds of employers surveyed said a second language qualifies as one of the "basic skills" they look for in candidates. This skill will only increase in importance as we move further into the 21st century.
Knowledge of a foreign language also demonstrates cultural awareness, another plus for companies with international customers. By studying another language, you show how you can navigate cultural expectations and relationships with colleagues, clients, and customers abroad.
"One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way."
- Frank Smith
2. You Have More Opportunities in Your Career
When you study a foreign language, you will have more opportunities to advance or shift your career.
1. You Will Be Extra Appealing to Global Companies
More and more companies are expanding their reach and have international offices and a global customer base. Bilingual employees bring added value with their knowledge of social customs grows along with knowledge of a language. Although it's difficult to calculate the money a business can lose due to misunderstandings and poor translations, these mistakes can easily damage its reputation in foreign markets. Or at least cause an embarrassing blunder (as anyone who decided not to buy IKEA's FARTFULL workbench might tell you.)
The same is true for dealing directly with foreign business partners. Even if all communication is in English, there is still a chance for someone to misinterpret motivations or attempts at problem-solving. Knowledge of a foreign language will clue you into cultural nuances and different patterns of behavior. Careful research will help you build trust with foreign counterparts and become an invaluable team member. It could also set you up for an adventure if you want to travel or move abroad.
2. You Can Change Your Career
Fluency in a foreign language will also make it easy to change your career path. It will provide easy entry into rapidly growing fields. Some of the top jobs for bilingual and multilingual people are:
2. Customer Service Representative
3. Hospitality Manager
4. Human Resources Specialist
5. Flight Attendant
8. Healthcare Professional
9. Social Worker
10. Marketing Manager
11. Information Technology Consultant
Other industries searching for bilingual or multilingual employees are the military (which constantly seeks recruits with foreign language skills), tourism, national security, and international development. The Peace Corps and the Foreign Service also want bilingual recruits.
3. You Have Unexpected Job Opportunities
If you are someone searching for your dream job, knowledge of a foreign language can help you realize that dream sooner rather than later. There is no end to the ways you could apply this skill to make you look like a strong candidate. It may even open doors you didn't know existed. Have you ever considered being a…?
1. Video Game Translator
Nintendo and other game developers are always looking for people to translate their games
for foreign audiences.
2. Brand Specialist
Corporations with global reach need employees skilled in translation and marketing to communicate their brands to customers worldwide.
3. Fashion Buyer
Fashion has always been a global industry.
International companies need employees who can thrive in a multicultural environment. What better way to recognize successful candidates with these skills than to be one yourself?
Knowledge of a second language will make you a strong candidate for any position. ReDefiners offers flexible courses in four of the five most in-demand languages for employers: Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic, and English.
3. You Make More Money
Learning a second language increases your chances of getting a job and the amount you are paid when you get that job. Many factors determine how much extra pay a multilingual employee may receive, such as employment level, job functions, and the second language itself. Still, estimates range from a 2% increase to a 20% increase in salary.
You will also have a better chance at a promotion. Businesses seek multilingual candidates for leadership roles because they are often better at managing their teams and handling international client relationships.
Although the financial benefits are hard to qualify on the individual level, corporations are aware of the value multilingual employees have for their bottom line. A study in Switzerland found that multilingualism among its workers contributed a whopping 10% to its GDP. For some countries, a lack of multilingualism costs even more. In Great Britain, a lack of foreign-language proficiency cost the country as much as £48 billion, or 35% of their GDP.
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart."
- Nelson Mandela
4. You Increase Your Empathy
Language is not just the tool we use to express how we see the world; it also literally shades how we perceive things. A study conducted with both Japanese and English speakers found that the language the subject spoke influenced how they defined colors on a spectrum. Japanese speakers distinguish more between light and dark blues, for example. Bilinguals, those who spoke both Japanese and English, described colors the same way as the native speakers of the language they were using at the time.
The more familiar we are with another language, the more we can see the world from the perspective of those who speak it. That is, knowing another language increases your empathy, open-mindedness, and social initiative. The positive results also benefit those around you. A study showed that bilingual children and even children exposed to a second language (!) were better at interpreting the speaker's intentions and seeing things from another's perspective.
On a broader level, many agree that language and culture are inextricably linked. No translation can provide access to the full context that went into making a work of literature, a movie, or a newspaper article. This idea holds true for personal interactions and business dealings. Managers report struggling to build a rapport with foreign counterparts due to frequent miscommunications. This difficulty can lead them to make poor decisions based on incomplete or incorrect information.
For those of us that are native English speakers, we may feel we can get a long way with our fluency in the lingua-franca, but this confidence can backfire. Non-English speakers may view an overreliance on English as an unwillingness to compromise or, worse, arrogance. They may resent the expectation that they should accommodate your language preferences. Even acquiring a low level of fluency in a foreign language can go a long way towards showing non-native English speakers that you are eager to hear what they have to say. Practicing another language will help you become more aware of the colloquialisms sprinkled into your everyday speech. It allows native English speakers to remember that they and their references are not the center point of all conversations. For example, only knowledge of the full context of a culture (and baseball) would make a sentence like, "Since we need to cover all our bases" make sense to a non-American.
5. You Build Brain Power
Learning a new language also improves your cognitive functions. This improvement can impact your career and the overall quality of your life. Below are some benefits experienced by people who seek another language regularly. Even if you begin to study a new language late in life, you can still gain a level of fluency to reap the benefits.
1. You Improve Your Memory
The brain, like any muscle, needs to be worked out to grow stronger. Bilinguals are constantly negotiating between two languages, sometimes at a subconscious level, sorting through their knowledge to choose the right word for the right situation. Rather than inhibiting their ability to communicate, this makes them more efficient with executive functioning, or the skills we use to focus our attention and manage everyday tasks. These skills include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. We use these same parts of the brain when tackling non-language tasks and therefore benefit from "muscle memory."
A study comparing bilingual and monolingual children confirmed this. Bilingual children scored higher on tests measuring working memory than their monolingual counterparts. They continued to perform better on tasks that required a heavy memory load. (It's hard to believe there was a time when people thought bilingualism made children less intelligent!)
2. You Keep Your Brain Young
Research shows that brain functions like working memory, processing, and efficiency begin to decline around age 25. This decline only gets steeper as we age. Like bypass surgery, bilingualism can counter this deterioration by creating new pathways in your brain to route information and processes along. Researchers call this "cognitive compensation" and note the increased health of both white and grey matter of the brain caused by bilingualism.
Experts have seen the most significant impacts on older individuals. Studies suggest bilingualism can prevent the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms by up to four years. Some even hypothesize that language study for older adults can have a beneficial effect in stemming the effects of Alzheimer's and dementia.
3. You Make Better Decisions
Multilingual people tend to make more rational decisions by breaking down their thought processes.
1. They consider the matter twice, once in each language.
2. They check subconscious influences and cultural biases built into their language by thinking over a decision in their second language.
3. Since multilingual people are more perceptive, they filter out irrelevant or misleading information and focus on what matters.
Above all else, learning a new language shows potential employers that you have the initiative and are not afraid to take on new challenges and learn something new. A great way to get started is with ReDefiners language courses. We offer online and in-person courses in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic. Their flexible schedule allows for group or individual courses. Classes meet for one hour twice a week to keep you on track and offer flexible coursework and one-on-one meetings with the instructors for extra support. The time commitment varies to best serve your goals, whether as a Casual Learner, a Standard Learner, or an Intensive Learner.
Learn a new language with expertly guided instruction and engaging and interactive resources proven to get results. For more information about our classes, please visit www.redefinerswl.org or email us at email@example.com.