Bilingual Advantage: Speak Up And Boost Your Career
As several Democratic presidential candidates shifted both easily and uneasily into Spanish on the national debate stages recently, the practice highlighted the advantage of fluently speaking two or more languages for your career.
As a leader, the ability to speak more than your native language is an asset that you can use to upgrade your profile. If you are fluent in more than one language, you can accurately communicate your agility, without overstating your fluency. Definitely include it on your resume.
Babbel reports that several successful women leaders speak multiple languages in addition to English, including Indira Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsico who speaks Tamil; Serena Williams, tennis and business superstar who speaks French, Italian and Spanish; Natalie Portman, actor and humanitarian, who speaks Hebrew, Spanish, French, German and Japanese; Shakira, singer who was named to the Forbes 100 list, who speaks Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian.
The ability to speak more than one language fluently in business is powerful in your value to clients, customers and business partners locally and globally.
So how can you use your multilingual capacity to further your career?
According to Forbes, “In a recent survey of customers who use our software, we uncovered the difference speaking another language can make. Up to 35% of those responsible for hiring or managing people in our survey reported that an employee’s proficiency in another language resulted in the following actions” including job offer, job interview, promotion, pay raise.
“A clear majority of those surveyed who hold a job, nearly 54%, said that knowing another language is important in their current position, while as many as 35% cited future job prospects as their motivation for using our language-learning software,” Forbes reports.
In the U.S., many consider Spanish automatically as language of bilinguals, perhaps because an estimated 52.6 million people in the United States speak Spanish, with that number projected to increase to 132.8 million by 2050, according to reports.
But of course, multiple languages from across the globe including French, Russian, Mandarin, Arabic, Portuguese, German, Hindi, Japanese, Korean and dozens more are also key to advancement in many different fields from tech to transportation, hospitality, finance, STEM, journalism, communications, philanthropy, government, security and education.
One study estimates “the ability to speak French could come with a wage increase of about 2.7%.” Other languages can bring an increase of up to 4 percent in salary.
According to Janet Fowler writing in Investopedia, “As the face of international business changes, so do the languages used to communicate. Shifts in economic strength have certainly impacted the most popular languages used to communicate within international business, and it certainly has impacted the popularity of enrollments in second language courses in colleges and universities. Though it may be difficult to predict exactly how learning a second language will impact your overall earnings, there is little doubt that it does help to improve your overall employability.”
Of course careers in all parts of the world are also influenced by secondary languages. For instance, in India, “A recent study by job search engine Adzuna shows studying foreign languages can land you a lucrative job with a high salary. Of the 10 languages analyzed, Chinese speakers are the highest paid, earning more than double the average yearly salary in India,” according to India Today.
According to a 2015 Kiplinger report, “More jobs require Chinese than any other foreign language except Spanish. And Mandarin is only the seventh-most-popular language studied by American undergrads, according to a recent report by the Modern Language Association of America. The State Department, in its description of Mandarin as a ‘critical language’ for Americans, cites a high demand for Chinese speakers in booming Asian economies, including China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.”
Business Insider reports, “Researchers have uncovered that people who speak more than one language are better at something called inhibitory control, which involves being able to filter out irrelevant stimuli and to develop more measured responses to events. In addition to an increased attention span, learning a new language can benefit your work in other ways, including being able to connect with a greater number of people, and gaining a new perspective on the world.”
If you speak only your native language, you can consider learning a second language whether that is through an app such as Babbel, Rosetta Stone, Duolingo or other language learning apps.
Whether you are a fluent speaker of many languages, a solid linguist or at the early stages of another language, your ability to dive into another culture and communicate with international partners is desirable for employers.
The Guardian reports, “Lizzie Fane, founder of thirdyearabroad.com and globalgraduates.com, which helps connect young people with international career opportunities, advises expanding the detail of your language skills: “Your CV says you speak a language to a certain level but does it say you’ve worked in that foreign language five days a week? Or that you brought in new clients for the company because of your bilingual abilities?”
The value of speaking multiple languages may move beyond your career and benefit yourself and your own brain.
“A popular view is that over the course of a lifetime, a bilingual’s two languages constantly interact and in order to manage this competition, a bilingual’s executive function system, and the brain structures associated with it, will develop in ways that differ from a monolingual who faces no such pressures,” Francois Grosjean writes in Psychology Today.“Consequently, as we age and experience age-related cognitive decline, the bilingual brain is more resistant to the neurodegeneration that occurs.”