We have never been more of a global community than we are now. With increased communication, the Internet, and international trade, knowing a foreign language is a highly desirable skill that will make your résumé shine.
Which language should you learn?
Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish are in high demand right now. According to ALTA, a global language service, the top five languages to know are: English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). There are 350 million native Spanish speakers globally, and it is the second primary language spoken in the U.S. There are 880 million speakers of Mandarin Chinese—that is 20% of the world’s population. Arabic is the official language of 20 countries with 250 million speakers worldwide. The Modern Language Association (MLA) says that enrollments in Chinese and Arabic are on the rise and are two of the top ten most popular languages for college students in the U.S.
According to the CNN article “Say Again? Business Benefits of a Second Language,” many CEOs of global companies in the U.S. are actually native speakers of Japanese, Arabic, German, Chinese, Hebrew, and French, and high-level executives place great importance on the ability to speak multiple languages. In some industries, speaking a second or third language is becoming a job requirement.
Even if you are not sure where you want to go in your life, know that you will have options—and they are not limited to translation. Any major corporation with locations abroad will need bilingual or multilingual employees. Many government jobs, such as the State Department or FBI, also need people who can speak more than one language. Other careers that benefit from speaking multiple languages include teaching, social services, tourism, and hospitality. Other, less obvious, industries that need foreign language speakers include: sales and marketing, law enforcement, medical fields, banking, and insurance.
In general, you can expect to earn a higher salary if you know a second language. A 2005 U.S. survey conducted by Rosetta Stone found that Americans who speak at least one foreign language make, on average, $10,000 more per year than those who don’t. The same survey found that 17% of people who speak at least one foreign language earn more than $100,000 per year. Even the Department of Defense has raised the pay for service members proficient in another language. According to the American Forces Press Service, monthly pay for language proficient active duty members increased from $300 to $1000.
Traditionally, schools teach languages based on grammar and vocabulary, but one of the best ways to learn a language effectively is by total immersion. Programs like Rosetta Stone are an excellent, affordable way to learn using the immersion method. Plus, you can learn at your own pace and on your own schedule.
If you’re still not convinced, consider this: you are more likely to have clear communication or make a sale if you pursue your clients by speaking their language. A foundation for trust can be built very quickly if two people can communicate easily. The ability to build confidence and converse with international clients is invaluable; executives are very aware of this fact and are more likely to hire someone with this capability than one without. Employers also notice admirable character qualities like drive and determination, which are required to learn a foreign language well. Speaking a second language shows that you have great interest in other cultures, a positive trait in global marketing. Adding a language to your résumé is impressive; you’ll soon reap the benefits of your hard work.
Sarah Wimberly is a Florida native, librarian, and recent graduate of Mississippi College.
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