Multilingual Speakers Wanted: Job Demand Surges For The Next 5 Years
Learning a new language is not a skill reserved for translators. Although the US Department of Labor has estimated a steadily rising 42 percent increase in demand for interpreters, it turns out that learning a second language can actually prove advantageous for your career, even if you are pursuing a totally different career path to […]
Learning a new language is not a skill reserved for translators. Although the US Department of Labor has estimated a steadily rising 42 percent increase in demand for interpreters, it turns out that learning a second language can actually prove advantageous for your career, even if you are pursuing a totally different career path to roles within linguistics.
In fact, according to one research study, those possessing the ability to speak and understand a second language boosted their salary and job prospects by as much as 35 percent. Another study unearthed that nine out of 10 employers rely on employees that speak a language other than English, particularly when considering business development and expansion into new markets, with 56 percent reporting that their demand for bilingual and multilingual speakers will soar over the next five years.
Career benefits of learning more than one language
Oxford-trained linguistics expert Ben Whately, who is also co-founder of language learning platform Memrise, shared his thoughts on why now is the best time to learn a new language:
"Optionality is a huge advantage. It literally opens new worlds for you. There are more jobs available to you, for example, if you speak Spanish. You can collaborate with people in different countries. This is especially attractive for the younger generation now—the lure of traveling around the world," Whately explains. "Gaining those kinds of international experiences is enormous for your resume."
The ability to speak more than native English places you at a competitive advantage in the rush for talent, especially as employers seek to expand their operations globally, or even broaden their reach into multilingual domestic markets. This naturally boosts your career prospects and your earning potential, as employers are willing to pay a premium where there is great demand but comparatively little supply.
Job security and career progression
You might find yourself better positioned for a promotion or other opportunity because you understand a foreign language, and can therefore be trusted to be the face of your company and handle foreign transactions. This further solidifies your career where otherwise you could be at risk of losing your job, and promises a bright future for your professional development.
Do I need to be fluent?
The good news is no, you don't need to be fluent to experience these amazing career opportunities. "It's tempting to think, 'I need to be fluent,'" Whately says. "You don't need to be fluent because actually, the conversations that you have in any given work context are relatively limited."
Whately recalled the time he lived and worked in northern China, where he led a factory that restored Chinese army motorbikes and resold them to the US. The linguistics expert didn't have a full grasp of the Chinese language back then, but he knew just enough to communicate in that business context.
"There were certain things that came up all the time, for example export taxes," he explains, "and I needed to talk about those. So for example, let's say there are professionals who want to learn to be able to talk with their Chinese factory suppliers. They just need to know a very limited amount of Chinese that is relevant to imports and exports."
Try a not-so-popular language to make yourself in demand
After all, almost everyone thinks of Spanish, French, or German when it comes to learning new languages. This tends to saturate the market, where there is demand for other languages but they are not being touched. Why not try learning something unique so you can truly polish your unique selling point as a star candidate and as a professional? Whately believes you stand to gain more from very specific career opportunities.
"If you go to Lithuania, and you've got that ability and you're a native English speaker, you can speak Lithuanian. You have a very big advantage in a very specific area. So it's quite an interesting balance. People often think of it as just a numbers game. But actually the edge is less high than it is where the language is spoken by fewer people."
Think about what contexts you need to be able to grasp, for example job interviews or certain corporate or trading settings, and master them. "I think pieces of paper are not very highly valued qualifications because everyone's done a language exam and knows that even if they did well in their language exam, they still didn't speak the language. That's not persuading anybody, right? But if you are able to actually try the situational context and speak in that context, you prove you're a better person for the job and you increase your confidence."
Article written by: Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family.
Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.