Graduates like you have forever been faced with question marks staring them down at the end of their commencement walk. “What will the future hold for me?” “Am I ready for what’s to come?” “Is my cap on straight?” Like millions of graduates before you, you’ve done your best to prepare for what’s to come, and you’ve followed the advice of your parents and counselors—even that of old friends or trusted resources. As the industry leader in language learning, we’d like to give you and the rest of this year’s grads some advice that we see as paramount for succeeding in this ever-global world:
Learn a foreign language.
You may be wondering, “But why should I learn another language?” Well, it turns out that there are a lot of reasons.
Being bilingual or multilingual helps you stay competitive in the job market.
In the business world, speaking a second language shows that you have flexible and far-reaching communication skills. It also gives you an advantage over colleagues and competitors who are monolingual, and it shows you’re willing—and able—to learn something new, even though it may be a challenging task. Not only does accomplishing a task like learning a foreign language look great on a resume, but studies show that people who are multilingual make better business decisions, and those who speak another language are highly sought after in industries across the board.
Translators and interpreters are expected to be one of the 15 fastest growing occupations in the nation, according to the Department of Labor.
Annalyn Kurtz, CNNMoney
Research shows that bilinguals make better decisions.
When people who speak more than one language are faced with large decisions—for instance, those that are moral or financial—they are more analytical than emotional. Researchers have observed that people with a broader lingual view take the high road—whether they’re university students deciding between taking a chance on a coin toss versus investing in a 401(k), or individuals faced with choosing to save one or many lives in an impending accident.
Researchers say their results have important implications for decision-making processes in a globalized world. Taking into account the influence of using foreign languages . . . could help us check our responses to everyday moral dilemmas.
Carl Engelking, Discover
Bilinguals have better perception and multitasking skills
People who are skilled with switching from one language to another are particularly good at performing multiple tasks at once. In a study performed at Penn State University, cognitive development was found to be stronger in bilinguals – who juggle between languages – in all age groups.
Recent research indicates that bilingual speakers can outperform monolinguals . . . in certain mental abilities, such as editing out irrelevant information and focusing on important information. . . . These skills make bilinguals better at prioritizing tasks and working on multiple projects at one time.
Perception of one’s surroundings is just as important in business as it is in life, which is why it’s important to point out that bilinguals are naturally exposed to complex circumstances in that they perceive events and conversations in more ways than one—especially when in the company of others who share their languages.
. . . in most bilingual environments some of the speakers use their non-native language, which means that the input includes foreign-accented utterances.
What language should you learn?
In order to get the best return on your investment, it’s important to choose your next language wisely; but where to start? Let’s look at your primary objectives.
Speak to the masses
Knowledge of a foreign language isn’t relegated to international businesspeople; it’s also a key skill for doctors, lawyers, hospital workers, service-industry employees, and others. Learning a language that’s widely spoken not just around the world, but also in your country, will be a benefit for you, your employer, and for the people that you serve.
Where you live in the world will grant some guidance as to what language(s) you should focus on. In the United States, for example, the most widely sought after second languages are Spanish, French, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Mandarin.
“Spanish isn’t a foreign language anymore.”
Amanda Macias and Gus Lubin, Business Insider
- A case for learning Spanish in the United States
It’s pretty simple: Spanish is the second most-spoken non-English language in the United States, so it stands to reason that this should be many people’s first choice. That’s especially true if you have intentions of going into the medical field, law enforcement, teaching, banking, interpreting, and many other lines of work. Monster.com states that the top bilingual jobs posted by employers are for bilingual English/Spanish speakers.
- A case for French
If you’re planning on working in a more international field, French may be your best bet. Over 220 million people around the world speak French. It’s spoken on every continent—save Antarctica—as the native language, the language of instruction, the language of government, and the lingua franca of business. Speaking French is also very practical, according to Richard Shryock, associate professor of French at Virginia Tech. He notes that, aside from English, French is the official working language of international organizations like these:
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
International Labor Bureau
International Olympic Committee
Council of Europe
Universal Postal Union
International Red Cross
Union of International Associations
Get the cutting edge
Broadening your communication base with commonly spoken languages may seem fine for others, but you want to offer something that they don’t. Instead, you have your eyes set on the BRICS of the world—the rising economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Learning one of the languages spoken in these markets could give you a distinct advantage over colleagues and competitors who haven’t learned that language.
“Those who speak more than one language have a greater chance of succeeding in business.”
Lisa Chau, U.S. News & World Report
When you learn a new language, you open up doors for yourself that would’ve otherwise remained closed. We encourage you to take the time and make the effort to take the challenge—and take us with you.