With English firmly established as the global language of business and the Internet, native speakers may be feeling pretty confident that their current language skills are going to do them just fine.
Actually, that could prove to be a serious misjudgment.
The bottom line is language skills matter in business. And employers are keen to take advantage of the talents of employees who’ve taken the time to hone them.
Let’s explore the bilingual job statistics together to see the picture they paint.
What the Stats Say
In 2017, New American Economy wrote an in-depth report into the “growing importance of foreign language skills in the US job market.”
This highlighted that over 300,000 American business are currently trading with overseas customers, and in line with this, the number of bilingual people in the United States is rising. Over 1 in 5 are now able to speak a second language.
Their prediction is that this will be one of the most sought-after skills for employers by 2020.
In 2015 alone, there were over 630,000 job advertisements requiring the ability to speak a second language in the United States. That’s a staggering number of jobs you automatically rule yourself out of if you’re not bilingual.
Which Language Should I Learn?
If your language ability currently only extends to ordering a beer in Cabo, then don’t panic. While learning a foreign language is important, choosing the right one to start with is even more so.
While theoretically, any language could be useful, depending on your field, here are the top languages in demand today, along with their pros and cons:
- Pros – Relatively easy language to learn, and with a lot of native speakers in the US, there are tons of opportunities to practice.
- Cons – A lot of people already speak it; it doesn’t really make you stand out from the crowd.
- Pros – A major player on the world scene, there are not too many people around who have this language under their belt, giving you an advantage.
- Cons – Uses a different alphabet and has challenging grammar.
- Pros – China is an economic powerhouse that you’re likely to want to engage with in the years to come.
- Cons – Well, it’s not easy. With tones and a completely different writing system, it’s going to take patience and dedication.
Bilingual job statistics in the US show that demand for Chinese speakers have tripled over the last five years, while demand for Spanish and Arabic has also doubled.
French also continues to be a useful language of business, in Europe, Africa, and beyond. This article can help you to brush up on what you got started with in school.
Why Businesses Want Bilingual Employees
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first – bilingual employees can communicate more effectively with foreign clients and partners than those who only speak English.
But that’s not the only benefit savvy employers are looking for.
Knowing another language comes with more than simply the ability to get your point across in that language. Languages come with culture, and understanding culture is more vital than ever in the globalized business environment.
If you’re a native speaker of another language, you’ve hit the jackpot, as you were likely raised around the second culture and have a unique perspective to offer employers. Be sure to highlight that on your resume.
Even second language learners though have all had to learn about the other culture and its nuances to some extent to get a good grasp of the language. That appreciation of what is valued in other cultures, and what isn’t, is invaluable in business.
For example, the US Hispanic population is projected to double within the next two generations. An understanding of the language and culture of this valuable demographic is a great advantage to bring to the table.
Ability to Make Connections
When you speak another language, you can connect with people in a way that you simply can’t when speaking through an interpreter.
Your employer will value your ability to make social and business connections with clients on this level. It means that you’re more useful in building business relationships with existing clients and seeking out new business opportunities.
Increases Your Brainpower
Language learning is good for you – and there are studies to prove it.
When you learn a second language, it affects your brain in amazing ways that make you a better employee. For example, one study found that there is an increase in brain size in second language learners.
Other benefits include better memory skills, a more creative outlook, and increased mental agility. These are all skills that an employer will find very attractive in a potential employee.
Earn More Money
Do bilingual employees really earn more money over the course of their careers?
Oh yeah, they do.
For starters, statistically speaking, bilingual employees earn around 2% more than their monolingual counterparts. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but with raises factored in, this alone could add up to an extra $67,000 on retirement if you save the uplift alone.
There are also differences depending on the language, with German attracting a 3.8% uplift during the career. Clearly, it’s worth doing your homework before you make a language choice so that you can cash in on the most lucrative ones.
With the value of the languages of countries like China, India, and Brazil continuing to be measured in the years ahead, it’s likely that we’ll see these language skills continue to rise in prominence – and impact on salaries.
The Last Word: What the Bilingual Job Statistics Tell Us
As globalization continues apace, and second language speaking communities at home continue to expand, the bilingual job statistics do not lie. To keep up, a second language is more vital than ever.
Do research into your field and what language would be most useful. Get a good understanding of the customs, culture, and values. In doing so, you’ll make yourself a valuable employee – and eminently more hireable!
For more great advice on landing the career you want, check out our jobs blog today.