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Reasons Being Bilingual Can Boost Career
As many areas start to lift coronavirus restrictions, change is in the air. You might even be feeling a fresh sense of possibility about your career. Maybe you’re thinking about looking for a new job. Or you may have decided it’s time to go out on your own and start your own business.
No matter what the next career step is for you, being bilingual can increase your odds of success. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider learning a second language to advance your career.
Language Skills Can Help You Work Internationally
For many of us, working overseas is definitely an item on our career “bucket list.” Among millennials, more than 70% want to spend some time working in a country other than the U.S. While the pandemic has kept us close to home for many long months, we can now start thinking again about opportunities to work internationally.
If you want to apply for a job overseas, the good news is that there’s growing optimism for global economic growth. And, of course, having some fluency in the language in the country where you want to work will give you the edge in landing jobs. Some of the most useful languages in international business are Mandarin, Spanish, German and Arabic. But the ultimate decision on which language to study really depends on what your goals are. Learning a less common language could allow you to land a niche job or specialize in a smaller (yet still critical) country, like Korea, Japan, or France.
Getting a new job isn’t the only way to make your international dreams come true. Since the pandemic, many companies have realized that their employees can do their jobs from anywhere and have implemented more flexible policies on remote work. So you may be able to keep your current job while living in another country. Or you could decide to join the growing ranks of “digital nomads” by starting your own online business and living wherever you like.
But even if you’ll still be conducting your work in English, it’s important to learn the language of your new country. Many people underestimate just how much life can vary between countries. All the things you take for granted here in the U.S. — going to the bank, running errands, getting your utilities turned on — might work very differently wherever you’re moving. You’ll feel at home and ease a lot more quickly if you have some language skills.
You’ll also be better able to form connections with others in your new country. And even though Zoom and other technologies make it easy to stay in touch with folks back home, you will need some new face-to-face friends in your life!
The U.S. Is Growing More Diverse
Even if you have no plans to move away from the U.S., being bilingual can still benefit your career. This is especially true when it comes to learning Spanish. Did you know that by 2060 the U.S. will be second only to Mexico in the number of Spanish speakers? In many fields — such as healthcare and education — there’s an acute need for bilingual employees to serve this growing Spanish population.
While Spanish is the second most common language spoken in the U.S., it’s not the only language that can advance your career if you become fluent. If you’re looking for a new job, knowing the languages used by the global companies with a presence in your area could give you a leg up in your search. To name just a few examples, in Texas (where I’m based), there are companies where you could find yourself working with colleagues from South Korea (Samsung), Japan (Toyota), or Saudi Arabia (Aramco).
Having even a little fluency in your colleagues’ first language goes a long way. But, it doesn’t just aid communication. It also helps you understand their culture and shows your interest in and respect for them.
You’re the Boss (or Want to Be)
We’ve been talking about how the world is growing more connected, and workplaces are becoming more diverse. Because of those trends, the leaders who succeed now are the ones who can leverage all the benefits of inclusivity. Inclusive leaders know how to make different kinds of people feel heard and bring out the best in them. Whether you want to climb the ladder at a large company or build your own business, being bilingual can be a huge advantage. When you’re deciding what language to learn, think about the languages used in your company or by the customers for your services or products.
Being Bilingual Expands Your Mind
As someone passionate about success and personal development, you know how vital it is to keep your mind flexible and limber. Being bilingual is a great way to do that. When you learn another language, you build your intelligence, attention, and other skills to make you more creative and innovative. So even if you aren’t sure right now how you could use Spanish (or German, or Japanese, or any other language that fascinates you), working to become bilingual can immediately start enhancing your job performance.
How to Become Bilingual
If you’ve decided to learn a new language to advance your career, you have many different options. But which one gets the fastest results? Private language tutoring with an instructor who’s a native speaker of that language will ensure that you’re gaining real-life skills. You don’t want to waste your time on cookie-cutter lessons about vocabulary words you’ll never need to use!
To supplement your time with your tutor, surround yourself with the language you learn every chance you get. Read books, watch TV shows, listen to music and podcasts. Try out language-learning apps. You can even make new friends who speak your target language. The more time you can put in, the faster you will become fluent – and the closer you will get to your career goals!
Micah Bellieu is the founder of Fluency Corp, TruFluency, and TruFluency Kids Spanish Immersion. She believes that language learning changed her life. She has acquired Spanish, French and Japanese through her trademarked Bellieu Method and looks forward to learning Russian as her last foreign language. She’s also excited about creating a bilingual household for her children.