The Benefits of Being multilingual in Today’s Global Economy
Technology is shrinking the planet as we know it and the internet has made us neighbors even if an ocean divides us. Companies are reaching out across continents and overseas to make money and find employees. There is a growing need for bilingual (and multilingual) individuals who can bridge the communication gap in this new earth “neighborhood”.
The monetary benefits of being bilingual are difficult to quantify; estimates vary from 5% to 20% higher salaries as opposed to workers that only speak one language. Perhaps the reason for this wide range is because the statistics don’t take into account other factors that can affect the value of being bilingual. So, how do you get the most benefit from your second (third, fourth..) language? What separates the 20% group from the 5% group?
Factor #1 -The Languages Spoken
Which languages do you speak and how fluent are you? We all know that the three current heavyweight business languages worldwide are English, Chinese and Spanish. But there is also a market for less common languages; those who speak them may command higher salaries due to the relative scarcity of translators. The combination of languages is also important: Chinese + English has many potential applications in business today; whereas Chinese + Spanish may not provide as many opportunities.
Factor #2 – Location, Location, Location!
The value of speaking multiple languages can vary according to the local business climate. Ideally, there should be a growing number of foreign businesses in the area that require the languages that you speak. Under those conditions multilingual employees become a hot commodity! Successful multilinguals focus on languages that will be useful in the place where they live or they may travel to take advantage of a more favorable market.
Factor #3- Other Skills
Combining language skills with specialized skills can take your career to a whole other level in terms of salaries. If you are bilingual in English and Spanish, for example, that in itself is valuable; but if you are a programmer or a web designer you can multiply your opportunities by translating web pages, apps or programs from one language to the other. Whether you match your existing skills to a new language or you choose to learn a new skill to complement the languages you already speak; specialization is what sets some bilinguals ahead of the crowd.
In short: why learn languages? Financial reasons can be a motivation. But to really get an advantage, be