How Knowing a Foreign Language Can Help Your Career

| June 24, 2015 | 1 Comment


Nationalists and chauvinists believe that learning a foreign language isn’t necessary as the English language is universal and understood by everyone. They advocate that speaking a foreign language is equivalent to stating openly that the English language is not good enough as a medium of communication between people of different nationalities. Others, apparently more pragmatic, state that learning a foreign language can only help if one wants to be a Foreign Languages teacher, a tour guide, an air hostess or steward, an interpreter or translator. For them, the industries where one can use those languages are quite limited.

The reality is very different however. Modern means of communications including the internet and smartphones have revolutionised the concept of nationalism and national and local culture. Previous ideologies are everyday being turned on their heads as cultures and languages classified as foreign not so long ago are slowly crossing boundaries. The concept of the global village is well-anchored nowadays in the psyche of nations all over the world. Our world is global. Someone who learns a foreign language is open to the world and its main economic and social currents. He or she is in a better position to get a highly paid job in different economic spheres. The job market, although daunting for most, seems less scary to the bilingual or multilingual person.

English-speaking countries want to extend their markets overseas, stretching to Eastern economies. Knowledge of Asian languages enables them to penetrate those foreign markets: speaking the language of the receiving country creates a bond where marketing messages and sales of goods and services can take place in a smooth fashion. Learning Hindi, Japanese or Chinese breaks down barriers and fosters goodwill among businesspeople. In order to penetrate or extend the newly open markets of Eastern Europe one should learn an Eastern European language to facilitate exchanges.

The marketing person focusing on research and promotion, targeting a foreign audience, would benefit from studying a foreign language prior to starting his or her marketing campaign. It would really help if the marketer knew about the different nuances of the target language e.g. humour, colloquialisms, onomatopoeias, etiquette, tone, etc. An HSBC TV campaign a few years ago for example showed young children calling complete strangers from Asian countries “Auntie”, a typically Asian practice. Surveys are more reflective of reality and marketing messages are more direct and poignant if they address the target audience in their own languages and embracing their cultural norms and habits. Learning a different language is actually about embracing a new vision of life.

The sales person facing the hard task of persuading someone from a foreign culture to buy goods and services would find his or her task easier if they were to converse in the target language. Closing the sale would be less arduous and misunderstandings would be avoided. Markets are being opened internationally and therefore it should be imperative for the marketing and sales staff to speak the languages used in those overseas markets, at different levels according to the amount of interaction between seller and buyer.

The company management strata from an English-speaking country would also benefit from studying and speaking a foreign language. The CEO or directors represent their companies and strive to build rapport with their foreign customers, promoting understanding, mutual cooperation and an atmosphere of goodwill. They need to be open-minded and respectful of other cultures and languages if they are to project a good company image. McDonald’s staff, for example, respect foreign cultures and their eating habits. Chilli sauce is on the menu in Mc Donald’s restaurants in India. Messages are in Hindi too. To succeed abroad, English companies with English CEOs, directors and managers have the duty to learn the foreign language where they evolve on a daily basis. Learning a foreign language can thus help the aspiring manager to spread his or her wings abroad.

However there is an even more interesting situation where Human Resources recruit personnel from abroad to work in the UK. In this case knowledge of a foreign language e.g. French, Spanish, Russian, Polish or even Asian languages e.g. Hindi, Urdu, Japanese or Chinese enables the HR manager to perform his or her task better. Job adverts can be targeted with more efficiency in foreign countries and once the foreign workers are on board, they will integrate better if they can converse with the HR person in their own languages or share jokes pertinent to their own experiences in their respective countries. The English-born bilingual or multilingual HR person is ultimately better at his or her job and can create a truly international workforce within the company.

The most obvious and popular work choices for speakers of foreign languages are, of course, not to be neglected: Foreign Languages teachers and lecturers can teach in secondary schools, business schools, language schools, colleges and universities in the UK. Tourism is a favourite department too: tour guides, tour operators, air hostesses and stewards and other touristic professions including bar workers and Disc Jockeys in foreign countries benefit tremendously from learning a foreign language. Interpreters and translators can work in different spheres of work e.g. foreign office and embassies, cultural departments, the police, special intelligence, the military, international law, economics, scientific research, publishing and general media including new media and new technology and entertainment. Prestigious careers for bilinguals are: international diplomacy, promoting world peace and national security, working in engineering and communications overseas.

In a cutthroat work environment, knowing languages gives one an edge and makes one’s job application and work history stand out, possibly enabling one to command a higher salary. It has also been proven that foreign language learners have a better insight into the native language itself, with all its intricacies and its intrinsic beauty. Those students have better listening skills, better memory, stronger vocabulary skills in English and a higher literacy rate. Life skills are also improved as the foreign language student learns to deal with unfamiliar cultural ideas: he or she is better equipped to adapt and cope in a fast-changing world. Their communication skills within the English world itself are enhanced as they can better communicate with people from different walks of life. It also more obviously improves the chances of entry into college or graduate school and even studying abroad. In all cases, one’s chances of doing well in one’s chosen career and in life are multiplied.



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Category: College and Careers

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  1. rohini says:

    It is really beneficial for a student if he is going to study in abroad and he knows the language too.

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