Many career-related social platforms, including LinkedIn, ask people to list the languages they can speak. Why do these platforms do that? The answer is because most big employers search for individuals who can best navigate our increasingly globalized economy by speaking multiple languages.
The best companies to work for are those that benchmark their performance and capacity to innovate with global standards, working across different time zones and leveraging cross-border communication. Hence, the demand for multilingual employees is on the rise.
Case in point: experts say that the U.K. needs more foreign language speakers who can help tap in to the economic benefits of partnering with emerging foreign markets. Also, Johnson and Johnson, GE, GlaxoSmithKline and other multinational companies have a high demand for polyglots who can speak several European languages.
Being multilingual goes beyond impressing co-workers at the next office party — it’s a strategy for success!
So, how can speaking more than one language help you in your career?
Here are some of the professional benefits of being multilingual in the workplace.
1. You are an asset to the company’s growth.
Companies seeking growth are always on the look out for new markets. Multilingual employees can help expand the business by assisting in proofreading foreign documents, interpreting meetings with international partners and training new employees who have a different language and cultural background.
However, being multilingual goes beyond being able to perform clerical or managerial tasks — you can act as a strategic partner and influence the creation of globally relevant solutions.
For instance, interacting with prospective customers or business partners from across the globe entails a great deal of information sharing and establishing your company’s thought leadership. Content is king in this digital world, and multilingualism can impact on an organization’s content and information strategy. A company that hopes to capture foreign markets could benefit from having an employee who understands communication and cultural nuances to ensure that the right message is delivered.
2. You can promote and leverage cognitive diversity within your team.
In the book “Linguanomics: What is the Market Potential of Multilingualism?", author Gabrielle Hogan-Brun discussed multilingualism’s economic benefits and how it drives innovation in organizations and societies.
Similar to Hogan-Brun's findings, it’s no wonder that groups composed of members speaking different languages demonstrate an ability to create innovative and dynamic solutions to practical problems, according to research. Depending on a person’s linguistic background, the mind may function differently, and so mix-language teams can utilize different approaches to handle a challenge.
Research also suggests that having an additional language drives emotional understanding and cultural sensitivity. Thriving at the workplace is often tethered to how well a person can build internal relationships in a diverse environment. For international and executive level roles, being sensitive to different cultures is important to leverage individual employee strengths and drive business results.
3. You develop cognitive skills that only high-performing employees possess.
Often in business, winning is not only about who delivers the best quality products/services, but also about who delivers first. So, employers value multitaskers.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), bilingual brains are quicker at switching between tasks than their monolingual counterparts.
Being able to function on more than one language is exercise for the brain. Cognitive skills such memory, problem solving, attention, decision-making and information processing remain sharp, making you an efficient thinker.
What are the professional benefits of speaking multiple languages?
Being monolingual could be standing in the way of career progression. Multilingualism can make you an ideal candidate for a promotion and international or leadership positions.
But how much do you get paid for being bilingual? While rates depend on the job description and assignment location, often, expat employees earn from two sources:
- Their home country
- The country of assignment
In addition, having a sharper mind means you get to enjoy more income-generating years than peers whose cognitive abilities may deteriorate more quickly.
Which languages would be good to start with?
Some of the top languages to consider are Mandarin, Japanese and Arabic. China, Japan and the Middle East are major global players and most large companies want to partake in their economic growth.
Spanish and German are also good considerations since Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world, and Germany is home to some of the most long-standing brands in the world.
Given that the Internet is littered with free apps (e.g. Duolingo), video tutorials and online courses on learning a new language, there’s no excuse not to start learning immediately. So, choose a language you have an interest in and become one of the select few that major global companies seek out on Linkedin.
Chiara writes about business, finance, social enterprising, health and medicine and the unique placement of women across these areas. She is also a co-creator at FictionFolk, which designs events that aim to peddle the literature culture.