The work advantages of being multilingual

Success word
By David McKee, HR director, Lingo24 Inc.
With more companies looking to take their offerings to a global audience, the demand for bilingual employees is growing. If you can speak more than one language, then you could be in high demand. Here’s how employees can make their multilingual skills work for them.

Hit the books
If you’re considering going to college, you should think about studying a language. Not only does it give you the skills to speak another language, but it hones writing, reading and listening abilities too. All these skills are vital if you’re hoping to work as competently in another language as in your mother tongue.
Also consider whether you should combine a language subject with another course to widen your skills and make applying your language skills even easier after graduation. If so, look at which languages complement which industries to maximize future career opportunities. Although the language itself may not be your first choice, it means you’re already creating career opportunities further down the line in the right area or country. German and Engineering, Politics and French, Italian and History of Art are all good examples of how the two can work well together.

Balance work and study
Studying a language isn’t just for undergraduates. It may take a little more effort on your part, but evening or weekend language courses are a great place to learn another language if you’re already in the professional sector. If you’re based near a college or university, look at what it has to offer. College courses can sometimes offer other resources (foreign DVDs, magazines, newspapers, etc.), which can supplement lessons you may get from a tutor.
Speak to your employer about receiving partial or full tuition reimbursement for the course, too. If you can show that learning another language will increase your and the company’s productivity or foothold in a particular market, then it can be as effective as any other training course. What’s more, it shows that you understand the global aspirations of the company.

Create opportunities through language skills
Those who already have language skills but are lacking specific work experience should make the most of internships in the country in which they have language proficiency. The fact that you can speak another language isn’t going to guarantee you the position if you know nothing about the industry. These opportunities also offer the chance to get a unique and direct insight into the market or sector, both of which are going to make you stand out from the crowd during an interview.
International work experience is exciting for an employer, at any stage in a career: It shows a professional ability to work in different environments and with various cultures, and this is a quality that can benefit any office or team.

Sell your love of languages
Languages are a good find on a résumé, but if you don’t sell their benefits to an employer, they can sometimes get lost. Studying a language or being brought up bilingually inevitably gives you a greater historical and cultural understanding of the country. Any company looking to seriously market or trade in a different country needs to know and understand the slight cultural nuances, what is expected and the style of business in order to build and maintain strong relations with foreign clients. If you can offer that insight to an employer, you’re in a good position to succeed.

Enhance your — and your employer’s — skills
Bilingual job seekers should also be willing to learn another language, especially if your current skills don’t completely match with the ambitions of the company. Having learned one foreign language, you have the tools to learn another; it won’t happen overnight, but a little hard work could see you take your skills and tailor them to the needs of the company, which is an attractive selling point for an employer.

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