Studies show, despite the increased globalization of businesses based in the United States, relatively few people in the business world know a language other than English. In fact, only about 17 percent of the population can speak a foreign language, compared to the 54 percent of Europeans who know a language other than their native tongue. As a result, business experts have surmised this language pitfall may create a communication gap with the rest of the world that may ultimately limit business opportunities.
For professionals, foreign language skills can open up job opportunities by making candidates more attractive to organizations that do business with other countries. Individuals with foreign language abilities often demonstrate higher analytical skills, cultural sensitivity, listening skills, memory and even enhanced written and spoken English skills.
Language careers: Positions that benefit from foreign language skills
While some occupations obviously require foreign language skills, such as translator and interpreter, people in the following careers may also benefit from acquiring a foreign language.
The information technology field has become an increasingly global affair, and with the rise of outsourcing in the industry, software developers can get an edge in the job market if they know a foreign language. Language skills can go a long way towards helping software developers communicate with colleagues in other countries, as well as to manage products that are in development. Foreign language skills can also help these professionals develop products for an international market and communicate effectively with customers in different countries.
Managing a software project already has the potential for high complexity and potential mix ups when the entire team is under the same roof. When part of the product is being worked on by a team from a different country, the importance of clear communication and coordination is even greater. Having the ability to communicate with remote teams in their primary language can be a leg up in maintaining that greater level of coordination.
The IT outsourcing trend: still going strong
The trend towards outsourcing has been especially pronounced in the software industry. In China alone the IT outsourcing sector (foreign companies outsourcing operations to Chinese firms) grew by 40 percent in 2011, reaching a total value of $60.1 billion, according to report from that country's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. While the overall cost savings benefits of offshore outsourcing are still under contention - sources like CIO.com have reported on how the savings may be smaller than some expect - the trend appears to be holding steady.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is a well-paid career that is currently on the rise. As of May 2012, software developers earned an average annual salary of $90,060. The agency also reports that between 2012 and 2022, jobs for these professionals are expected to increase by 22 percent.
Video game testers
Much like the software industry, globalization in the video game field has made learning a foreign language an asset. For video game testers, foreign language skills give them the ability to translate a game's script and content so it can be sold in overseas markets.
The BLS states video game testers can earn around $107,000 per year. The job duties of these professionals include playing a game to find errors and documenting them so the problems can be fixed by developers, using a game in different ways that programmers may not have thought about when it was created, and determining areas where a game may be inconsistent or unbalanced.
When multinational corporations launch marketing campaigns for their products, the key to their success is thinking globally. Marketing managers who know foreign languages have a potential edge in the market since these skills help them communicate with employees from other countries, create campaigns that appeal to consumers in another culture, and translate important marketing documents.
BLS data indicates that marketing managers will see a 12 percent increase in jobs between 2012 and 2022. These professionals can expect to earn an average salary of $88,590 per year.
For those who help organizations with their staffing needs, knowing a foreign language can literally open up a world of options for finding possible candidates. Recruitment consultants can use their foreign language skills to find and assess job candidates from other countries, as well as evaluate the language fluency of U.S.-based candidates when these skills are needed for a position.
Recruitment consultants, also known as human relations specialists or labor relations specialists, can earn an average annual salary of $55,800. According to the BLS, the need for these professionals is expected to increase by seven percent between 2012 and 2022.
According to CareerBuilder, other industries where foreign language skills can be an asset include health care, library science, law enforcement and government.
How to learn a second language
The strategies for learning a foreign language can be as varied as the number of languages someone can learn. Here are some examples of how to efficiently and effectively learn a new language.
Many colleges and universities have foreign language requirements as well as dedicated language majors, but many types of students can reap the rewards of these courses. Foreign language courses can be geared toward beginners or those who gained exposure to a language from studying it in high school. Students who enroll in foreign language courses can expect to learn about grammar, structure and syntax, as well as how these principles compare to English.
In addition to teaching students the verbal and written fundamentals of a language, courses also cover the cultural context of that language. In order to give students this ethnic framework, foreign language classes may cover a culture's modern art and popular culture, as well as more colloquial applications of the language. In some cases, students may get hands-on experience with these concepts and test their language skills in the real world by studying abroad.
Online language learning courses
For those who don't take foreign language courses at a brick and mortar institution, there are many online options available. Like traditional college courses, online courses teach students the basics of a foreign language through lectures and assignments. Additionally, students who enroll in these classes may have access to multimedia resources that help them with the phonetics of a language, and online discussions where students can practice written communication.
Other language tools
Taking foreign language courses in a college environment can go a long way toward helping students acquire a new language, but there are a number of other available tools that can also help.
The following are some examples of training that can be done outside of a class setting:
- Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone is an interactive language learning software program that can be used to teach both children and adults in a foreign language. This language immersion method is designed to be an intuitive way for users to gain a deep understanding of a language. For those who use the program for business purposes, Rosetta Stone offers solutions to gain day-to-day and business language skills that help them do their jobs more effectively.
- Pimsleur. Pimsleur Language Courses, developed by linguist Paul Pimsleur, are a set of CDs designed to teach languages in an easy and organic way. Users are given language instruction that naturally integrates with the way people use their memory, so that with each lesson, they are quickly able to recall what they learned previously. The languages available in the Pimsleur system include Korean, Czech, Russian, Norwegian, French and German.
- Busuu. Busuu has courses and apps that include comprehensive lessons to learn a variety of languages, including Italian, Portuguese and French. Additionally, the company gives users access to a community of people from numerous countries so that they can interact with native speakers.
- The Polyglot Club. The Polyglot Club allows members to practice their language skills through a series of meet ups that are available in many major cities around the country.
Along with participating in foreign language programs, those who want to learn another language can enhance their skills by immersing themselves into a culture. For example, activities such as watching foreign language television shows and films, listening to songs and podcasts and reading online newspapers and other websites can help language learners gain a deeper understanding since they're getting media from native speakers.
For more information on courses for language education, check out the offerings below.
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