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Being able to speak more than one language in the workplace provides the benefit of allowing you to communicate with more people. That's a big reason employers choose to hire people who have skills in Spanish, Chinese, French or any number of other languages -- but that's not the only reason bilingual people are more desirable hires. Your language skills also give you and your employer a number of other benefits.
Places Where It's Needed
Perhaps the most obvious jobs for which it's beneficial to be bilingual are jobs as translators or interpreters, or jobs as language teachers. However, those bilingual skills can apply to nearly any job. Consider the news reporter who's gathering information about a crime in a predominantly-Hispanic neighborhood, or the kindergarten teacher with a student whose parents don't speak English. Also imagine the executive who does business internationally, the store clerk with a variety of clientele, or the flight attendant whose work puts her in contact with people from all over the world. Being bilingual can also come in handy at call centers and nearly any retail establishment. In short, there's almost no job in which having some knowledge of other languages won't come in handy.
More Money in Your Pocket
You know where you might be able to use those skills, but look at why being bilingual is good for you, as the worker. The biggest benefit: you're likely to get paid more. Being able to speak another language is a skill, and the more skills you bring to a job, the more you're likely to get paid. It's difficult to quantify just how much more you'll get paid, but in a 2002 survey conducted by Stanford University researchers, managers from phone companies including Sprint, AT&T and MCI confirmed that bilingual workers get paid more for their jobs.
If you're in a job that requires you to interact with people of different cultures or do business with clients from other countries, being bilingual can also be a big plus. Not only will you be able to communicate with more people around the world, but you'll also have more cultural competency -- which amounts to a deeper understanding of cultural differences and how those differences might affect the way a person does business or acts in a certain situation. Knowing how to act in a certain situation is going to help the business make a sale or smooth over a difficult situation. Employers who need bilingual workers know that being bilingual is a language-based skill, but having studied another language also means you'll have some knowledge of culture as well.
Certain jobs require more brain power than others, but overall, being bilingual has cognitive benefits that can help you achieve more in the workplace. According to the Center for Applied Linguistics, people who are bilingual tend to outperform their monolingual peers in tests of intelligence. On top of that, bilingual people tend to be more adept at problem-solving and are more creative overall. This may be due to the brain's ability to shift between one language and the other, fostering more intellectual flexibility.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.
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