The Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language

The Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language

Four reasons why speaking a foreign language can boost your career and enhance your life

It is an undeniable fact that in today’s technology-laden, global economy, multiple language proficiency is an indispensable skill for an individual.  This is supported by the European Commission which states that “foreign language skills play a vital role in enhancing employability and mobility”.  It further states that “languages unite people, foster better understanding between diverse nationalities and strengthen intercultural understanding”.  Poor language skills can cause companies to lose international contracts and hinder expansion into foreign markets.  

If you are still not convinced, here are four reasons why speaking a foreign language can boost your career and enhance your life.

Competitive Edge

Knowing a second or third language will definitely boost your marketability and provide a competitive advantage over other candidates.  Globalisation and advancements in technology open doors to doing business with foreign partners.  Thus, potential employers often have a preference for employees with multiple languages, to help realise their ambition of globalising their businesses.  Furthermore, with people having more and more academic degrees under their belts, the only way to differentiate yourself from the other candidates is knowing a foreign language.  If employers know that you took the effort to learn different languages, they would be more likely to hire you for your unique talent, initiative and versatility.

Improved Work Performance

Research reveals that employees who can speak a foreign language often feel more confident in their work and interaction with teams, partners, customers and vendors.  This is especially so in the hospitality, retail, communication and food & beverage industries.  Work performance may be affected if you don’t speak the language of your team.  You may feel ostracised or out of place, and it will be difficult to build rapport and trust with your colleagues.  Thus, knowing the language of the majority will make you feel more comfortable and can help you and your colleagues to understand each other better.  

Knowing a foreign language can also save you time and costs in translating foreign documents.  It is reported that employees spend an average of more than three hours a week translating documents into the local language. Or spending hundreds of dollars getting an accredited translator to provide a certified translation of the document.  Not only that, lots of time is also spent on resolving problems caused by miscommunication and misunderstanding between employees and other stakeholders locally or internationally. Lack of understanding in a different language as well as culture can cause loss of contracts or opportunities for your businesses.  Knowing the local language is vital to succeeding in foreign markets because language is the connection towards understanding people’s culture and way of life.  Hiring a local translator may not do justice to your company as the translator may not have your company’s best interests at heart.  Your multilingualism can ensure that you deliver or understand every message clearly and accurately, which will definitely benefit you and your company.

Fostering Intercultural Understanding

Being able to speak a foreign language transcends two-way conversation and written communication.  It will help you to relate to diverse cultures in a more amiable or amicable manner.  This skill helps to break down barriers and allows you to build cordial relationships not only in business but also socially and personally.  This can propel you towards career advancement as well as personal development.  Working in a multi-racial country like Singapore or a U.S. state like New York, you need to be able to relate to different races and cultures like Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian, European and American.  Not able to relate or communicate well with these diverse groups of people can negatively impact your work and professional experience.

Possibility of Becoming a Global Employee

Many companies nowadays have globalised their businesses and set up bases in foreign countries.  Having a foreign language opens up opportunities for you to be a global employee.  Although there are many challenges in being away from your home country, working in different countries can reward you with many exciting adventures and lucrative career prospects.

Furthermore, if you are sent overseas by your company for a certain job, you will definitely feel out of place in the office if you cannot speak the language.  Not only that, getting around in the country - buying groceries, getting a haircut, doing bank transactions, using transportation, etc., will be a nightmare.  You may even get cheated and ‘bullied’, especially if the majority of the residents in that country do not speak a common language like English or if you are not the street-smart type.  Residents of a country tend to respect more those foreigners who speak their language compared to those who don’t.

To summarise, languages are not just a fancy hobby but are actually an important route towards success.  It is one of the 21st century competencies that the future workforce needs to have.  So, go on, pick up a foreign language because being a polyglot (a multilingual person) will surely help you to succeed in both your career and your social life.

WUP 31/10/2019
by Hanna Abdelwahab
©WUAS Press

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