Foreign Languages in the Workplace
In this increasingly global economy, exposure to other cultures is becoming more and more common in the workplace. Within the realm of business, communication is key, and communicating on an international scale often requires proficiency in one or more foreign languages. This demand to operate in a global context is making multilingual job applicants more attractive to employers.
The Benefits of Foreign Language Proficiency in the Workplace
In the workplace, the need to communicate with individuals speaking a foreign language is growing. Clients, business partners, and even some co-workers may be non-fluent in English.
Clients provide the most obvious obstacle in cross-cultural communication. In the global business world, negotiating with clients requires absolute clarity, which is impossible with a language barrier in place.
In a local setting, foreign language proficiency can help employees perform daily tasks that require dealing with clients. For example, bilingual hospital workers are valuable to patients and staff, particularly in emergency situations that require swift care for patients who do not speak English fluently. Hospital employees are just one example, but any position with public contact carries the possibility of interacting with individuals who speak a foreign language. In the United States the most common languages requested by employers is Spanish, Chinese, French and Arabic.
With the continuing influx of workers from other countries, the likelihood of contact with an co-worker who does not speak fluent English is growing. The ability to effectively communicate with colleagues is important, so bilingual employees have a slight advantage over other workers.
Foreign Language Proficiency and the Job Market
Communicating coherently in at least one language is vital to job security, but proficiency in a foreign language is a very attractive job skill. According to a report in the International Business Times, employment opportunities for bilingual job applicants are expected to increase. Positions as translators and interpreters are growing, but many other fields are also expected to seek bilingual employees.
Many job applications specifically ask about foreign language proficiency. Being at least semi-fluent in at least one foreign language can set an applicant apart from the pool of job seekers.
Motivation to Start Learning a Foreign Language
Some employers provide incentives for employees to actively begin learning a foreign language, and some businesses have connections to local language instruction programs. Even full-time employees can learn a language and broaden their opportunities for promotion or travel.