In a world where our smartphone can act as a personal translator, learning a foreign language is rarely top of the to-do list. In fact, the number of students choosing to study another language at university continues to drop year on year.
The internet has been largely blamed for this trend, with over half (55 percent) of the world’s most popular websites being written in English. Hindi, a language spoken by over 310 million people across the globe, accounts for just 0.1 percent of that total.
There has also been a lack of investment in language education. Cuts to Title VI grants and the Foreign Language Assistance Program in the United States, along with teacher shortages, are a growing part of the problem.
Western dominance over popular culture has also seen English continue to develop as the international language of politics and trade.
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When these components are coupled together, it’s little wonder why the diversity of human languages is under threat. The latest figures suggest one language becomes extinct every 14 days.
This all begs the obvious question – with the English language being so prominent, is it worth investing your time and money into learning another language?
The answer from a career perspective at least is a resounding yes.
You see, despite the growth in the use of English, it’s still only spoken by 20 percent of the world’s population. That means there are around six billion people – 19 million of which are US citizens – that businesses will be looking to communicate with in the years ahead.
Translation technology could provide part of the solution, but there are serious doubts about whether it will ever be able to fully understand the context, culture, and nuances of meaning in language. A perfect example of this could be found on Twitter this week, where a badly translated product picture soon went viral for rather obvious reasons.
Sheer numbers and technology limitations, therefore, provide a desperate need for bilingualism. And with fewer people studying foreign languages, the skills gap in the jobs market is only becoming more significant.
That gap is where you can step in. Here are five reasons why there’s never been a better time to become bilingual:
1. It Will Help Your CV to Stand Out
Businesses in 2018 are growing increasingly globalized. The internet has made it possible for a convenience store owner in New Delhi to sell his or her products to a consumer in Delaware.
By the year 2050, it’s expected that six of the seven largest economies in the world will belong to emerging economies. Countries such as India, Brasil, and Indonesia will become increasingly attractive to consumer and business-to-business markets.
As a result, companies will be looking for staff members that can meet the needs of their multicultural customers and efficiently communicate will co-workers from across the globe.
Need proof? The number of job advertisements targeting bilingual workers rose 162 percent between 2010 and 2015.
2. It Will Ensure You Earn More
Being bilingual instantly increases your earning potential. Specialist recruitment agency Euro London suggest that it can add as much as 15 percent on top of your yearly salary. To put that into some context, that would see a $30,000 annual salary rise to $34,500. Over the course of a 50-year career, that’s an extra $170,000.
Of course, certain languages are more in demand than others. Choosing to learn German is, according to The Economist, the most financially sound choice you can make due to the prominence of the country in the European economy.
3. It Will Put You at the Front of the Queue for Government Jobs
A position within a U.S. government agency is amongst the most sought-after jobs in the country. They offer not only a competitive annual salary but also an attractive pension plan.
As a world superpower, the U.S. government is continually on the lookout for bilingual employees that can help sell their goods, services, and ideas across the globe.
Some example positions include:
- Serving in a foreign consulate
- Negotiating for trade deals
- Providing intelligence to the military or secret services
4. It Will Open Doors
Being able to speak another language paves the way for you to enter into some different industries around the world without having to earn additional qualifications.
It also means you’re far more likely to be able to network whenever you travel across the globe successfully.
5. It Will Demonstrate some Additional Skills
People that are bilingual bring with them a host of useful skills that monolinguists just can’t match.
For starters, research has shown that learning a new language helps to increase a person’s attention span and their working memory.
There’s also evidence to suggest that being bilingual improves a person’s cognitive skills, enabling them to prioritize tasks more efficiently than their co-workers.
Finally, bilinguals achieve a higher average score on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. The tests were designed to measure a person’s mental flexibility and their ability to elaborate their opinion fluently.
All of these soft skills are high up on an employer’s wish-list, which when coupled with relevant experience or qualifications, could make you hard to beat.
Dipping your toes into learning a new language has never been easier. Start by downloading a free-to-use app and invest 20 minutes of your time each day to learning.
Once you start to gain confidence, think about investing in a textbook and some Skype lessons with a native speaker.
Remember that learning a new language doesn’t have to be a solo experience. Ask your friends or family if they’d be interested in learning with you. Having a study buddy could provide you with the extra motivation to overcome any challenges you may face.