Are your language skills preventing you from progressing in your career?
Did you know that there are employees who have been in the same roles in their companies for more than a decade? There are many reasons why. According to Gartner, the 2008 financial crisis which caused organisations to abolish several layers of middle management is one. However, company structure and finances aside, there are many skills employers value when taking into consideration career progression and development, such as communication, leadership and teamwork capabilities.
If you are one of the many folks whose job has hit a roadblock, ask yourself - are there areas you can improve on that could potentially benefit your professional life? Here’s one (surprising) way that can help you see progress in your career: learn a new language.
Yes, you read it right. Learning a new language may be intimidating at first, but the process and eventual mastery of it will actually benefit you in more ways than one. Saying you have no time is now an excuse, especially with online language courses.
Here are ways that bilingualism (or trilingualism, for most Singaporeans) can help push your career up the corporate ladder:
1. New employment opportunities globally
If you feel like venturing out to find a new career given that you have been stuck doing the same monotonous tasks for years, then learning a new language can pull you out of that rut.
The ability to speak a different language can actually lead you to meet foreigners, which can direct you to different kinds of employment opportunities that you might not even know of.
2. Makes your resume stand out from the crowd
Let’s be real. Looking for a job is not an easy feat, especially when you are applying for a role in an international organization and up against applicants whose set of skills and experience are very much alike to yours. What would make your resume look more attractive, however, is highlighting that you can speak and write more than one language.
For example, the healthcare sector is a growing field that’s constantly seeking out employees who can speak more than one language to meet the needs of patients from different ethnicities and cultures. If you are looking for a role in public relations, customer service or even marketing, adding a second language to your resume would be very useful.
3. Improves your communication and social skills
Mastering another language needs a lot of practice — both on paper and in real life. We constantly encourage students to challenge themselves and have some fun by putting their new language to use. This could be through meeting new people, attending social situations or even hanging out with native speakers. Whatever you do, as you begin to meet and speak with people, you will also notice that your social skills will develop and improve over time. Being sociable is an amiable quality that employers seek in potential hires.
Being able to speak with clarity is very important as language barriers can greatly make or break an important partnership in the business world. If you work in an organisation that deals with foreign investors and clients, chances are, being able to speak and understand the native language of those clients would put you at a big advantage.
4. Increases your chances of business travel
Although this is not guaranteed especially with COVID travel restrictions, it still doesn’t change that a lot of global corporations have roles that oversee countries or even regions. Depending on the company you work for and the nature of your job, your ability to speak a language that is spoken in several nations can give you a competitive edge.
Being exposed to diverse cultures brought about by your expertise in languages can also develop and strengthen your creative abilities — a skill that’s extremely useful in the workplace regardless of career choice.
If you are an employer looking to enhance your employees’ language skills, consider sending them for corporate language training programs.
5. Expands your learning about different cultures
Being able to speak another language is important, but learning about different cultures is equally valuable as well — especially if you do go on that business trip. This includes being mindful of certain customs and etiquette to bridge the cultural gap.
For example, did you know that shaking hands as a way of greeting someone in the United States is a customary gesture, but in Asian countries, bowing might be more appropriate? When speaking to the French, it is tradition to use formalities like “Madame” or “Monsieur” when talking to them, even when you have known them for some time.
Once you’re aware of what behaviour is acceptable and what’s not, getting along with colleagues from different cultures will be much easier!
6. Attracts more money
A study done by Economics professors in the University of Guelph among Canadians showed that monolingual employees earn less than their bilingual counterparts. The disparity in pay can be attributed to the fact that employers see the competence of linguists in the areas of cognitive learning, creativity, and cultural sensitivity. 
In addition, if you have time to spare after working from 9 to 5 and would like to earn additional income, you can always use the languages that you know to get you another job. You can work as an interpreter, a teacher, or even a travel guide for tourists. The opportunities are endless!
7. Improves cognitive abilities.
Studies have proven that individuals who can speak two or more languages have advanced better cognitive abilities. At a young age, infants who are exposed to different languages are able to distinguish one language from another.  When compared to those who only know one language, bilingual children become more open to learning new languages as they grow up. Bilingualism also helps prevent the consequences caused by cognitive ageing among adults. 
Simply put, not only does learning multiple languages benefit you in your career, but you can also enjoy the fruits of your labour in retirement and beyond!
Do you have any questions on learning a new language? Feel free to drop us a message and we will be more than happy to help.
1 Morris, Sarah. “Lack Of Career Development Drives Employee Attrition.” Gartner, 25 September 2018, https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/lack-of-career-development-drives-employee-attrition
3. Leung, Wency. “Bilingualism pays, study finds.” The Globe and Mail, 30 August 2010, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/bilingualism-pays-study-finds/article4258539/.
4. Kroll, Judith F., and Paola E. Dussias. “The Benefits of Multilingualism to the Personal and Professional Development of Residents of The US.” Foreign Lang Ann., vol. 50, no. 2, 2017, pp. 248-259. NCBI, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5662126/.
5. Bialystok, Ellen, et al. “Bilingualism: Consequences for Mind and Brain.” Trends Cogn Sci., vol. 16, no. 4, 2012, pp. 240-250. NCBI, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3322418/