When you’re in the midst of a busy job and using a variety of skills every day, you rarely consciously face any barriers because you only know one language. It can therefore be hard to grasp why so many people insist that a second language will help your career.
Even in large, multi-national corporations, there tends to be a very specific team of linguists, whose job is to communicate in foreign languages and others, well, they usually just get by in English when abroad…
So if a second language is genuinely not a day-to-day requirement for your job, why would it help your career?
The answer lies in the overall skills development that a new language brings to an individual. This can be broken down into three most important benefits. They are as follows:
1. It will sharpen your mind.
The very act of language learning uses parts of your brain that you don’t use on a daily basis. If you are a runner, you don’t only work to build up the muscles you use primarily for going faster, you build up all the muscles around them to provide extra strength, support and to prevent injury. The brain is similar. You need to make sure every muscle in it is used and strengthened to keep it sharp and fast.
2. It improves your communication skills
I don’t mean it allows you to communicate with more people. I mean learning a second language brings about a knowledge and awareness of grammatical structures, intonation and tenses that we never consider when communicating in the language we learnt as a baby. In recognising how meaning is conveyed in a second language, you start to become more mindful of what you are saying in your first language. Thus, you start to communicate in a more precise, meaningful and engaging way.
3. It helps you sell yourself
Employers like to see a second language on a candidate’s CVs. But why is that? As discussed above, if you don’t need it for the job itself, what’s the point? In truth, being able to say you speak a second language in the job market can be likened to saying you’ve written a book, or run a marathon. The ability to jog non-stop for 26.2 miles is not a useful skill in the workplace in itself, but the determination, planning and motivation it takes to succeed in it are all skills that organisations look for in their greatest leaders. No one gets to speak a language to a high standard without applying themselves and overcoming difficulties, so surely if you can do it with a language, you can do it in your career.
As a language learner, you’ll therefore not only become a more conscious thinker and engaging communicator, but you’ll give yourself an edge on the competition when going for promotions. Multilingualism provides a broader, more global perspective. Are we really sill naïve enough to think that we can get by with just English?
By Anna Springbett
Anna is the found and director of Anna Spring Language School, www.annaspring.com, a growing business providing a flexible approach to language learning across London. Follow on twitter @AnnaSpringUK or contact Anna at [email protected]