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Why it Pays to be Bilingual: Speaking Two Languages in the Workforce

The month of March is the month of International Mother Language Day, making it the perfect time to discuss the pride and perks of being bilingual or multilingual. As an international student, there’s a high chance that you understand these benefits firsthand. Not only do these language skills allow for personal development, but they also increase your professional opportunities.

Fast-growing fields like travel, tourism, healthcare, national security, journalism and education are always in search of bilingual employees. In fact, linguistic skills are in such high demand that employers are increasingly adding language requirements to the selection criteria in job ads.

Wondering how your bilingualism/multilingualism can benefit you in the long run? Read on to find out more.

The benefits of knowing two languages

Research has shown that there are several advantages of bilingualism in terms of an individual’s personal development. For instance, multiple studies have shown that being bilingual or multilingual can have positive effects on the cognitive ability of the brain. Specifically, people who can speak multiple languages tend to be proficient multitaskers, better listeners and superior problem-solvers.

That said, the list of perks doesn’t end there. Being bilingual or multilingual can add to your professional skills in the following ways.

Better decision making

Believe it or not, speaking more than one language can lead you to make smarter decisions! Research has shown that decisions made in one’s second language tend to be more reason-driven than those in one’s native language. When we deliberate in multiple languages, we distance ourselves from emotional biases and end up making systematic and rational decisions. Given that decision making is one of the most important and sought-after professional skills, you’ll become an increasingly in-demand candidate to potential employers.

Increased networking opportunities

One of the most major advantages of multilingualism is more chances of building your professional network. As a bilingual, you have the unique ability to communicate with a wider range of people across various cultures. This sometimes results in opportunities for international work travel to visit customers and partners that prefer to converse in a language you know. The more people you meet, the bigger your network becomes. Down the line, one of these contacts could secure you a job, a ticket to a conference or even become a business partner!

More career choices

Employers of today are seeking professionals who can not only communicate seamlessly with the multicultural population on home soil but can also reach customers in overseas markets. Hence, one of the main advantages of bilingualism or multilingualism is the competitive edge it gives you over your monolingual friends. You’ll likely see many job postings, especially in customer-centric markets, which feature a second language as an essential prerequisite. With your linguistic skills, you’ll be a perfect fit.

The chance to take on a second job

When you speak multiple languages, you’ll have ample opportunities to supplement your income. Take on a freelancing gig as a translator, interpreter or teacher. You can make money by translating written texts, provide oral interpretations of conversations and even teaching students your native language.

Why employers look for bilingual employees

In today’s global workforce, employees who can speak more than one language are highly valued by organisations. Speaking a second language shows that you’re open to new cultures, that you’re flexible and that you can see the world from different viewpoints. Given that workplaces are more global than ever, these linguistic skills are incredibly useful. When you speak another language, you can easily communicate with staff overseas and sell products to international customers, making you a significant asset to your company.

Australia’s diversity is another motivating factor for organisations to hire bilingual or multilingual employees. Roughly one quarter of Australia’s population was born overseas, with nearly 20 per cent speaking a language other than English at home. One can only imagine the additional value that a bilingual employee will bring to a business operating in multicultural Australia.

How to feature bilingual skills on your resumé

Want your resumé to stand out to potential employers? Then be sure to list your language skills. Knowing that you can speak multiple languages may pique their interest and entice them to invite you for an interview. That said, you might be wondering how to put bilingual and multilingual skills on your resumé in the most effective way.

If you notice the job ad mentions a preference for a bilingual candidate, feature your language skills at the top of your resumé. This makes it easier to locate and immediately tells the recruiter that you meet the basic criteria. In your experience section, detail the contexts in which you use the language, how often you use it and any positive results you achieved through the use of these skills.

If you don’t see any preference for candidates with bilingual skills, you can list it near the bottom of your resumé in your skills section. Always mention your fluency level for each language (e.g. basic, intermediate, advanced, fluent). You can also list if you can read, write, speak or do all three in that language.

Should I really learn a second language?

If you don’t already know a second language, consider taking the time to learn one. Having the discipline to learn something new demonstrates a strong work ethic that will be attractive to any employer. Think about your industry as well as countries you may want to work in at some point in the future. From there, you can decide what language would best suit your goals.

Thanks to technology, learning a new language has never been easier. Check out platforms like Duolingo, Rosetta Stone or Memrise to start your journey to bilingualism from the comfort of your own home. You can also consult your education provider’s website to see if they offer any language courses that interest you.

Clearly, the benefits of knowing two languages (or more!) are many. In the working world, you’ll stand out in a competitive job market and enjoy increased opportunities for professional development. Not to mention, speaking another language can be incredibly fun and personally fulfilling.

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