St. Louis Seal of Biliteracy in Odyssey Magazine "If You Want a Successful Career, Develop This Skill"

If You Want A Successful Career, Develop This Skill

There's no doubt that bilingual workers are in demand.

Speaking an additional language (or languages) will make you a more desirable candidate for jobs than a peer who only speaks one. In fact, a New American Economy study found that the number of jobs ads seeking bilingual employees more than doubled in the five-year period from 2010 to 2015.

And even when jobs don't necessarily demand that employees know a second language, bilingual workers are a valuable resource. They can help a business reach out to new customer bases in the right way, and their expertise can ensure that the various language options provided on a website are written accurately and professionally.


Specifically, the Boston Globe reported that cellphone providers and banks are using bilingual employees to communicate with potential customers in their native tongues, software companies want customer service reps who can help them increase their business around the globe, and healthcare facilities want staff who can communicate with patients who travel to the U.S. for medical care.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, more than 20 percent of Americans speak a language besides English at home. It's no surprise that businesses are keen to reach such a large portion of the population, and bilingual employees are the best way to do that.

If you're wondering what language to learn, Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic seem to be in the highest demand right now. The University of Phoenix Research Institute found that 70 percent of employers see a growing need for Spanish-speaking employees over the next decade, while 42 percent felt that finding candidates who speak Chinese will be particularly important. In order to prepare yourself for a future workplace that demands a second language, heed the following recommendations.


1. Start ASAP.

As the Globe report notes, a majority of jobs seeking bilingual applicants don't require candidates to have a bachelor's degree, which is all the more reason to start learning a language as soon as you can. Numerous studies suggest that children who learn new languages at a young age achieve proficiency faster, but don't fret if you didn't start learning in preschool. There are countless opportunities later in life. For instance, the Seal of Biliteracy program allows high school seniors to test their written and spoken language skills, even if the particular language isn't taught at their school. This program has grown in popularity, with Missouri recently becoming the 28th state to approve the program, and Ritenour, Webster Groves, and Affton among the lengthy list of St. Louis area schools that have already signed up. When graduates wish to demonstrate their bilingual abilities to employers and college admission offices, they can present a credential with nationwide validation.

2. Immerse yourself.

Taking language classes is a step in the right direction, but you'll likely be surrounded by people who speak your native language. When you're struggling to remember the right word or conjugation, it's easy to slip back into your mother tongue to ask a question or get a prompt from a teacher. By traveling to a foreign country where the language is spoken, you'll be completely surrounded by it. It will be spoken in the airport, on the bus, and in restaurants and shops — everywhere you go. It's generally accepted that immersion strategies allow for more rapid learning than a classroom setting, so if you love to travel and want to learn a new language as quickly as possible, take the plunge. If you can't swing the travel, though, don't fret. You can immerse yourself in a new language closer to home. Participate in a volunteer program that works with residents who speak a different language or immerse yourself with the help of music, books, newspapers, and movies.


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