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Do You Have Today's Hottest Skill?

Bilingual Job Candidates Are in Demand
Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com Editor

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Being able to speak more than one language is critical in today's global business world. In fact, 30 percent of hiring managers told CareerBuilder.com they will be placing a greater emphasis on recruiting bilingual candidates in 2006.

A Global Economy

With companies wanting to reach out to other markets, they're looking for employees who can communicate and deal with people in more than one language or culture. The foreign language instruction firm Berlitz says it's seen a growing demand for its services from a variety of industries -- especially the medical, financial and information technology fields.

Though knowledge of a second language is desirable at any multinational company, demand for bilingual employees is greatest in areas serving high concentrations of people who don't speak English, such as California, Florida, New York City, Chicago and Texas.

Marketing Yourself

Spanish is the language most commonly sought; however, Asian and Russian language skills are becoming increasingly in demand.

If you speak a second language, include that on your résumé or application. Be explicit about your level of fluency and be prepared to demonstrate your skills in an interview. Do this even if the job description doesn't specifically mention language as a requirement. According to Ghislain Savoie, Social Research and Analysis Director at the Department of Canadian Heritage, most employers perceive bilingual and multilingual candidates as being more flexible, intelligent and adaptable to change.

While Savoie says his research hasn't found a statistically significant correlation between bilingual workers and higher pay, it has shown that people who speak two or more languages have access to more jobs and are more likely to be employed.

In addition, some global companies look for "multicultural skills." This usually means experience working with people from the cultures the organization serves, although academic study or time spent abroad sometimes can suffice.

Get the Skills

If you're one of those people who resolved to learn a new language this year, the odds are with you. Though it's conventional wisdom that the critical period for learning a new language is during childhood, most linguists concur that that only refers to pronunciation -- not the ability to actually learn a language. In fact, linguist Robert M. DeKeyser insists that when it comes to syntax and grammar, adults have the advantage. DeKeyser says that some adults who take up a new language (even one considered extremely difficult such as Arabic) become proficient enough to become FBI translators.

Learning a new language can also be surprisingly affordable (even free). Though many people have had success taking classes at Berlitz or using language-learning software from companies like Rosetta Stone, others report having great luck through the free online language instruction offered on several Web sites. Suni Chen, a California-based engineer/consultant learned Spanish through courses via www.bbc.co.uk/languages and www.word2word.com/coursead. And it didn't cost her a dime.

In addition to receiving some organized instruction, linguists suggest the following tips for mastering a new language:
  • Subscribe to a newspaper or magazine in the language you are learning.


  • Watch movies or listen to radio stations in the target language.


  • Go some place where the language is spoken exclusively. This doesn't have to mean expensive travel. Head to your city's Little Italy neighborhood, your favorite Chinese restaurant or call on a friend whose family speaks the language.


  • Watch how a native speaker shapes his/her mouth when talking; then do the same while looking in the mirror.


  • Buy a phrase book to keep with you and peruse during any downtime.


  • Find a buddy or pen pal who is a native speaker of your second language.


  • Sites that help you find language exchange partners include www.mylanguageexchange.com; www.friendsabroad.com and www.polyglot-learn-language.com

    As with acquiring any new skill, the key is consistency. Make it a point to practice your target language every day and you will find that learning a new language can be surprisingly easy as well as career-enhancing.


    Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

    Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM


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