Why learning a foreign language can help you land your dream job


When I grew up, I spent most of my summer holidays at my grandparents’. My cousins would come by every now and then and stay with us for a few weeks. While I spent my childhood on the countryside, they grew up in the capital - in a country where 3 national languages are the norm. At the time, I didn't quite understand why I had to use a different language being around that side of my family. And to that date I still don’t know if I have to thank growing up bilingually for always making it relatively easy for me to pick up new languages, but as I grew older, I quickly realised the perks of growing up speaking more than one language.

I discovered my 'talent' for languages in my early teens, when I started teaching myself English using music as a medium. Turned out I picked it up with reasonable speed, and from that moment on it was within a matter of weeks that I would just pick up the basics of a new language from scratch. Instead of going on holidays, I would spend my summer holidays in language schools, starting one language after the other. 

While I've always enjoyed learning new languages, it was with the time that I started to realise my portfolio of languages to having become my most valuable asset in the workplace. Though English is kind of the global lingua franca of business these days, it doesn't follow that everyone else does. And while attention to detail, strong writing skills and a high GPA were and are still some of the most important qualities recruiters may be looking for, my competitive advantage has always been that of my languages. And, without praising myself, to this date I have yet to find an employer that wouldn’t point out my portfolio of foreign languages during a job interview.

Interconnectedness becoming one of the main characteristics shaping the 21st century, speaking a foreign language definitely gives you the edge of accessing and interacting with more communities than you would as a monolingual speaker. Yet ironically, it still feels like only a small percentage of job seekers tap into this strategic niche, hence giving you a competitive advantage as a foreign language speaker.

Without a doubt, even if the global business elite can speak English these days, one of the most useful skills to have is foreign language proficiency. The ability to speak a second language is a great skill, and it’s one of those things that's never too late to start with. Something I've picked up along the way is that speaking to people in their native language, they will somehow see you in a very different light. They seem to appreciate if someone has bothered to learn their language and come off their high horse of thinking that theirs is the best language; plus, it definitely helps building relationships. So mum, dad, aunts and cousins - Thank you.