Economic value of learning a language ?

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by englishman, Sep 6, 2006.

  1. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    Inspired by a couple of postings I've read recently, I'd like to ask this:

    With the exception of those for whom it's a necessity (e.g. translators), does the learning of a language bring a nett economic benefit to the individual ?

    My impressions (based on my experience in the UK) are:

    1. Few employers will pay a premium for candidates with language experience.
    2. Roles requiring significant language expertise (e.g. multilingual secretarial work, technical translation) are generally not well payed.
    3. There is an opportunity cost of several years required for someone to acquire a "useful" level of language ability, in general.
    4. Despite there being the usual complaints of "skills shortages" for linguists, I see few jobs advertised in the UK where language skills are vital.

    From this I conclude that, considering only the economic benefit, the time one spends in learning a language could be better spent elsewhere.

    Anyone want to shoot me down in tatters ?
  2. Fernando Senior Member

    Spain, Spanish
    Though you could be right for an English environment, I would say that, even in Spain, where you are most of times not exposed to English language in most professions, learning of languages is certainly an asset to get a better job.

    For most professions (even for many in which you will hardly use English) you are supposed to speak English. Other languages, specially the hardest ones (Chinese, Arabic) are certainly a huge point in your resumé.
  3. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    Just the same for Russia.
    Besides, English plays so large a role in the modern world that it's almost impossible to live without any knowledge of English at all.
  4. Tadeo Senior Member

    Español (México)
    In Mexico, the most important Universities ask you to learn at least one foreign language(English) upon completion of your career. Why??'because when you are applying for a job, you have some extra possibilities to be accepted if you speak English.

    Lately, some universities request you to learn French, Dutch, or Italian besides English, overall to the studentes in Law or Commerce school.

    So, being a student, I think that the econocmic value of learning a language will be determined by the job opportunities you may have if you speak more than one language.
  5. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    I'll shoot you down if that is what you are looking for.
    1. When I worked as journalist I was (I believe) better payed than my colleagues because I spoke fluently English, Swedish and French and I could translate texts into Finnish from German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.
    2. For the last three years as technical translator I have had an annual income of about 250 000 euro. I think it's not too bad.
    3. It's possible to learn a language or at least complete your language abilities while you're working, so it doesn't take any extra years.
    4. In the UK it may be so (they suppose that everybody speak English) but in most of the countries at least English is required for a great variety of jobs.
    I really don't know any other education that could be better rewarding than learning languages.
  6. boardslide315 Senior Member

    English, USA
    :eek:!! Isn't that like, 10x the average for a translator?
  7. Hakro

    Hakro Senior Member

    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish - Finland
    I don't know about the average but no one can live with 25 000 euro a year!
    Of course I didn't get the income for nine-to-five working time. I have learned that if you want to be a good/appreciated/wanted translator you have to be available 25 hours a day, 8 days a week. If not, try another job.
  8. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo Mod, I say, Moderator

    American English
    What is your experience in the UK, exactly? My impression is that you need a broader range of experience or you need to do more research. I know people in the corporate world, from janitors to jexecutives, whose job requires them to be bilingual or who reap monetary benefit from being bilingual.

    As boardslide points out, anyone who lives in an area where there are people who speak multiple languages has significant opportunities. Whether you're talking about retail, sales or the trades, there's money to be made by people who are able to market and provide their products and services to speakers of other languages.
  9. hedonist Senior Member

    I tend to agree with you. There are plenty of jobs in fact I would say the majority that have no practical use of a second language. People should endeavour to pursue what they love and if that involves the learning of a second language than so be it. Best of luck in finding a job in that line of work. But I don't think it's a good idea to learn another language when the only aim is to make a financial gain. You have to a passion for it or else you won't succeed.
  10. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    I'm not sure what kind of experience you referring to here ? You want to hear the story of my life (too long and dull, I'm afraid) or experience related to use of languages in industry ?

    You may well know such people (though I doubt many janitors get a bonus for their language skills), but can you put a figure to the *excess* money they make ? That is the question I'm asking. The question isn't whether or not people can use their ability with languages to make cash; it is whether or not, taking any opportunity cost into account, it is *worthwhile* to invest time in learning a language, from the economic POV. The answer may well depend upon which country you're sitting in. For someone in the UK, my feeling is that, statistically, you are unlikely to gain significant benefit from the ability to use a foreign language, aside from those roles where it is a requirement of the job (such as for translators, bilingual executives and janitors). From some of the responses I've read, the situation may well be different in other parts of the world.

    Of course. But there's money to be made in lots of other ways too. Do the people who specialise in use of language to make money make more than people who don't ? Do they even see a return on time invested ? Do you have any figures to back up what you're claiming ? (I don't, so I'm very interested to see any hard evidence either way).
  11. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    In Canada, the main area of the economy that rewards bilingualism financially is the federal government; and to a lesser extent, the provincial governments in Ontario and New Brunswick.

    Bilingualism doesn't generate much if any extra income for most other sectors of the work force, although it may make it easier to get the job in the first place. I see all sorts of ads for bilingual secretaries, nannies, support staff, teachers ... all offering pay at the bottom end of the scale.

    As one example, my school board posted an ad for a trilingual recruitment officer (one year contract), with a substantial amount of overseas travel. The incumbent, in addition to mastery of three languages, had to possess a teacher's certificate and international experience and a background in management ..... for which skills they were willing to pay the rate of an entry level secretary.

    My languages have so far been of no economic benefit whatsoever, but have nevertheless opened a multitude of other doors.
  12. fenixpollo

    fenixpollo Mod, I say, Moderator

    American English
    You said, that your impressions were based on your experience in the UK. I thought your impressions were wrong... therefore, you just need more experience. ;)

    Here's my life story: After graduating from the university with a teaching certificate, I looked for jobs as a History teacher. There were none. Zero. But I had enough college credits to teach Spanish. Districts were suddenly bending over backwards to hire me. One district gave me a $3000-per-year bonus when the hired me. They paid me more because I was bilingual.
    Yes, your question was, "does learning language bring a net economic benefit"? In other words, "can people use their ability with languages to make cash"? Now I see that what you are really looking for is, "how much more cash can people make by using their language skills, than people who don't?"

    I can't give you figures other than my own, because my experience is based on people that I have known professionally. I know what they do in their jobs, and I know that they got their jobs or have succeeded in their jobs because of their language skills.... but it is not kosher to discuss salaries at work, so I they never told me what they make and I never asked.

    In order to answer your question, I need more experience. ;)
  13. equivoque Senior Member

    Queensland, Australia
    Australia - English
    Learning another language is like physical excersize. Ultimately, it may not be of any financial benefit, unless of course you are involved in a profession such as sport. But....

    Like excersize, non vocational learning broadens the individual by both giving the brain a good work-out and expanding personal growth, often opening new unexpected avenues in the life experience. This indirectly might improve everything you do.

    From a more fiscal point of view, excersizing the body or the brain just make them work better - and longer .... giving you a better "shelf life".

    Alternatively, it could be a total waste of time. I madly studied and did all aspects of hand raising parrot hatchlings. Too time consuming, stressful and I don't want to do it.

    BUT I CAN!!!
  14. Dave44000 New Member

    English, USA
    You are asking about the economic value of a second or subsequent language.

    I've been looking for the business case for improving reading. It turns out that the case has not been made at all. Further, when you hear economic theories about how the best paid decision maker will make the best decision, it is clear that expertise of any kind DOES NOT have significant economic value.

    I'm a technical writer. Back when Gartner was defining the concept of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of software applications, they used a category of costs for non-productive effort called negative use costs. Self study at work is such a cost. Self study includes reading, doing desktop tutorials, experimenting. We all know intuitively that there is economic value in doing these things. But, Gartner deleted this notion from the TCO, because the accounting system cannot capture the numbers around these activities.

    I've tried to make the business case for a means of improving lifetime reading efficencies only to be met with the notion that the improvements were secondary effects, rather than primary effects. No VCs would invest.

    The TCO enabled trainers to make a better business case than writers. As a consequence, you do not want to be a technical writer in any economic sense. Do something else. Everyone can write. Writing well is not going grant you financial freedom or financial security. Everyone can write. Everyone can do your job.

    Is there value? There has to be. What is lacking is proof.

    In choosing a career, go where you passion is, not where the economic value is. That economic value will increase and later diminish over time. For a translator, learn the languages of the up and coming economies. A boom will attract others. Get there before the boom, and when the boom hits be ready to leave early. Don't think that a career decision made today will hold long into the future. Be dynamic. Learning languages helps you be dynamic, so you can maximize your income in the world's turbulent economy.
  15. Bilma Senior Member

    Spanish Mexico

  16. CiegoEnamorado Member

    Tokyo, Japan
    America and American English
    I'm currently focusing my language study efforts on Spanish and Japanese. When I inform people of this, they can understand learning Spanish but Japanese to them is seen as more of luxury. This is because I live Arizona in the United States, where lots of immigrants from Mexico choose to come to live. So there is a large community of Spanish-only-speakers and an even larger community of their offsprings who are naturally bilingual in both Spanish and English. No matter what market you are in, no matter what job you do for a living, here you will always receive higher pay than coworkers if you can speak Spanish quite competently or even fluently. If I were to apply for a job, though, and mention that I was learning Japanese, it would look nice on my résumé and might come in handy once or less every year, but they would be more interested in my Spanish, because there is practically nothing of a Japanese community here... unless, of course, I worked at a Japanese restaurant or in some sort of Asian/Japanese supermarket. It's just proof that you need to be living in a multilingual community or [part of a] country.
  17. equivoque Senior Member

    Queensland, Australia
    Australia - English
    I second Dave - albeit his argument was far more financially descriptive and corporate/dynamics based. There are obvious benefits to your self-education on many levels and these will overflow into your value as an employee.

    As a cash-cow pursuit however, I believe, as an endeavor to improve your potential in your career path, concentrate on expanding what you anticipate your most valuable skills will be sought out in the future.

    Study of a second language or mathematics was required for many decades for almost all university entrance applicants in Australia. The point behind this philosophy was a proven school record in the ability to study one subject throughout secondary school - thus, apparently displaying consistency.

    When it comes to broadening your scope in the understanding of communication and multi-lingual skills it can be invaluable but if you are talking wallet power - and high corporate income opportunities -- you don't need to know how to make coffee, if you can afford someone to do it for you.

    I speak one language and still struggle with this one, continually trying to learn more. As far as the benefits of being multi-lingual, - wow! - that's an skill/achievement which I am always unabashedly jealous.

    I believe international flight attendants require two languages, but you can make as much money mowing lawns (although, your chances of marrying into money might be less likely!) ;-)

    Do it for self improvement but if you are serious about making money - concentrate on what you do best and get better at it.
  18. Athaulf

    Athaulf Senior Member

    Toronto, Canada
    Croatian/Bosnia, Croatia
    You can look at it this way: people are on average economically rational. Therefore, the economic benefit of some skill to a typical individual will always be roughly proportional to the percentage of people in the general population who take the effort to acquire that skill in practice. (Here by "economic benefit" I mean all the benefits that come with a skill, not just the increase in wages.) This of course applies to skills of any sort, not just languages.

    Thus, to answer your question, you just need to look at the actual knowledge of foreign languages in the general population of various places. The percentage of people speaking a particular foreign language will always be roughly proportional to its practical value.

    This of course doesn't mean that people who make above average efforts to learn languages are irrational, because someone's individual benefit from a skill can be drastically different from that of the typical person -- and there is nothing irrational even if this benefit comes from curiosity and entertainment. Economics is not just about money, but also about everything else people value.
  19. palomnik Senior Member

    OK, I'll jump into this one, and I must add my kudos to Dave as well in his perceptive analysis.

    Language learning has only seriously helped me once in my professional career - the ability to speak Arabic, which I picked up after an extensive time in the Middle East with the US military in the 1970's (yeah, we were over there even then). I landed a job with an oil company selling lubricants to various national governments in the Middle East and East Africa. It was fun, but it lasted less than two years and then I was laid off.

    Since that time my employers have been glad to make use of my skills as the need arises - I did a series of questionnaries in Russian in 1989 for a joint venture and I've done tons of translations into Spanish for the state consumer advocate - but my career has been enhanced much more by other things I did and learned in the course of my career, such as teaching technical subjects and managing a call center. Life has a way of conspiring against what we really want - or what we think we want. In general, language skills are an asset but not much use on their own.

    I'll add one exception, which is generally restricted, I think, to the USA. There are any number of jobs with the US government that require fluency in a foreign language and the ability to pass security clearances. Obviously these jobs are with the intelligence establishment in one form or another, for the most part, and the languages that are spoken by potential enemies of the USA are particularly favored. While it's not impossible for the average immigrant from, say, Egypt or Afghanistan to get a security clearance in the USA, it's a lot harder than it is for somebody that was born here.

    Obviously, this is not everybody's cup of tea. As for me, I married a Soviet citizen, which automatically disqualified me from any such consideration, at least until it was too late to make any difference. We all have to make choices in life. I don't regret mine.
  20. argentina84

    argentina84 Senior Member

    Göteborg, Sweden
    Argentina Spanish
    This thread is very, very interesting.

    In Argentina, knowing a foreign language does make a difference in your income, but it depends on the kind of job you look. For example, if you are a will be bad-paid. But if you work for a company or in the tourist industry- which is becoming very important in the country- you can be promoted and take advantage from your language skills.

    First of all, you have to speak English...but the more languages you know, the better the chance to get a really good job. I think this does not happen in Britain because you already speak the lingua franca so you do not need to learn a new language...the rest of the world does it for you.
  21. María Madrid

    María Madrid Banned

    Madrid, Spain
    Spanish Spain
    ha! well, lots of Europeans HAVE to live 25,000€ or less. And I don't necessarily mean Eastern Europe.

    As for the original questions, when it comes to Europe, a second or third language is always an advantage. It will not replace qualifications or experience, that's for sure, but when evaluating two candidates with a similar background, the one with good level of an "useful" foreign language has more opportunities. Useful meaning a language the company is interested in, not just any language. Saludos, :)
  22. PocketCathy

    PocketCathy Member

    U.S., English
    Everyone I've met in the U.S. assumes that earning power increases with language skills. While studying foreign language enriches the mind, it doesn't necessarily enrich your pocket. From my experience, anyway. I've found it easier to find employment because of my language skills, but I've been paid the same as monolingual employees every single time, no matter what industry. I currently work for a company where I work in three languages -- and I make exactly the same as those who do my exact job, but only in English. It is certainly frustrating some days, but at least I can enjoy my job, which, as Dave pointed out, definitely matters.
  23. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    All depends on how economic value is defined. I work in five languages. This does not mean that I earn more than my colleagues who work in French and English and whose job is equivalent to mine. However, the ability to give technical advice in five languages means employment stability within the company I work with (because nobody else does...), and this is priceless.
    Yet I had to be patient until my employers began to consider that Russian, for instance, was a "useful" language and that I could travel and do something else than being office-based.
  24. avok

    avok Banned

    Here, the learning of a language does not necessarily bring any economic benefit to the individual. I speak Turkish, English, French, Portuguese and even German to some extent but, this does not necessarily bring any economic benefit to me. Lawyers who earn money...hmmmm much money are usually those who have spent their times in having "amicable ties" with "amicable people"

    I also think that the time one spends in learning a language could be better spent elsewhere such as looking for money-loaded jobs.
    For example, here, in Turkey, you don't have to speak any foreign language to be a doctor, still you can earn much money. So you can spend your time in school of medicine.
  25. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    Not so long ago I read that only 10-15% of the German population made more than 25,000 Euro a year. But then again everything depends on the price level in the various countries and what is left after taxes. You'd live a lot better with 20,000 a year in Germany than you would with 25,000 in Denmark or Sweden.


    What languages and jobs are concerned: Especially in times when jobs are scarce you'll see the advantage. Now and then when there is lots of un-employed competing with you on the market and hardly any jobs, here and there ther'll be this or that job for which nobody else is qualified.

    The fact that you do not see many of them advertized doesn't mean anything. Most jobs are not in the classified ads. When unemployment is high an even smaller proportion of jobs available will be found in the ads.
  26. sunkitty Senior Member

    USA English
    Everyone's made some excellent points about the value of foreign language knowledge in different professions. I want to bring up one more angle. Being competent (even if not fluent) in several languages can bring you a lot of extra money if you are a small business owner in a multi-ethnic area.

    For example, here in Los Angeles, we have native speakers of dozens of different languages (Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, just to name a few with a lot of representation). Even though most immigrants can speak at least enough English to do daily business in it, they are drawn to businesses where the proprietor speaks their native language. Some people are very timid about communicating in English if they don't speak it fluently. When word gets out that they can do business in their native language at your store, you will get a lot of word-of-mouth advertising in these areas/neighborhoods.

    And I just wanted to agree with those who pointed out that in certain areas, foreign language ability can mean a higher salary, or even get you the job in the first place. Anyone in Southern California searching for a job in which they deal with the public, answer phones, etc., is very well-postioned to get the job and/or receive a higher salary if they are fluent in Spanish as well as English.
  27. Ziwen New Member

    Depends on what language you learn, and what profession you are working in.

    Here in Australia, a commerce graduate will be offered a job above others if they have language skills. That's basically the first step. You got the job.

    In the world of commerce/business etc, your bonuses are tied to your ability to bring in extra clients and profits. Alot of companies here negotiate deals with China for e.g. If are part of the team negotiating, and you can speak the language, understand the culture and the mindset of the people, chances are, the chinese will seal the deal with you. $$$

    I don't understand how having an extra skill could not be beneficial. You may not be paid more, but you have greater job security, more positions to choose from, more respect from collegues and superiors etc.
  28. Istriano

    Istriano Senior Member

    Here in Europe, the only language that has ''economic value'' is German.
    Germany, Austria and Switzerland have escaped the crisis, and they pay pretty well for most jobs with a university degree, so, many people from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and Eastern Europe go to the German speaking places. And in Zürich Spanish is the 2nd language, and Portuguese the 3rd native language of its population.
  29. Montesacro Senior Member

    Looks like a definitive statement.
    "Als sprach Istriano", we might say.

    Where did you get that info from? I'm curious.
    It is most certainly wrong.

    By the way, it is Zurich in English, not Zürich.
  30. Istriano

    Istriano Senior Member


    As for the spelling, in English Zürich is as correct as Zurich, according to Dictionaries and Usage Guides.
  31. Nanon

    Nanon Senior Member

    Entre Paris et Lisbonne
    français (France)
    Had, and was, unfortunately for Germanists, at least in France - learning and teaching German is not promoted as actively as it used to be. People are mostly focusing on English and Spanish. German speakers usually speak very good English, so many French business people consider that English will suffice to deal with Germans. This is just an observation - it is not an approach I like and not a personal opinion :eek:.
    When I was a child, however, learning German was the perfect choice to show that you were intelligent enough to master German syntax, noun declensions, a choice for good students... so German had some sort of prestige apart from a direct economic value.
  32. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    I don't know how anybody can come up with the idea that it doesn't pay to learn a foreign language - and I find it very, very narrow-minded just to think in terms of "premiums" on top of your salary.

    It is as simple as this: Having a job means more money than being unemployed. There are lots of jobs you'd have no chance of getting without knowing at least one foreign language, preferably more. The smaller the language culture, the more important are the foreign languages. There are lots of jobs you'd hardly have any chance of training for, without at least understanding one or more foreign languages.
  33. Havfruen Senior Member

    English - American
    I understand the poster is asking about residents of anglophone countries whose job does not explicitly require foreign language skills. (So not interpreters, translators or foreign language teachers.) Personally my interests in languages are hobbies and I don't need to use any language but English in my work. Why do think most Americans and Brits have fair to no foreign language skills?

    Unfortunately, the lens of economics can be narrowly focused on figures which can be measured in currency and not on intangible benefits where it's difficult to assign a value.

    Of course the situation is very different in other settings, like small countries with minority languages.
  34. MRossi Banned

    According to my personal experience , the answer is :not,I didn't get a nett economic benefit.Neither I got an little advantage when I was looking for work.But I don t care , because for me languages, as Norwegian ,Portugese, Latin ,Ancient Greek etc etc, are too important.
  35. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    If you mean the threadstarter, he is not explicitly talking about anglophone countries, and even if he were, some of those countries are bi-lingual.

    But the whole thing is probably also about how you are marketing yourself.

    If you go about it like this: There are no jobs around, where foreign-language skill is reqired, there is no use learning foreign languages - then you probably also won't get into the situation, where you see somebody getting the job you are applying for because he had language skills you did not have.

    However, if you go looking for the jobs with companies and institutions where certain language skills may come in handy, you are likely to find openings where they basically don't ask for foreign-language skills, but you get the job because you have them.
    This is pretty much why I have never been unemployed more than 57 days at one time, for the past 20+ years.
  36. Tjahzi

    Tjahzi Senior Member

    Umeå, Sweden
    Swedish (Göteborg)
    I recognize a similar pattern! From my impression, the trend in Sweden for the last couple of years has been that the dedicated students study German, those interested in art and theater go for French and Spanish for the party people. Of course this is an over generalization, but that's roughly how it works.

    (Needless to say, the popularity of German, and partially also French, is decreasing rapidly in favor of Spanish...)
  37. xmarabout

    xmarabout Senior Member

    French - Belgium
    In Belgium (bi- or trilingual country) and specially in Brussels (HQ of the European institutions and of other international organisations like NATO) two languages is a minimum... Without that you will grow up the ranks of the workless people and you are valueless on the job market. Even to be vendor in a small shop in Brussels, you have to learn French, Dutch and English ...
  38. Nicodi2

    Nicodi2 Senior Member

    I don't think somebody mentioned the must-talk case of China.

    I don't have too much experience to share now as I have been here for about a month, but this is quite impressive to see how welcomed It is to master Mandarin (or at least showing that you are applying to It) here in China.

    It is actually a huge investment in time, and sometimes results even can't be seen in a pretty long range, however, this is a substantial help to improve communication with the locals and get integrated in a business environment.

    The Chinese labour market is also very particular as practically everything works with the guanxi, and to my understanding, Spoken Mandarin is more than an option to do efficient business here.

    Another thing, to contradict some common place, is that most Chinese people DO NOT speak any word of English...even in international places such as Shanghai or Guangdong.

    Thanks all for posting in this very interesting thread,

  39. Nicodi2

    Nicodi2 Senior Member

    German is certainly important, so are other European languages.
    Trust me, I am sure showing your interest in learning French is a real advantage.

    I won't do business with you whatsoever for instance If I hear what you've just said.

  40. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Every language has its worth in its context. The good thing about English is you can get a hotel, a hot meal and find your way in any country, as far as having an in-depth conversation with citizens of these countries or doing long term business you have to learn or at least be open to the native language. Coming to France... probably China, Spain, Russia or many other countries, and refusing to respect the local language will make you a lot of enemies... and to swing back to the topic of this thread... will not be economically beneficial. Ideally we should learn or try to learn many languages... German, Mandarin, Portuguese included
  41. Istriano

    Istriano Senior Member

    I guess in Europe, German and French are the strongest when it comes to opportunities, and English is not even counted, because it being spoken is automatically expected. :)
  42. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    I think I've used this example before, but I'll tell it again. My friend, an Indian-American, always shunned languages. He believed that English was the lingua franca of the entire world. You learn English and you need nothing else. I suppose that was his experience in India. So, he got a job in Amsterdam, the country in the world where non-native people probably speak English the best. The result was, yes he could get by in English. I can attest to that too. They would speak to him in English, but never use it amongst themselves. Meetings in English, conversations in Dutch, working without him in Dutch, coffee breaks in Dutch, lunch in Dutch when it wasn't one on one. He always thought that everyone should stick to English if he were present. Outside, same scenario, he could use and be understood in English everywhere, but all in all he was living in a Dutch world, the language people preferred. He ended up alone, marginalized, and never developed friendships and left. Learning some Dutch would have been beneficial to him, personally and economically.
  43. Istriano

    Istriano Senior Member

    But even in India, people use the native languages (official language of the state), and not English, English is used only 1. with foreigners; 2. with Indians from other Indian states; 3. as a schooling language in some high schools and all universities.

    (But then again, even here in Fiume you can send your child to a school which uses another language if you wish so, here where I live there are elementary schools in Italian and high schools in Italian, English, French an German. There are university courses in Italian (dentistry) and English (medicine)).

    Going back to India, I've been to Kerala, and people don't expect you to learn Malayalam as a tourist. But, if you want to work there, they consider it very rude not trying to learn their language...For example actors from other states, if they make just one role, it's okay not to bother with the language, but if you dedicate yourself completely to the Malayalam movie industry, they expect you to learn Malayalam.
  44. Vanda

    Vanda Moderesa de Beagá

    Belo Horizonte, BRASIL
    Português/ Brasil
    As everybody else has pointed out, there are always two sides of the coin to consider. Let's think my country. Many foreigners come to work here, and even if in his place of work some people can speak English he'd be lost because the majority can't. As Merquiades said: meetings outside work, leisure, everything else would demand the local language.
    I'll quote a known forera coming to do business in Brasil, even if she can speak Spanish (her second native language), English (international business language) one of her customers here kind of ''demanded'' of her to do business in Portuguese (yes, he can speak English or Spanish) but wanted to do business in Portuguese.
    So, any major language can ''open'' the market for you but many times can't keep you happy and fulfilled there. The person will necessarily need to learn the local language if he wants to lead a ''normal'' life.
  45. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    For me personally knowing languages does not result in a higher compensation compared to my peers. My monolingual colleagues who do the same job as I have the same paygrade and benefits.

    However, as I live in the US where most people speak only English, I feel that it helps me secure jobs easier and have more interesting positions, compared to my peers in the industry (industry that is not related in any way to linguistics).

    BTW, by "more interesting jobs" I mean more interesting for me personally - I value the opportunity to travel internationally and work with people from all around the world; many people would not care for this type of job. I had a boss once who did an assignment on a global team and was absolutely uncomfortable and uninterested, he did it for a year and a half just to check the box and then happily returned to manage a domestic team.
  46. Joannes Senior Member

    Belgian Dutch
    Some practical knowledge of at least two, usually three languages is required in Belgium to get a well paid job, unless you're international and you've proven to truly excell at what you do -- then you may be hired while you speak only one (English, French or Dutch). But even for those talented people learning another language would be a good idea, perhaps not for the economic value, but for the social value. I am referring to what merquiades described in his last post..
  47. Pedro y La Torre

    Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    In Ireland speaking foreign languages is of huge economic benefit given that the country has now become a central hub for multinational companies: Google, Facebook, Dell and Intel (amongst others) all have headquarters in Ireland dealing with overseas markets. PayPal has just announced 150 new jobs in Dublin and speaking a foreign language is, according to them, a "massive plus".

    Lamentably, given the fact that most Irish people can't speak any foreign languages (never mind our own national language, Irish), most of these jobs go to foreigners by necessity. The government is trying to change things somewhat but it's deeply embedded, I think, in the Irish psyche that all one needs to do is speak English to get ahead.

    They're dead wrong of course.
  48. Tagarela Senior Member

    Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
    Português - Brasil

    As I see it, in Brazil, knowing English is certainly an advantage. You're really broaden your professional chances. Learning a second foreign language perhaps isn't that much. Spanish, French and German may be required for some special duties in some companies, but probably, together, you'll need some other qualities.

    Anyway, I think that there is another advatange of learning a new language: the acess to more information. Perhaps you can read some texts or get in contact with people in a way it wouldn't be possible knowing only your language.
  49. uchi.m

    uchi.m Senior Member

    Redeeming limbo
    Brazil, Portuguese
    No, you guys are NOT serious!

    English is NOT only a plus. It IS the thin line splitting the outer world from the corporate world.

    They don't come up to you and kindly say, like: well, now let's see if you have a little, basic knowledge of English.

    The potential employer suddenly calls you up in the middle of the night from their branch in Australia and goes like this, in the strongest Oz accent, ever:

    Employer: - Hello, this is xyz from zyx company.
    Zombie candidate: - Alô? Uh..., I mean... hello?
    Employer: - Following up on our last talk, I would like to know what you think are your weaknesses and strengths?
    Zombie candidate: - ???​

    Seriously, the more languages you get to learn, the better your chances will be. One day it could be the branch from Shenzhen... and then
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2011
  50. WyomingSue Senior Member

    Cheyenne, WY
    I have heard of nursing jobs that pay more for bilingual people, and one of my former students is an army medic and is making several hundred dollars more per month for speaking Spanish.
    But even better: ... some researchers suggest that speaking a second language delays the onset of Alzheimer's disease. So just think of the economic benefit of spending less money on healthcare!

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