Languages and Career Opportunities


There’s a common belief that learning a new language or even multiple foreign languages will help us find a better job and then opens the door to a great professional career.
I’m still young and inexperienced so I’m asking you who are more experienced to how much truth there is in this “myth”.
I see job offers and there’s usually an information that it’s required or at least recommended to speak a foreign language (in my country, Poland, that’s usually English). I’m wondering if they really need people who speak that language or that’s just some kind of a standard so the company looks better or whatever.

On the other hand, English is so popular and it’s basically everywhere so I’m not surprised that everyone would like to employ people who speak it, especially when they can choose from many applicants.

But my concern is more about speaking more than just 1 foreign language (English). I’m working on my Italian and I will continue doing so because that’s just fun. Then I am most likely to be pursuing Spanish for the very same reason. But I’m wondering if speaking English quite OK and then speaking Italian (and in the future even Spanish) will really put me in a position where I will be an employee for which employers will be fighting over.

Is speaking a foreign language or speaking at least 2 foreign languages such an advantage when it comes to professional careers and employment opportunities?
I’d like to hear from people who have actually experienced situations where speaking languages was a great advantage or where that was not an advantage at all and they were simply overqualified/overeducated, you name it.
But of course all feedback and replies will be greatly appreciated!


Well, there’s not one global law to explain it, but besides jobs involving tourism, it’s basically linked to the globalization of the world, you could have to deal with foreign clients, and if you’re the one applicant that can speak a third language, they’ll definitely be interrested in you. It’s business 101, if you sell something to foreigners while speaking their language, they’ll be greatly pleased from the effort you made for them, so at worst your companies strenghten ties, at best you could sell more. (Obviously it’s a general / empiric rule and it’s not absolute).
Also in big companies (that have subsidiaries in multiple countries) you could be a link with other branches and be rewarded for it.

“On the other hand, English is so popular and it’s basically everywhere so I’m not surprised that everyone would like to employ people who speak it, especially when they can choose from many applicants.”

You’re spot on, in non-English countries, English fluency used to be a strong incentive in your resume, now it’s almost a ncecessity for some jobs (actually for engineering jobs (and actually every Masters(same rank as engineer but you graduated from college) you need at least a B2 level to get your diploma (in the most prestigious ones you need a b2 level before even entering it)). So the strong asset now is knowing a third language, Makes you wonder if in a few decades everyone will expect of you to know 3 languages.

I remember an article in Times magazine sayng US citizen that spoke both English and Spanish earned around a dozen (not really sure about how much) thousand dollars more a year, but I still don’t really understand how it works since usually negociating salaries are in already high-qualified jobs (so a $10k/year could not even be a 10% (well that’s still 10 percent more)).

Also, I feel one other thing they’re rewarding is the qualities/virtues that comes from knowing other languages that are highly positive and asked by companies like open-mindness for instance.

So yeah, basically companies want to hire someone that is worth hiring, and hiring a multilingual is generally safer and more profitable.

(All of this is mostly from experience and to tell you the truth I always wanted to ask a HR person, because I’m sure there is more to it, people often make being multilingual pretty big here too)

Hi Greg,
you know, language is a relative topic. Many people speak foreigners languages. A lot of engineers speak English or they have some level of English. But you need a high level of English …and other languages.
But the more important point is to have an intrepid spirit. You need to be an engineer and much more. To be a linguist is only one face of a great engineer/person.



Yeah, thanks Lu :slight_smile:

My own experience is that languages only add value in the following ways:

  1. The foreign language is English.
  2. You’re in a field that deals with needing multiple languages (tourism, espionage, translation/interpreting, European businessman)
  3. You are doing work that regularly deals with a region or people from it (eg an American that deals with lots of Spanish people).

Beyond that, language ability is mostly an “extra.” It won’t get you the job unless you’re “tied” with someone else. It’s a bonus only.

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Yeah it’s icing on the cake, but it’s still also useful because HR managers gloss over CVs/resumes really quickly and being fluent in 2 foreign languages can give you more appeal and at least give you a better shot at getting an interview (but you still have to be worth hiring, if another intervieewee is 10 times better than you at doing the job, I doubt a second language will help you as far as most jobs are concerned)