We’re living in the times of global citizens who travel and trade freely with others, and within these times, speaking more than one language is an invaluable tool. Although English may be considered a universal language that brings people together, having more than two or three additional languages under your belt can give you an edge in your future endeavors, whether they be professional or personal. If you are currently studying English as a second language or you’re committed to developing fluency, there are many opportunities available to use your language proficiency to get ahead in a career, no matter the industry. Let’s take a closer look at how language can help you advance your professional goals.
Expanding Employment Opportunities
“Remote work” is the new catchphrase in the employment world, especially as the coronavirus has pushed many companies and their employees to telecommute for safety purposes. For some companies, the global-scale experiment of working from home was a success — and there are even some, such as insurance provider Nationwide, who have decided to continue and expand remote work programs for all employees, even after closures end.
Employers aren’t the only ones seeing the benefits of a team that works from home. Many individuals have realized that working remotely expands their chances of employment. Specifically, telecommuting breaks down the geographical barriers and limitations of having to work for a local employer within a certain distance from your home. All you need is an internet connection and a computer to work for an employer half across the world. And being able to speak a second or third language — especially if it’s English — only improves those opportunities available to you.
For example, a growing number of international firms use English as the main language of communication, even if they’re based in Asia or Europe. It's entirely possible to work for a Japanese firm these days from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s also growing more common to join a video conference that includes remote workers of many nationalities, checking in from all parts of the world — and the unifying language is usually English.
Promoting Better Human Connections
Using the scenario of a multinational company hosting a company teleconference between the headquarters team and the remote workers worldwide, the ability to communicate in English creates a higher level of understanding and unity between the employees.
If you aspire to a higher management position in a multinational company, ESL may be especially crucial. Clear communication fosters connection, essential for building trust and loyalty between individuals, and one of the important pillars of emotional and cultural intelligence is the ability to manage relationships. Being able to communicate effectively with others will help you better understand their cultural mindsets, regardless of the career or industry you’re in.
Having multiple language skills can be helpful for more than leadership, too. For example, if you’re in sales or wish to work with the public, being able to speak with someone and connect with them on a personal level before you pitch them with a product or service will likely improve your odds of closing a sale.
You don't need advanced language skills to personally connect with someone, either. In fact, casual conversations about family, travel, favorite foods, or other friendly, engaging topics that tend to break the ice and build relationships are some of the earliest forms of a language you'll learn. In fact, casual conversation is a great way to improve your English all around. Small talk may not be an advanced language skill, but conversations about a person’s day to day life are essential in the business world, no matter where you’re from. They’ll serve as the stepping stone to improve your interpersonal skills to be a better salesperson, customer service representative, or public-facing employee.
Improved Cultural Awareness
Being able to speak a second language, even if you don't have full mastery of it yet, can open you up to a world you may not have experienced or noticed before. This proves especially true as you travel or go abroad for a study abroad program or business meeting.
Being able to speak with others in their native language, or connect with someone through a shared language such as English, can provide you insight about the culture or the place you're visiting you wouldn’t have had access to before.
ESL and Expanded Career Opportunities
Nearly every type of industry or business these days could use employees who are multilingual. There isn't one specific career or field that couldn't make use of someone with good language skills. If you’re searching for a job, being able to communicate with others in their language or a shared one, such as English, may set you apart from the competition. Make sure you continue honing your ESL and foreign-language skills and showcase your efforts, so that employers are aware of your dedication to better communication.
Adrian Johansen is a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.