How a second language can give you an edge in the workplace

by Anabella Berti
Marketing Associate at Charles Aris Executive Search

There’s no doubt that speaking a second language gives you a competitive edge in the workplace. Hiring managers across many industries consistently seek candidates that are multilingual to fulfill certain needs within their organization. Polyglot employees help organizations create relationships with global business partners; foster a culturally diverse work environment; and offer new perspectives when solving problems.

Second language proficiency can help your résumé stand out when you’re searching for your next career opportunity, but it’s also a great resource for career growth. Here are some reasons why you should become a polyglot:



Adaptability to new environments
Learning a foreign language helps you step out of your comfort zone. It compels you to be brave enough to speak up during conversations, meetings and lectures with a limited vocabulary. Overcoming these fears can help you become more adaptable to new work environments and feel more at ease with organizational changes. Bilingual team members are also great at bridging communication gaps at work because they can recognize missed cultural cues and other communication mishaps.

Anyone who has used Google Translate in the past knows that word-for-word translation often changes the meaning of a sentence completely. When you’re getting the hang of a new language, you’re also learning how to configure words in ways that make grammatic and contextual sense. This process allows you step back and thoroughly analyze how you frame your thoughts and put them into words. In the workplace, second language acquisition is a great heuristic tool. It helps you reframe problems and find solutions more efficiently.

Listening is one of the most important steps in becoming fluent in a foreign tongue. When you study a new language, your vocabulary is often limited to few words. The best way to become more conversational in new languages is to have a heightened awareness of nonverbal cues and to pay close attention when others speak. Polyglot employees are incredibly adept at communication skills because they can build trust and rapport with others through active listening.

Cultural Sensitivity
While learning a new language, you also gain some insights on its cultural heritage. For example, if you’re studying Portuguese, you’ll likely learn the difference between how it’s spoken in Brazil and Portugal. Understanding cultural perspectives can help you foster more authentic relationships with team members from different cultural backgrounds. Cultural sensitivity is also a valuable resource when you engage with global organizations because it demonstrates interest in their culture and language.
Second language acquisition is not limited to translating to other languages or communicating with foreign potential partners and clients. It’s a valuable resource to improve your communication, cultural awareness and problem-solving skills. Next time you are considering new skills for your career growth, consider how a second language can impact you in the long run.