Today more of the world’s population is bilingual or multilingual than monolingual, and research in 2012 has confirmed that if you do speak more than one language, you are likely to be smarter than your monolingual counterpart. Research showed that bilingualism helps develop the attention span and task switching functionality and thus linguists are afforded flexibility of thought and the ability to cope with change; both huge advantages in the work landscape of 2013. Cognitive benefits have been identified in young children as their ability to adapt to change affords them greater confidence and security, and in older people evidence shows a less rapid decline in cognitive functions during ageing.
Multilingualism and multiculturalism naturally enhances individuals opportunities in the work place. Not only are they likely to be smarter, more confident and resilient to change, the globalised nature of work is clear for all to see. The evidence presents itself to us daily through the brands and logos which appear in all corners of the world and confirm that we are all consumers regardless of geography, language and culture.
Multi-national organisations invest significant amounts into localising their products and marketing messages to engage local markets both linguistically and culturally. Additionally, the rise of social media is significant to brand capital and communication of brand values; linguists are in demand to ensure the Anglophone focussed business communication does not misinterpret, insult or ridicule the product or service locally. Localised digital content should not only be linguistically accurate but culturally “in & of the moment” and the value of this should not be underestimated.
Korn Ferry research from a poll conducted by 12,500 visitors to their website suggested that bilingualism is already a significant hiring factor in senior roles with this demand expected to continue to increase.
At boycerecruitment we believe that the difference to our candidate’s opportunities of multilingualism is shown in later career rather than in the early days. Multilingualism will advantage you against your co- workers as the cognitive, personality and social benefits allow you to progress; you become more promotable and hence increase your earning potential.
Do multilingual individuals earn more money ? As far as I am aware no specific research has been conducted in the UK on this, however an article in NY Times in 2012 suggested that the advantages to human capital gained from multilingualism would enable greater opportunities for career advancement. This coupled with the cognitive benefits would allow individuals a greater amount of time to continue to work at reach the top level and thus enable more income producing years.
I am not bilingual but I would like to be. Working in multilingual recruitment for over 20 years has allowed me to clearly see and track the benefits that have been presented to my colleagues, candidates and clients. My advice to anyone looking for work with languages is to focus on the actual content of the job role and ensure that it is something that would challenge you regardless of how much language use there is initially. I do however stress to candidates that multilingualism should be cherished and that it will pay dividends in later career. There is always a chance to promote your linguistic ability by communicating socially with colleagues & friends, offering help on global projects wherever needed or liaising with overseas offices. It is never too late to start, so if speaking another language has always been a dream go for it; the health, career and social benefits will be an investment that you will not regret.