Tongue Tied: Learning a Second Language Can Boost Your Career, but It ’s Costly

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Sep 19 14:05:14 UTC 2007

Tongue Tied: Learning a Second Language Can Boost Your Career, but It's Costly

Posted By admin On September 18, 2007 @ 12:25 pm In Business Development

By Ruth MantellRISMEDIA, Sept. 19, 2007-(MarketWatch)-

Business is indeed global these days and for many professionals that
means investing the time and the money to learn a foreign language
could pay off in terms of career  advancement and salary. Especially
in jobs in finance and sales, learning key languages — such as
Mandarin, Arabic and Japanese — could make sense. Workers who depend
on commissions or are looking to introduce products overseas could
also benefit, experts say. But bilingualism doesn't come cheap. You'll
have to spend anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 or more for classes that
will give you proficiency in a second language.

"There's a growing awareness that studying a foreign language can help
one obtain a really successful career and make them a lot more
hirable," said Jerry Lampe, deputy director of the National Foreign
Language Center. Second languages, especially Spanish in the United
States, are likely to help in fields where you deal directly with
buyers, such as in automobile sales. Call centers for collection
agencies will pay a 10% to 15% premium for bilingual workers for their
experience and skill, says Kurt Ronn, founder of professional-level
recruitment firm HRworks.

"They're paying a premium not because Spanish is more important. It's
just a segment of the market where they have trouble finding people
who are truly bilingual," Ronn says.
Those who only speak English can get by in the business world. But if
you're going to study another language, some may be more helpful to
your career than others, says Paul Platten, global director of human
capital consulting at consultancy Watson Wyatt Worldwide.

Mandarin can be particularly useful, especially in fields such as
manufacturing, he says.
"People with Chinese language skills are very much in demand. I think
that definitely becomes in your favor when you're negotiating salary
increases," Platten says. "I don't think most companies would pay for
most of the European languages — English is just too common over
there."He adds that financial-services professionals could benefit
from leaning another language. "There's a lot of deal making around
the world," he says.

Speaking of service

Language skills can also be key for service industries. At the Willard
InterContinental Washington, a luxury hotel a few blocks from the
White House, a staff of about 570 represents 42 nations, speaking 19
languages. The Willard's front-of-house employees such as the
concierge have at least two languages. Of four doormen, three speak
Spanish and English. Bilingualism is not an absolute requirement, but
it is desirable, according to Wendi Colby, director of human

Workers with skills in a second language may have an edge when it
comes to climbing Willard's professional ladder. "The individual that
spoke more languages would have a better chance for managerial role,
whatever the next level would be," Colby says. "They are able to deal
with a wide array of clients, employees."

The hotel offers fully-funded foreign language classes to employees as
part of their training and development through the International
Center for Language Studies Inc. In the past three years, 35 Willard
employees have studied a foreign language, with another
25 studying English. "It's to help them in their job," Colby says.
"It's a great opportunity because once they go back to work the next
they can practice that language."

Costs can be high

Unless your company funds your instruction, picking up a language
could be financially daunting. A 10-week group class for two to four
students costs about $1,500 for Berlitz, an international provider of
language instruction.

The Boston Language Institute charges $499 per level — it provides
five levels of instruction plus a conversational class — for its group
Mandarin classes. Arabic will set you back $599 per level.

The Boston institute has about 3,000 students per year studying
anywhere from 30 to 40 languages, and in some cases goes to companies
to teach. The eight most popular classes are in Spanish, Japanese,
Italian, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Mandarin and Russian.

"In most cases people come here on their own volition…sometimes
reimbursed by their companies, sometimes not," said Siri Karm Singh
Khalsa, president of the institute.

Some of the school's clients are workers with companies that do
business in South America, Europe or Asia.

"They're at a point where they've received a high enough level of
seniority that their company is willing to invest in them," Khalsa

In the United States, corporations make up the majority of Berlitz's
business. Thomas Uehara, Berlitz's director of operations for the
United States and Puerto Rico, says online instruction has grown
significantly over the past few years.

"In this day and age of technology a lot of people opt for the
convenience of having the instruction at their homes or offices at any
given time," Uehara says. "Especially for those people who are not
able to commute to our facilities this is great solution for them."
But payoff can be large

As the former director of language studies at Johns Hopkins
University, Lampe says he saw students studying Japanese offered
careers in international affairs, some in banking and finance, make
$100,000 a year at a company where knowledge of the language would be
essential for their success.

HRworks' Ronn said knowing a foreign language can have a direct impact
on compensation. For example, the government offers a premium for
skills in critical languages such as Arabic.

"People will pay a premium for a language," Ronn says. "That's driven
by the fact that there are not enough people who are bilingual."

Many employers might not have a policy that dictates paying more for
bilingual workers, Ronn says.

"But if you're bilingual, that's going to make you a more desirable
candidate. You have a better chance of getting the position and being
successful," he says.

But beware of trying to sell yourself as bilingual if high school
courses are the extent of your training. HRworks and other firms
conduct interviews in the second language to ensure an applicant's

Experts also recommend taking time to learn cultural nuances, which
can be just as important as speaking a language if you're looking to
close deals, experts say.

Ruth Mantell is a MarketWatch reporter based in Washington.

URL to article:

N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list