Learn a Second Language for Your Career

by guest author, Frankie Wallace

No matter what age you are, it is never too late to learn a second language. In addition to gaining the ability to meet new people and expand your mind, becoming fluent in a foreign language is a great way to find a job either at home or internationally in this increasingly diverse world. 

But you may have already known that. The problem comes when you start your new job just to realize that you won’t be using your second language until later down the line. You want to be prepared for when that time comes, but how do you keep your skills sharp in the meantime?

Luckily, even if you aren’t using your language skills at the start, there are many ways that you can work to retain your skills over time. Let’s talk a bit about the importance of that second language at the office and how you can stay sharp for when your big moment arrives.

The Importance of a Second Language

It has become common knowledge over the years that learning and becoming fluent in a second language can be very beneficial when you’re applying for a new job. Businesses are becoming increasingly more global all of the time, and it can make you come across as more culturally sensitive. As they reach out to new markets, they need experts fluent in the language that can help them to promote their business professionally and efficiently as they continue to expand their reach. 

Even if a company only focuses its attention within America, employees who know a second language become just as important. Our country is continually becoming a melting pot of diverse cultures, and if a business hopes to capitalize on all customers from every background, then they need workers with expert language skills to spread the message. Employees who know a second language can be incredibly important for sales positions as well as helping with customer service needs.

When you learn a second language, you are not only comprehending a new dialect but you are also helping to improve your overall language proficiency. No matter what language you speak or the job you hold, you need to be able to properly communicate. Many professions require strong communication skills, including negotiators, counselors, and accountants, who need to be able to tailor financial reporting to a variety of audiences with different backgrounds. If you have the ability to help more customers, then you become more valuable to an organization.

Use the Language at Work When Possible

If your second language helped get you in the door at a new job, but your manager tells you that your unique skill won’t be necessary on the job just yet, you can still keep your skills sharp for when the time comes. The great thing about the country becoming more diverse is that many organizations hire people from various backgrounds, so upon meeting your coworkers, you may discover that some of them speak your second language fluently. 

Once you find someone that you get along with and that is willing to provide guidance from time to time, you should go to them when you have questions about how to say a word or phrase. After you become more comfortable, you might even decide to speak to that person exclusively in the second language. This is a great way to understand the flow of back and forth conversation, and they can give you tips if they notice an area of improvement. 

Finding a manager who speaks your language is even better because you can bond with them and also express your willingness to move to a position where you can speak the language every day, which could result in a promotion in the future. 

If you really want to make an impression at work, then you should also know how to fluently read and write the second language in addition to speaking it. A good way to practice is by using some of your downtime to rewrite some of the English policies, procedures, and instructions that you use at work in the other language. Transcribing the writing will provide the repetition that is necessary for learning a new language, and you never know when those materials may be needed in the future. 

Submerge Yourself in the Culture

Even if you don’t get a lot of time to maintain your language proficiency at work, remember that there are plenty of ways to continue your learning from home. You can improve your reading skills by going online and reading foreign-language newspapers that will allow you to practice your comprehension while you also learn more about current events in that country. 

You might also watch foreign-language movies with the subtitles turned on so you can verify your understanding of what you are hearing. It may be a good idea to choose drama films that are presented in your second language because you can watch the actors as they say the lines, which can give you a good idea of the proper tone and inflection when you say those words yourself.

Of course, just like at work, the best way to continue to learn is to immerse yourself in the culture and hang out with people. You can do that by going out with your friends, attending community events, or volunteering at local organizations where there is always a good chance to speak with someone who is fluent in your second language.

As you can see, just because you aren’t actively using your unique skill in a professional capacity right now, it doesn’t mean that it won’t become essential in the future. Practice the tips above and stick with your lessons, and you will be ready when the moment comes.


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About the author

Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys writing about career guidance and education but occasionally goes back to her roots with socially active news journalism. Frankie spends her free time cultivating her zero-waste garden or hiking in the mountains of the PNW with her loved ones.


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