4 Ways Learning a Language Can Help Your Career

gray clock icon
3 min read

Many high schools and colleges require students to study a foreign language. Beyond fulfilling this prerequisite for graduation, learning another language can boost your career prospects.

This is increasingly important in today’s global economy. As companies broaden their reach across continents, they are increasing communication and movement between offices around the world. At a more local level, companies are serving a diverse population. With nearly 58 million Spanish-speaking people in the United States for instance, Spanish is spoken more often and in more communities than ever before. This has led to more bilingual jobs.

So how exactly can a foreign language help you in your job? Here are four ways learning a language can help your career:

1. Learning a language opens doors to new career opportunities

A foreign language can expand your network. Not only are you able to speak with people from different backgrounds, you’ll also earn trust by demonstrating a deeper understanding of cultural norms and etiquette.

This was certainly true for Chicago-based Varsity Tutors student Chris T. He began learning Mandarin Chinese to make himself more competitive at a company that conducts international logistics for ocean freights. While his Chinese colleagues knew fluent English, he noted that, “Speaking to Chinese delegates in Chinese allowed me to be seen as more of a subject matter expert. Not only did I understand the logistics, but the culture as well.”

Speaking a foreign language can make you more appealing to international companies, qualify you for a wider range of jobs, and help you climb further up the ladder. What language will open most doors is dependent on the work you do. Mandarin Chinese and German are particularly helpful in fields like finance, while Spanish is useful in areas like sales, marketing, and healthcare. Thinking about what career you might like to pursue can help you decide which language to study.

[RELATED: Why Should You Learn a Foreign Language?]

2. Learning a language improves crucial business skills

Learning a language can be difficult. Challenging your brain sharpens various cognitive skills, many of which will help you be successful in your career. For instance, the process of language learning improves decision making and increases perception. Memorizing grammar rules and vocabulary can improve your memory, and applying said rules can make you a more intuitive problem-solver.

Speaking a foreign language can also increase your confidence at work. Denver-based Varsity Tutors student Rachael A. shared, “Communicating with the people I work with in Spanish was great, but I never felt like I could be vulnerable and ask clarifying questions. Tutoring is allowing me to gain a higher fluency without embarrassment.”

3. Learning a language sets you apart from other job applicants

Foreign language enrollment is declining at U.S. universities and colleges, but the demand for bilingual workers has more than doubled in five years. Given this gap, having a foreign language on your resume can be a huge opportunity to help you stand out from other applicants.

[RELATED: 4 Tactics for Landing Your Dream Job]

4. Learning a language may increase your salary

Learning a foreign language may translate into an earnings boost due to differences in supply and demand. While the actual value will vary based on language and job function, it’s worth noting.

Here at Varsity Tutors, business languages (Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese) grew four times faster than European and traditionally academic languages (Latin, French, German, and Italian) over the past year. One in three of non-English language tutoring sessions were completed by adult learners, suggesting some adults are now trying to get ahead in their careers.

Want to get ahead early? If your school doesn’t offer the language you think will propel your career forward, or you want to go a level deeper with your language learning, private tutoring can give you the edge you need to boost your career prospects.