Two Tongues are Better Than One

Fluency in a foreign language can translate into a world of professional possibilities.

Harley found just one niche where knowing a second language reaps rewards. But the demand for bilingual skills varies depending on the career you’re exploring, says Donna Sabatino, operations manager at Career Blazers employment agency in New York City. “For instance, in the engineering/technical field, employees who speak Asian languages are in demand, while French and Spanish are the dominant languages in the social services and medical fields.”

Alex Rodriguez, president and CEO of Diversity Consulting Group, a Santa Barbara, California-based executive search firm, says sales is also an area where second language skills are in high demand. “It can break the ice, set the tone and establish a quick rapport.” Rodriguez should know. Prior to working for the Group, he worked as a car salesman. “I was the only one of a group of salesmen who spoke Spanish and we worked on commission. I wound up handling all our Spanish-speaking clients. Needless to say, I was very successful.”

As a program assistant for the World Bank, Josephine Armar works for the Washington, D.C.-based development assistance organization that lends money to impoverished countries across the globe. Working for a special program for the African Agricultural Division, Armar uses French to communicate with most of her clients in Africa.

“At the World Bank, employees are given a premium for being fluent in another language,” says Armar, who earns approximately $44,000 a year. “Applicants have to be screened very carefully just to make sure they aren’t boasting about language skills to obtain the premium,” she says.

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