Two Tongues are Better Than One

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

linguistic background, says Yvette Madison, International Bilingual Recruiter for the Kent Agency in New York City. “All finance and finance-related occupations require some knowledge of other languages,” she says. But Madison cautions bilingual job seekers to take a good look at the geographical area in which they want to work. “Because Spanish is the most common foreign language in most major
metropolitan areas, you may make more money speaking fluent German, for example.”

At the World Bank, Armar says her ability to speak multiple languages was the key to getting in the door. “There are more bilingual positions here than [not]-economists, workers in the human development sector and engineers-because you’re dealing with the whole world,” she says. Armar actually speaks four languages fluently-English, French, Spanish and her native Ghanian tongue, Twi (pronounced ‘chee’). She is also studying a fifth, Ga,
spoken by the tribe of the same name in Ghana.

Language Line Inc. is an interpretation services company based in Monterey, California, that uses interpreters to translate the spoken and written word. For the past six years, Haitian-born Alex Fabien has worked out of his home in Miramar, Florida, interpreting French and Haitian Creole to English and vice versa. He got the job while attending Florida International University as a mathematics major. “A Language Line representative contacted someone from FIU’s Career Office about available job opportunities,” he says. “The Career Office called and asked me if I was interested.” Fabien’s interest earned him an enviable career. Working the night shift translating calls eight hours a day, Fabien is able to spend quality time with his wife and young daughters.

Language Line’s services for phone calls is simple. If a caller needs to reach a business or household where English is not spoken, he or she calls Language Line and asks for an interpreter who speaks a particular dialect or language. “After the caller explains the nature of the call [e.g., business or personal], the conversation is then conducted with the help of the interpreter,” he says.

Fabien, who earns approximately $40,000 a year, never thought his multilingual skills would present him with a job opportunity. “I get paid specifically because I speak more than one language. I know people who earn a living with other skills and abilities who have to use their linguistic skills, but they don’t get paid for it” he says.

He’s not done yet. Fabien also plans on adding Spanish to his repertoire. “A Spanish interpreter can earn more than I can because there’s a larger cross section of the population that speaks Spanish,” he says. In recent years, Florida has become a blossoming business center for South America and the Caribbean and the home of a vast Spanish-speaking immigrant population-largely from Cuba. But until Fabien masters that language, his current job is pretty secure. “French is an important language in South Florida because a lot of Canadians vacation and retire here,” he says. “Many of [these Canadians] bring their businesses with them, or start anew once they get

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