So how did she get there? The London native earned a bachelor’s degree in languages at the Polytechnic of Central London University in London and a diploma in translation before completing her master’s degree at George Mason University in Virginia. While pursuing her bachelor’s degree, Armar spent a year abroad–dividing her time among Spain, Paris and the Ivory Coast. Before moving to the U.S. in 1986, she worked as a freelance French and Spanish translator in London.
Armar was still living in London when she first applied for a Spanish/English translator position at the World Bank. She was told there were no openings. Later, while vacationing in the U.S., she applied-in person-for a bilingual Spanish/English secretarial position. This time she got the job. That was 13 years and a few promotions ago.
Armar’s climb up the ladder isn’t that unusual for someone with her 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.
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