We often hear how acquiring a second language opens up many doors, but have you ever wondered where exactly those doors are leading to? It’s often a common misconception that multilingual speakers are limited to a career in translation. Yes, it is an option, but it’s an option of many. You only have to open up a newspaper to realise the high demand for multilingual speakers which exists in the job market today – with frequent reports of immigrants lifting EU states from crisis, to the government urging language learning among students. According to the Open University statistics illustrate that 75% of employers consider having a second language as the top skill they look for in an applicant. Quite a considerable figure!
With this emphasis on the importance of language learning in higher education, as well as an influx of recommendations to travel overseas and experience a foreign culture hands-on, what are the advantages of speaking a second language and taking time out to study abroad?MLV caught up with Lisa, a multilingual student from Belgium who does just that, for her own insight on the advantages of acquiring a second language…
Lisa, you’re currently studying here in the UK at the University of Kent, what languages are you able to speak? (L): Well, I speak French, Dutch and English fluently. Along the way I’ve also picked up a few words of Spanish and Russian.
That’s impressive! How did you learn to be fluent in English? (L): I learnt to speak English from my mother who was born and raised in Sheffield, and also at the European schools I went to in Brussels where I studied pretty much everything in English.
Is there anything you find difficult about the English Language? (L): Personally; I have very little difficulty with English but I have friends who’ve complained about the irregularity of the verb constructions (eg. To teach – taught); the way the same combination of letters can be pronounced differently (eg. bough; through; though) and the incredible vocabulary and synonyms with ever so slightly different connotations; not to mention the idioms like ‘To fall flat on your face’.
What do you feel are the advantages of knowing an extra language? (L): I think firstly, learning another language gives you the advantage of being able to understand the culture and the influences it has on your own world. Secondly, speaking a language means you’re automatically on a different footing with a person. Language is a very unifying thing. For example; if you meet a person in a foreign country who can speak your language it immediately gives you a bond you wouldn’t otherwise possess.
Do you find that learning a language will ultimately improve your career prospects? (L): I’m certainly hoping so! I definitely think it will open doors to careers I might not otherwise have access to, ones where you have to travel and communicate with branches of a company in other nations, for example
In previous employment have you found that your language abilities have benefited you?(L): In Belgium, being fluent in the official languages of the country (French, Dutch & German) is really important, even if it’s just working in a supermarket. With all the expatriates working for the European Union, English is also a must. So yes, I’ve definitely found that being fluent in English has helped me a lot. Especially with obtaining certain jobs that without English would’ve been a lot harder for me to get.
You’re currently studying for a BA in English & American Literature, what career would you like to pursue when your degree comes to an end? (L): Personally, I’m hoping to pursue a career in either publishing or video game narrative design. My ideal preference would be to get a job in the States where I feel the career paths I’m hoping to follow are more developed, but I wouldn’t reject the possibility of working in the UK either since I love it here.
You’ve studied here in the UK for 2 years now, how have you found the experience? Would you recommend studying abroad to others? (L): I’m finding studying in the UK a fascinating experience. For a long time I considered myself as being English, but having lived here now for a couple of years I realise that I’m actually more Belgian or European. I would definitely recommend it to others just as I’d recommend they study in any foreign country for at least a year. It allows you to get to know a different culture and its youth in a way you couldn’t otherwise hope to be able to.
Talking to Lisa, it’s easy to understand why multilingual graduates are in such high demand – her ability to speak three languages fluently, combined with her excellent academic knowledge and exceptional travel experience allows her to stand out from the crowd and makes her an ideal candidate in the current job market, opening up a world of opportunities.With hundreds of graduates competing for any one job role language skills give jobseekers a head start.
If you’re looking to put your language skills and academic qualifications to good use, head to our website: www.multilingualvacancies.com where you can browse a range of job vacancies currently available here in the UK and across Europe.