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Language skills boost employability and earning potential


In the current economic climate, job seekers are having to find as many ways to distinguish themselves from the competition as possible, with one report suggesting that people with language skills could be one step ahead of the rest.

Recent research by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and North Anglia Education found that employers value the ability to speak a foreign language.

They are looking for people with conversational ability rather than full fluency, the CBI says, which could be good news for those who have undergone courses in secretarial studies and can speak more than one language.

The survey found that four per cent of chief executives believe the companies have lost access to markets due to inadequate ability to communicate effectively with overseas businesses.

Conversational Ability

The survey found that European languages, particularly French and German, are the most sought-after by employers recruiting based on these skills, although the move into emerging markets in the Far East, Central Asia and Latin America is widening the scope for language abilities. According to the report, 38 per cent of firms are seeking speakers of Mandarin/Cantonese, 28 per cent are seeking those with a knowledge of Spanish and 21 per cent want people who can converse in Russian.

“Employers are increasingly looking for people with ability in a second language, particularly conversational language skills which help to build relationships with existing partners and to make contacts in new markets,” said Teresa Tinsley, director of communications at CILT, the National Centre for Languages.

The monetary rewards for people with language skills are also potentially higher, with a recent Elizabeth Hunt survey showing that the typical salary for bilingual secretarial staff in the City of London stands at £29,000 a year.

According to the research, an Executive PA who is fluent in more than one language can expect to earn on average £30,500. The earning potential for people in these two roles amounts to £33,000 and £36,000 for employees working in the City, the survey showed.

First Impressions

Karen Floyd, director of communications and development at the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, says that as a country which relies heavily on exports, the UK is increasingly in need of employees, such as secretarial staff, who can speak more than one language.

“It always creates a very good first impression if you’re able to at least communicate with somebody in their own language. Even if it’s just to be polite and say a few words, it always creates goodwill,” she explains.

“We have a reputation as a country of not being particularly good with languages and that is something we have to overcome,” Ms Floyd adds. Secretarial staff who have language skills tend also to have an appreciation for a particular culture, which can be a significant advantage when trying to employ correct business etiquette with a foreign firm or identify trading trends.

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