How learning a new language can help you make more money
Though estimates differ (from $1 more an hour to 10 or 15 percent more overall), many experts agree that learning to speak more one than one language can lead to higher pay – a fact that holds true whether you’re working as a hotel room attendant, customer service rep, manager, or c-suite hospitality executive.
Here are just a few reasons becoming bilingual is worth the effort for your career.
Speaking a second language can help you stand out in any job market. Though the U.S. economy continues to recover, and hospitality employment has been steadily growing since 2010, you’re still likely to find yourself competing with dozens of other applicants for almost any hospitality job. Fortunately, triumphing over most of them will be easier if you speak a second language – something many Americans are unable to do.
According to the Modern Language Association of America (MLA), the number of U.S. college students enrolled in foreign languages courses decreased 6.7 percent between 2009 and 2013. As a result, only 7 percent were learning a foreign language in 2013. Fluency is another issue. It has been calculated that less than 1 percent of U.S. adults are actually proficient in the foreign language they studied in a high school or college classroom. If you are, make sure your potential employers know this.
Speaking a second language can also broaden your employment opportunities. The more jobs you’re qualified for, the easier it will be to get started in hospitality as well as advance in your career. Some employers only consider bilingual candidates for certain positions. For example, Hcareers has several job postings with a bilingual requirement in the title of the job. These positions can range from concierge and attendant to marketing representative and director of business development.
Many employers believe hiring bilingual workers is better for their hotel, resort or restaurant’s bottom line. In an increasingly global world, and particularly in a service industry such as hospitality, it’s not uncommon to regularly encounter guests from other countries. This is especially true when you’re working in a hotel, resort or restaurant in a major metropolitan area or popular international tourist destination.
Employers know this, and they also know that language and cultural misunderstandings can be costly for their business. According to the U.S. Committee on Economic Development (CED), American businesses may be losing more than $2 billion a year as a result. Nearly 80 percent of the business leaders the CED surveyed felt their companies would be more successful if they had more “internationally competent” employees on their staff.
Bilingualism (or even multilingualism) is even more important if you want to work in hospitality internationally. The ability to travel the world while earning a satisfying living is one of the perks of working within the hospitality industry, whether you’re employed by a cruise line, airline or chain of international hotels or resorts. However, going after positions like these mean competing against hospitality professionals from other countries as well as other Americans.
If you don’t speak a second language, you’ll be at a decided disadvantage. According to the Pew Research Center, in most European countries, students are required to study multiple foreign languages from early on in their education. In fact, studying at least two for a minimum of one year was compulsory in 20 European countries in 2012.
Whether you want to brush up on the foreign language you studied in school or add a new one to your repertoire, doing so doesn’t have to cost you a bundle. While a highly-rated Rosetta Stone language-learning software package is one way to go, the internet is packed with free language-learning options that may serve you equally well. These include the Speak-in-a-Week email course from Fluent in 3 Months, Duolingo’s game-like app (available for iPhone and Android), and 48 different free language courses from Open Culture.