The Digital Journalism Blog


Bilingual Speakers Prove Valuable in Global Market

Posted in Uncategorized by com360bu on May 9, 2011

In the ever-increasing globalization of today’s market, students and workers with language skills are proving to be valuable to employers of all markets. Especially in a tough economy, fluency in two or more languages could make the difference between getting the job or not. Bonne chance à toi!

By Kate Allt

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Knowing a second language has always been a valuable skill for graduates entering the workplace, but in recent years, an increasingly global market is making that skill essential.

Bilingual students and workers are valuable to companies who work with or have locations in foreign countries, which, nowadays, is a lot more common. They are able use their second language to speak to clients or even work in the native country.

Dr. Leslie Sconduto, Associate Professor of French and Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages at Bradley University, stresses that the opportunities can be limitless when one has knowledge of a foreign language.

“There are so many people in the United States who don’t speak English, and there are so many companies with connections in other countries,” Sconduto said. “Take Caterpillar here in Peoria, for example. They have connections with so many companies in so many countries, knowing another language is a vital skill for their workers.”

But being bilingual is not just a skill for the business or communication industries. Bilingual teachers are in high demand, as are translators. But in any industry, being bilingual makes one versatile, and therefore highly sought after.

One student who exceeds the qualifications of being bilingual is Saara Lindström, 21. A native of Finland, Lindström not only speaks Finnish and English, but French, German, Swedish, Italian and Spanish.

“I love the challenge languages bring and how you can constantly get better,” Lindström said. “You’re never really finished with learning, and you learn so much about different cultures along the way.”

Lindström began studying English at age ten, the age when foreign language studies become mandatory in Finnish comprehensive school. In Finland, Swedish (the nation’s second language) and English are mandatory to study, but to Lindström, it was more than just a requirement.

“English is my favorite language to speak because it’s not only my strongest language, but it also offers the strongest challenge,” she said. “When using some of my weaker languages, I sometimes get frustrated if I can find the right word or expression, but it just makes you work harder at it.”

Her hard work has paid off. She’s landed two jobs at hotels in England, where constant interaction with colleagues and guests made being bilingual a necessity. Lindström also hopes to use her knowledge of languages in a future career, possibly as a translator.

“Studying languages is the best choice I made,” she said. “I feel that everyone should know at least one other language.”

And yet, Sconduto feels like awareness of foreign languages is not as widespread as it should be.

“Word needs to get out more,” she said. “Here at Bradley, there hasn’t been any increase in students taking foreign languages, but it’s something everyone should study. If not for career opportunities, then due to the fact that Americans are notably ignorant when it comes to speaking in foreign and native languages. You should know the language your clients and competitors speak… it’s important to speak in each other’s languages.”

Fortunately, Sconduto feels the future holds great opportunities in the foreign language department. Bradley will begin offering its first-ever Chinese course in the fall semester of 2011, and is in negotiations to begin an Arabic program.

“Think of it as a way of differentiating yourself from the job competition,” Sconduto said. “The more versatile you are, the better, and today, that’s more important than ever.”

VIDEO

This video details the language skills of one particular Bradley student — how she learned to speak them, how she works to maintain her skills and what she plans to use them for in the future.

ONLINE EXTRA — Interactive Graphic


The online extra would be an interactive map, with each state clickable. Clicking on an individual state would bring up information regarding that state’s language education programs. It would list the schools that do teach languages (and which ones) and the schools that do not. It would also list information on how many bilingual teachers the state employs and would link to the state’s Department of Education website.

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