The year 2020 is here. If you’re soon to join the workforce, or if you’re a seasoned professional planning to take their career to the next level, learning a second language can be one of your best moves.
According to the World Economic Forum, the 10 skills that one needs to succeed professionally in 2020 are:
1. Complex Problem Solving
2. Critical Thinking
4. People Management
5. Coordinating with Others
6. Emotional Intelligence
7. Judgment and Decision Making
8. Service Orientation
10. Cognitive Flexibility
Being a bilingual speaker has clear cognitive benefits. All these skills can be acquired and refined by learning a new language. A second language is a highly regarded skill as well. In our increasingly interconnected world, companies that operate (or aim to operate) internationally with customers, partners and talent distributed across the world, are looking for multilingual people.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the language skills that will be the most in-demand this year. These skills are a second language and the cultural awareness that comes with it. Let’s take a closer look.
Why You Should Learn a Second Language
What specific language you should learn will probably have to do with your industry and your location. For instance, if you’re based in the United States, learning Spanish might be your best option. Estimates suggest that approximately 99.8 people of Hispanic descent will live in the United States by 2050. And, with a collective buying power of over 1.72 trillion dollars, the Hispanic population is one of the most promising consumer sectors in the country.
On the other hand, you might want to learn a language you could tie concrete professional opportunities. For instance, if your industry is booming in Italy, you should learn Italian. If your sector’s great innovators are in Denmark, perhaps you should learn Danish.
Throughout the last twenty years, the British Council has produced a series of reports titled “Languages for the Future”. It was concluded that post-Brexit, UK-based professionals should take their time to learn Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Arabic or German. Think about what’s best for you, considering your location, industry, discipline and goals.
Of course, if you find a language and/or culture you’re particularly interested in — whether because you enjoy their media, or because of your own ethnic roots, even better.
It’s worth taking a moment to further explain how a second language might benefit you professionally.
For starters, bilingual workers tend to get paid more. And, with the digitalization of the workplace, remote work on the rise, and an increasing number of companies of all sizes sourcing talent internationally, bilingual workers have a clear competitive edge. They can communicate better through international organizations, and they tend to have higher cultural awareness than their counterparts. Cultural awareness makes for a healthy, strong and diverse company culture, and it’s also the key to high performance. Cultural awareness is the vehicle to above-average creativity, critical thinking, and negotiation skills. Let’s see why.
Cultural Awareness & Why We Need It
Cultural awareness has been defined as:
“ [S]sensitivity to the similarities and differences that exist between two different cultures and the use of this sensitivity in effective communication with members of another cultural group.”
Those who have cultural awareness can see their own culture from the perspective of an outsider, and see the differences between cultures in an analytical, intelligent and sensible way.
Cultural awareness has been linked to increased creativity because it’s about raising above our assumptions and experience and empathizing with others. Those who have spent a season abroad, taking part in academic or professional programs, have developed this creativity by constantly dealing with mundane situations that they couldn’t navigate through on “pilot mode,” as they would in their own culture.
Understanding differing preferences, interests and codes of conduct also boosts your emotional intelligence and makes you a people-oriented, flexible professional with leadership potential.
The Next Step
Now that we understand how learning a second language can boost our career and help us bring greater value to organizations, we could:
-Learn about the in-demand languages in your industry
-Find a learning method or strategy that fits your needs and the way you like to learn
-Consider using apps, films and other unconventional learning assets
-Set clear and realistic goals
-Explore relevant institutions, schools or academic programs
Remember that learning a second language isn’t just about adding a line to your resume. It’s about growing as a person and as a professional. And, like all learning processes, it’s basically neverending. You should always be looking to learn something new. As Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.”