Think, for a minute, about the last time you tried to sell yourself on paper. Maybe you were writing a job application, or even worse your CV. Do you have a language skill? Where did you rank the language on your list of selling points? If you are anything like me and following convention, it probably ended up right at the bottom next to "I can drive" and "I like to write poetry in my spare time". Now think about how many years, how much time and concentration and effort you have put into learning your language. With all the many interesting things it's taught you, I tell you what, language belongs right at the top!
Here are some of the things that language learning teaches you:
- Considering the other person
- Learning to listen
- Preparing for the unexpected
- Becoming more patient with yourself
- Applying rules and instructions in new situations
- Sustaining interest and curiosity about a project
Yep, they are team work, communication, analytical skills, diligence and motivation. Employers cite these as the most desirable skills. The world's most common interview questions are designed to tease them out of you. The best managers will see language skill in you, but it's up to you to show them how much your language learning has taught you beneath the surface.
I imagine the ideal European workplace, as it is in fact practice in countries like Luxembourg. Colleagues will chat to each other in English, then answer the phone in French and German. This vision's a little rarer in Britain, and in my experience the Brits are not as used to foreign languages yet. There is a little apprehension about the risk of shutting one another out, and often colleagues don't like not knowing what is being said. Become inclusive, become a proud ambassador of your language, and this apprehension will soon disappear. I believe that managers and employers will soon recognise the advantages a multilingual workplace can bring not only to customers, but also to the staff members. Language will build your workplace community. There could be the coolest activities: coffee club in German, away days with kick start Chinese lessons, football sweepstakes for the World Cup with chants in the country's language.
Languages belong in the workplace, because
they actually help us do more than just communicate. Learning a foreign
language teaches grammar and vocabulary, of course. But there's more! The
learner has to adapt to a whole new type of conversational partner. New sayings
or ways of thinking have to become ingrained in your brain. International
teamwork will enter a new dimension when you start involving foreign languages,
and intercultural awareness is the way to future proof your workplace.
I, for one, am going to go global and put languages on page one of my own CV.