Podcast Episode 42: Could Language Make You Money?

language money

Today's episode returns to the topic of making money with languages. We ask if that's something you should be doing and how it can work.

In this episode, you get a look behind the scenes of our own careers, the jobs we've had and those that may be yet to come. All I'm saying is "flower lab!" 🌷

Three Reasons You Should Work With Languages

1) If you love it and you're passionate, it's a great way to bring excitement to your work
2) Working with languages will make you better at languages
3) You get to make great new connections with other speakers of your language

Our sponsor for this episode is Lindsay's new course, the Online Teaching Starter Kit. It's a complete guide to becoming an online teacher in five different parts. Check it out at www.fluentlanguage.co.uk/otsk.

Modern Languages students often look at the list of "related jobs" for their degree and ask "Is that all?!"

What you will hear:

  • What does it really mean to have a passion for something?
  • You're not meant to be good enough (not perfect) at languages when you go for a job interview
  • The disappointing list of "jobs related to a Modern Languages degree" on a leading careers website
  • The weird and wonderful list of "jobs where your Modern Languages degree would be useful"on the same website
  • How to bring languages into your career without applying for a new job
  • Our stories from applying for and working in the following jobs: translator, tutor, interpreter, teaching assistant, video game tester, export sales assistant, international recruitment manager
  • Why we work online and for ourselves, but we're not digital nomads
  • How to get started as an online tutor in particular, and the fantastic concept of timeboxing

"Self employment is self improvement." (Lindsay does soundbites)

Links From This Episode

Tips for the Bilingual Job Hunt from Jobcoconut

I'm excited about today's guest post for you guys. If you've listened to my podcast with Peter Rodway, you know that I am completely convinced that languages are your way into the most beautiful careers. Today we'll be hearing from the team over at Jobcoconut, a global jobs site offering amazing appointments all over Europe. These tips are about how to show off your language skills to make sure you walk into that job you want.

No TPS Reports required in YOUR amazing career, kid! (img ©office space movie)

No TPS Reports required in YOUR amazing career, kid! (img ©office space movie)

Over to the Coconuts:

So if you are based outside your home country and you are fluent in more than one language, then you’re more likely to land a top language job as HR departments and recruiters are always seeking job seekers with language skills.

In particular, if you speak a hard to source language such as the Nordic, Scandinavian or Eastern European languages then you will be in high demand, which means you can easily land yourself a well-paid job in top European cities. Language jobs across all European countries also seek Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch speakers. So the opportunity is there for all bilingual job seekers.

Studies carried out by the recruitment companies clearly show that candidates who speak two languages earn a lot more than non-bilingual speakers. Another advantage for having language skills is it can allow you to form a vital part of a company’s growth strategy. Whether it’s trying to enter new markets on a national level or expand to other countries, having a second language makes you a valuable part of any organisation.

But wait…

Are you actually bilingual?

The term “bilingual” has had a few different definitions over time, and this is one we can all agree on: Bilinguals “can communicate just as easily in one language as you can in the other”. Your language proficiency should be measured in terms of your speaking, reading, writing and listening abilities in each language.

Many people exaggerate on their CV about their level of proficiency in a language. It is important that you are entirely confortable in a business environment using both languages. There's no cheating: Bilingualism not only demands a command of the structure of the language but an understanding of the other language’s nuances such as its sense of humour.

How can you prove that you’re bilingual to an employer?

The best way to prove it is during the interview. If bilingual language skills are important the employer/recruiter will communicate to you in both languages. They will be able to tell straight away if your language skills are right for the position. This is common amongst recruiters as they require assurances they have got the person for the job.

What should you put in your CV?

If you want to promote your language skills on your CV (and you so do!), the most important thing is to be honest about your level of knowledge and comfort in both languages. This will save you and the recruiter embarrassment and time, otherwise you will have to explain why your language skills aren’t up to standard. Imagine you end up in the job and have to give a presentation or write a report to important clients. Your language skills should handle that easily.

Handle terms like “bilingual” or “fluent” or even language scales such as the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) with care. Judge your language skills in terms of your confidence in working using that language. Here is a handy framework (see below), but we encourage you to put your own stamp on it by coming up with your own self-evaluation of your language skills!

• Limited working proficiency – able to satisfy routine social demands and able to handle limited work requirements but would need help in handling complicated tasks

• Professional working proficiency – can discuss a variety of topics with ease and almost complete understanding of what others are saying

• Full professional proficiency – can participate in all manners of conversations with ease and only rarely make grammatical mistakes

• Native proficiency – native speaker/ mother tongue.

Develop Your Skills

Language skills are one of those things that employers cannot develop in 90 days, so they are excited to find you as a candidate. Or if you're looking for a total linguist job

By the way - I want to help you guys with your language careers. Soon I'll be posting an exciting summary of all my jobs on my mailing list, but before that why not participate in my 50 Calls Project to talk about languages at work?

Thanks for reading this article on Fluent - The Language Learning Blog. Don't forget - if you sign up to our newsletter, you will receive a free Guide to the Best Language Learning Resources!

Why a languages graduate is your next great job candidate

Languages are used in every sector of the UK economy, and in the public and voluntary sectors as well as in private enterprise.
— British Academy

Here in the UK, Higher Education has become increasingly focused on the "employability" aspects of a degree. It's really a worldwide trend, and subjects like languages suffer as students turn to "Business Studies" to make sure they get a job afterwards. Having spent the last five years advising prospective students on their choice of study, let me fly the flag for the quirky subject choice. Here is what I think you should know before interviewing a languages graduate.

    They add value

    You only need English to buy a beer in Spain, but that won't do for business. In fact, the British Academy has found strong evidence of what they call a growing language deficit in the UK. We're in a big recession and business must look for the money, so if it's abroad, your best route in is with a few experts.

    They aren't sheep

    According to HESA, only 5.4% of all UK students take a language so unless you happen to hire a graduate who's a native speaker of another language you will have someone who is used to thinking as an individual and going against trends. And those are great attributes.

    They are trained communicators

    Today's Modern Languages degrees do more. Students are taken out of the classroom, present bilingual reports, produce accurate language in lab sessions and discuss what's going on in another country's news. Getting straight on the phone to your overseas agents should be a tried and tested experience for them.

    They are independent

    Language degrees in most countries contain a compulsory stay at a host university or a host enterprise in the target language country. What this means for an employer is that a candidate who has spent considerable time living and coping abroad. They are likely to be self-motivated, reliable and able to adapt to new situations.

    They are ahead of others

    Language graduates have gone through 3-4 years of intensive training in many aspects of their chosen language, and it's not something that can be learnt on the job. I've often heard that most practical skills can be taught to a new employee within a few months, but becoming fluent in a new language? Not likely. Well, unless you are Benny Lewis I guess.

    Alex France (on  Flickr )

    Alex France (on Flickr)


    Dear parents and recruiters. I am in no way implying that all of us languages graduates are all of the above. Just hoping.

    Today's post was inspired by this interesting group blog I have come across recently. It's called Kanzilingua, apparently named after a an ape who's able to communicate in English. The blog features over 30 contributors, most of which are drawn from the UK's Modern Languages student community. Kanzilingua is worth a visit this month as they've declared March their careers month.

    *Cultural note: The UK university system will require students to focus in on their major from year 1 of their degree. No declaring halfway through a sophomore year here!

    How to Sell Your Language Skill to Any Employer

    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

    Sounds familiar?

    Great ad from adsoftheworld.com

    Great ad from adsoftheworld.com

    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.

     Future Vision

    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.