Learning a second language can earn you a serious salary boost, but it’s best to be intentional about it. For example, speaking German won’t necessarily help you, say, rise through the ranks of the sketch comedy world. Particular jobs and industries seek out candidates with particular language skills, and it’s helpful to know what they are.
Mandarin: Finance but also Fashion
China has had the world’s fastest growing economy for the past 20 years, and Mandarin has quickly become the second language of international business. Whether you plan to work in the financial sphere or manufacturing, fluency in Mandarin is sure to help you get the right job. Goldman Sachs reports a vast increase in its hiring of stockbrokers fluent in the language over the past five years. America and China are the world’s best import-export buddies, and so both sides require bi-lingual analysts and managers. This same logic applies to the federal government too. Mandarin is in high demand and short supply at the State Department, for example, so if you want to serve your country learning the language is a huge step up. But learning Mandarin doesn’t only lend itself to a career in a suit and tie; it also happens to be one of the most desired language skills in the international fashion world.
German: Manufacturing, Academia, Art
Germany’s status as “world export champion,” with its vast auto and electronics industry, is largely responsible for German being the most valuable second language to learn. If you work in engineering or marketing, speaking German can be a huge plus. But German is also useful for engineers of the soul, like academics and artists. Useful not only because any well-rounded art history or philosophy background comes with a side of German jargon, but also because Germany funds tenure-track professorships for a record number of foreign academics, and supplies a disproportionate amount of art grants to local culture-makers.
French: Climate scientists, NGOs, Food & Wine
Emanuelle Macron responded to Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords by inviting foreign scientists to come work in France. And he wasn’t playing around: Macron’s government has since provided $69 million dollars of grant money for this recruitment drive. Whether or not you’re a client scientist, this may be good reason to learn French, as apparently that country is weirdly future-minded. Generally French is a good language to know if you’re in the business of trying to save humanity. Many major NGOs are based in France, like MSF and the International Federation of Human Rights. That’s not to speak of Belgium, the capital of world NGOs. Of course, French is just as useful if you dabble professionally in the finer things. Be it fine cuisine, fine wine, or cutting edge fashion, nothing says “I know what I’m talk about” like saying it in French.
Spanish: Law, Marketing, Teaching
As an American citizen, these days, it’s almost a civic responsibility to speak Spanish — as a recognition of our history and awesomely shifting demographics. It is also becoming a requirement for a lot more jobs. If you want to be a teacher or doctor or immigration lawyer, and don’t intend to limit your practice to Vermont, “no nabla espanol” just won’t cut it anymore. The growing Hispanic population in the United States is having implications for all aspects of American economic activity. Spanish is becoming an essential aspect of many marketing and advertising jobs, just as it makes for a more flexible media career. Nothing says All-American star employee like fluency in English and Spanish. It’s time you get with it.
Arabic: Government, Energy, Translation
Arabic is considered one of the most valuable languages to learn because so few English-speakers are fluent in it and because the industries that require it are so lucrative. American government agencies, for example, have had a very rough time recruiting Arabic speakers, and have been unusually vocal about their need to change this. The lack of fitting candidates has sent the annual salaries of Arabic interpreters skyrocketing to 200,000 dollars a year. Similarly, energy experts can vastly improve their earning potential by picking up the language that governs so much crude oil flow worldwide. The lack of Arabic-speakers creates potential openings in almost all sectors. Whether its academia and writing, where many so-called Middle East experts don’t speak Arabic, tourism or business in the Gulf, Arabic is a great way to set your resume apart and get your career humming.