Using Languages to Boost your Salary
Learning a second language is worth it for the nootropic benefits alone, but those are far from the only benefits. Something I learned as I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into the working world is that speaking a second, third, fourth, and even fifth language is incredibly beneficial. From an increase in salary to an increase in client base, being bilingual pays in more ways than just the physiological benefits. Salary increases are difficult to come by right now, learning a second language (or third) is a great way to set yourself up for an increase, one way or another.
General salary increase
Bilinguals see anywhere between a 5-20% salary increase over monolinguals, according to research. If you take nothing else away from this, remember that statistic. Learning a second language can get you that salary increase that, coupled with your annual increase, might cover inflation! I joke, but in a very real way that is something that can happen if you learn a new language. There are very few skills that can increase a salary like this overnight, and certainly none that can also enhance quality of life in so many other areas. Well, maybe learning Python, but that's technically another language, too!
The first question most people have when it comes to getting paid for their second language is, "how does the certification process work?" and, unfortunately, the answer is not so simple. Depending on the country, there are different tests that can provide certification of any level of fluency from novice to mastery. In Europe this is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and in the US the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) is the standard. If you are planning to use your bilingualism to advance your salary I recommend speaking with the decision makers to verify what they will be asking for in terms of verification for your bilingualism.
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I hesitate to recommend taking these tests because I never have, yet I have used my bilingualism to leverage better offers, travel for work, and be given responsibilities outside my area of expertise as I was the only one able to handle the issues. Some places will demand the certification, some will not. I just struggle to tell anyone who learned English as a second language and got a job where they speak English all day that they need to pay for proof that they speak their native language. Generally speaking, the certifications are far more important in professions that require extended higher education. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc, all of these workplaces will likely ask for some form of verifiable proof of proficiency.
It is also true that the act of changing jobs in and of itself tends to increase base salary.
I've changed jobs a lot, sometimes I get some flack for it, but I make an identical salary to some people who have been with the same company for five years. Sometimes it is worth it to bet on yourself, your skills, and your experience. Adding bilingualism to your repertoire will give you an advantage that most don't have when making a change.
Once you have the certification, or don't, you may be wondering what the best ways to list your languages on your resume is. Luckily, our resident resume alchemist, BowTiedBobcat is here to help.
If you are on the market for a new job or think you might be, make sure you check out his services. He’s done incredible things for many people and he always goes above and beyond. Plus he will give free advice on his Twitter account. You can reach out to him via email as well. If you do, be sure to let him know I sent you!
If you can't check out the thread here are the main points
- Know your framework and qualifying certifications - CEFR, ILR, ACTFL
- Know your fluency, be able to speak to when and how you use it
- Avoid adding languages with limited proficiency
- Discuss it in the summary at the top
- List languages again at the end
Be sure to check out his account if you are looking to level up your resume or make a move. He knows his stuff:
For those of us who are in sales, it can be difficult to conceptualize how learning a second language can increase salary, especially if working in an extremely homogeneous territory. However, here are just a few ways bilingualism can increase commissions:
Something I discuss often is how learning a second language helps you to better understand your native language.
The better you know your native language the better you will be able to sell. Story telling is a phenomenal skill to have and being able to speak two languages (or more) increases this ability as it increases how many ways someone is able to say something. There are always multiple ways to say the same thing, the more languages one knows the more options they have. Something that certainly helps with storytelling is having more stories to tell, being bilingual is conducive to facilitating this.
More relatable/more worldly
It is difficult to become bilingual without learning at least a little more about the world around you. One thing that is quite remarkable is how much changes when people find out that you are bilingual, especially in the United States. With a dismal 20% bilingualism rate, as opposed to the global rate of 56%, being bilingual is an incredible way to stand out amongst the crowd. Beyond that, every once in a while the stars align and someone speaks the language you're learning and this can create a near instant connection. This is especially true if they have history or family from the same region where you learned or practiced your second language. I speak French, but when I meet someone who is from Belgium and speaks French we have a much more instant rapport than if I meet someone from France. This is true about Spanish and German and Portuguese and many other languages as well. This is why dialects are so prevalent, but that's a topic for another time.
Traveling is better when bilingual. The ability to integrate into a community when on vacation rather than just staying trapped within the golden resort walls with your diamond handcuffs and sealed lips is incredible. More travel means more experiences, more adventures, more stories, and two languages in which to tell them will always be better than one. These skills will translate to more sales and, more importantly, more clients.
Larger client base
Over 500,000,000 people speak Spanish. Over 1,000,000,000 people speak Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese). Over 300,000,000 people speak French. Over 1,500,000,000 people speak English. Then, to think, 56% of the world is already bilingual. Not learning a second language is a genuine disservice to yourself if you work on a commission basis. Health benefits aside, the ability to communicate with an extra BILLION people just might increase the potential clientele pool. If that isn't enough, the ability to travel for the job or even take a sales job in a different country should be tempting enough. In many ways European countries are horrible places to make a large salary in, but sales is a different game. More on this in a future post.
Even within the United States there are reportedly 350 unique languages spoken every single day. The idea that English is sufficient seems to me outdated and a cop out. As I've said multiple times, 56% of the world is bilingual, that's over half. Being bilingual is the average. That doesn't make it any less of a worthwhile endeavor, though. Just like with fitness, just because other people are fit doesn't make it any less beneficial for you to become fit. Join the majority of the world and become bilingual. Your brain and your bank account will thank you.
Here is where bilingualism can really be leveraged to change your life. Reach has never been quite so easy or immediate. However, it has also never been quite as difficult as it currently is to stand out. Speaking a second, third, or fourth language is a quick way to differentiate yourself as well as increase your base market. Not only that, but if someone can write effective copy in a second language, that person can undoubtedly integrate into a community without many questions or hesitations from the locals. As I mentioned above, knowing just 4 languages can give you access to over 2 billion potential clients. Anyone who has traveled has seen things that are similar in the homes of people from countries around the world. Just because someone speaks a different language doesn't mean they don't have a need that matches your offer.
Switching up which language you are working in can also facilitate work flow. Trying to come up with new ideas and content constantly in the same language can become debilitating. There are many ways to deal with this, a walk is far easier and takes much less time, however adding a second language to the equation can do much more. Whenever I am feeling trapped I just read a little bit in a different language or write some more in the second language. Sometimes all it takes is stacking another W and remembering that the only cage is your own mind. It is my opinion that the rewiring of the brain that takes place during language acquisition gives people a much needed escape from their own mind.
Alongside this freedom, another freedom is granted upon second language acquisition, that being the freedom to travel. Many people will never truly get to experience a country and its culture. It is next to impossible to get to know a place when you are trapped in the gilded cage that is a resort. Having spent most of my traveling time either staying at hostels or living with the locals, I can confidently say that learning a second language has led me to adventures that would have been impossible had I limited myself to only being able to speak English.
Finally, for those who care, being bilingual makes it easier to remain anonymous. The ability to fluctuate flawlessly between languages allows people to distort the perception of themselves and can misdirect people. If no one even knows which language you speak as a mother tongue it can be exponentially more difficult to find anything else out. There is a reason that linguistic ability is consistent in spy movies, some things are realistic. Being able to blend in and integrate with the help of a second language has its benefits beyond a larger check or a healthier brain.
Becoming bilingual will get you paid more, but there are many factors that contribute to pay, be sure to discuss options with internal decision makers before doing anything drastic. I want you to be able to see the world the way I have; through the eyes of the locals and not the eyes of a tourist. The only way to do this is to get out and start speaking your target language. Potential salary increases, nootropic benefits, and an increased resource pool? What more do you need to convince you to start on that second language today?
Becoming bilingual is difficult, but you can do difficult things and be great. So go do difficult things and become great. Here I’ve given you some of the tools, but in the end, there is no comprehensive guide, no tips or tricks to carry anyone across the finish line. Language acquisition requires time, effort, and consistency. That said, it is something that anyone of any age is more than capable of accomplishing. I’ll be here rooting for you and watching your progress.
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