Bill Gates regrets not knowing a second language—he said so himself. The Microsoft co-founder confessed his linguistic shortcomings during his third and most recent AMA (Reddit’s Ask Me Anything), and expressed his desire to know French, Arabic or Chinese.
But why does one of the most successful business moguls care to parle français?
Because being bilingual in the business world is extremely beneficial. Here's why.
Los Beneficios (The Benefits)
With a big helping hand from technology, an entrepreneur is able to conduct business anywhere, regardless of borders. But marketing and negotiations can get lost in translation despite the accessibility of intercontinental communication.
Bilingualism is increasingly becoming a vital job requirement and a resume gold sticker. Any company with offices, customers or partners abroad will be looking for candidates to speak a second or third language. Simply do a CareerBuilder.com keyword search using “bilingual” and peruse through 14,966 job postings that require linguistic competences.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, translator and interpreter jobs in the U.S. is expected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018.
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Hacer un Montón de Dinero (Make a Lot of Money)
How much are companies willing to pay multilingual employees? Big bucks.
According to Salary.com, employees can earn 5 to 20 percent more than the position’s base rate if they can speak an additional language. Fluent government workers in the state of California earn an extra $.58/hour.
A 2005 study conducted by Rosetta Stone found that multilingual employees could make $10,000 a year more on average than employees who don’t speak a foreign language. That might be worth that extra year of college Spanish.
CEOs Bilingües (Bilingual CEOs)
According to a poll of 12,562 visitors to the Korn/Ferry International Web site, 31 percent of executives speak two languages and 20 percent are fluent in three. If you haven’t heard, Mark Zuckerberg can speak satisfactory Mandarin along with everything else he’s good at.
Although he does have a Mandarin-speaking wife and in-laws, he recently made an effort to connect with his Chinese consumers by voluntarily holding a question and answer session for students at a Beijing university, speaking entirely in passable Mandarin.
Image via Direct Gadget
¿Es Necesario? (It's necessary?)
You might be stubbornly thinking that learning a second language is a waste of time, as you don’t market to people outside of your English-speaking job. But with that line of thinking, you are overlooking potential revenue sources. For example, the buying power of Latinos will reach $1.5 trillion in 2015. That’s not to assume that every Latino only speaks Spanish. But studies show that although 82 percent of Latinos in the U.S. can speak English.
Spanish-dominant Latinos still lean towards websites and marketing pitches that are in their native tongue. Companies like McDonalds, who has a separate site www.meencanta.com for Spanish-speaking customers, are devoting marketing dollars to tap into this economy.
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So, what other languages are in high demand? Arabic and Chinese.
Approximately 420 million people worldwide speak Arabic and are apart of an emerging market. According to scholar and author Vijay Mahajan, Arab countries consume more than China. “When you look at per capita consumption power, it’s almost twice that of Chinese and almost three times that of Indian,” he tells Wharton.
Likewise, business school students and corporate executives are strongly encouraged to take Mandarin classes to polish their resume and prepare for relationships overseas. As the GDP of China continues to grow and companies continue to outsource manufacturing, Mandarin-speaking employees will be in high demand.