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Why You Should Learn Spanish

Why You Should Learn Spanish

Dan Woog | Monster Contributing Writer

You’re an international food marketer. You call a colleague, supervisor or supplier in Latin America or Spain. The only foreign word you know is hola, but when the receptionist answers the phone speaking machine gun-rapid Spanish, you don’t panic. You ask to be transferred to Mr. So-and-So. “Just a minute, sir. I’ll put you through,” the receptionist responds in perfect English.

With Americanized English the common tongue for much of the industrialized world, knowing a second language might seem as useless as learning Morse code. However, executive recruiters and hiring personnel say North Americans who speak Spanish can do far more than chat up Latino receptionists. Also, in the kitchen, it allows you to communicate with all kitchen staff smoothly, which will certainly help you promote yourself to management level. Bilingual skills help job seekers land work. They can lead to key assignments and pay raises. In some cases, they may even be a job requirement.

Bilingual Means Feeling Comfortable and Productive

According to the January 2005 Korn/Ferry International Executive Recruiter Index, 88 percent of executive recruiters say the ability to speak more than one language is critical to international business success. Seventy-nine percent of North American recruiters cited Spanish as the additional language most in demand by employers. French was next at 43 percent, followed by Mandarin Chinese (30 percent).

“If I send US nationals into another country, I want them to acclimate and assimilate quickly,” says Tom Birmingham, Korn/Ferry’s managing director of global accounts. “Sure, in certain areas of Latin America they can get around OK without knowing Spanish, but personally and professionally I want them to feel comfortable.”

Birmingham notes that an employee who can navigate a foreign environment with ease will probably be both happier and more productive than one who cannot. From a business standpoint, speaking another person’s native language helps win trust.

“Global companies look at people who have global skills,” Birmingham says. “And the ability to speak other languages, especially Spanish, is a global skill.”

Not Just Global

Spanish-speaking ability is also important in the US. Birmingham recently drove through the Atlanta suburb of Norcross and estimates 70 percent of the billboards were in Spanish. “It’s not just California and Texas anymore,” he says. “Throughout the Southeast, more and more people are speaking Spanish.” They come to work in agriculture and manufacturing, which translates into job opportunities for bilingual managers and supervisors.

Next Page: The Cultural Shift to Spanish>>