My parents came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1960 and I grew up in a bilingual household from an early age. When I was growing up, I actually hated speaking Spanish because none of my friends at school knew how to speak it. As I grew older, I came to understand how being bilingual can have a huge positive effect on your life and career. Believe it or not, speaking a second language can have a positive impact on how much money you earn in life. It opens up new opportunities and makes you more qualified than other candidates for potential careers that you may have never expected to go into. It can also allow you to work in different countries and travel the world if that is something you are open to doing.
Here are some great benefits to being bilingual:
- According to the Federal Reserves Survey of Consumer Finances and its financial accounts of the United States, Hispanic families had a combined net worth of about $1.4 trillion in 2010. Many businesses are now trying to target this audience specifically, but it’s very difficult to reach a group of people if you don’t know or understand their language.
- Easier rapport with clients – By Miami standards, my Spanish is average. I regret not studying Spanish as hard growing up as I did my English courses. Still, speaking a little Spanish with a new client initially opens doors and gives you a level of rapport that is harder to obtain in other ways.
- More community and cultural connections – People like to do business with like-minded individuals. It’s easier to do business with others from the same community or with a similar cultural background.
- Being bilingual is more common than you think – According to Francois Grosjean, Ph.D., author of Life with Two Languages: An Introduction to Bilingualism, 18 percent of the U.S. population is bilingual. If you are in business and want to reach this audience, there is no better way than to know and understand their language. The United States is a melting pot of people. Make yourself more marketable by learning a second language.
Being bilingual can give you tremendous flexibility in your career and that is a major asset. I know from personal experience as a marketer, it gives me a huge advantage when trying to help a company target the U.S. Hispanic market with their marketing and advertising. Just sending something off to be translated by a third party isn’t the same as being within the culture of a company and writing it yourself. The difference can be dramatic.
If I could go back in time and speak with my younger self, the first thing I would say is, “study your Spanish lesson harder; you’re going to need it!”