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I am thinking of learning a second language purely due to personal choice. My job has a talent profile where we can give information and talk about our talents and at any point in my career should I try to change jobs within the company then this profile can be viewed by the prospective manager. If I learned a second language and listed this language on my profile once I was fluent, what kind of realistic advantage could I expect?

To better phrase the question, from a management point of view how valuable is it truly to have your employees be bilingual in a setting where it really isn't a necessity? Does it add any real value or does it fall into the parlor trick category unless otherwise needed in the job?

I work for in the IT department for a company on a global scale.


Edit: Thank you everyone for the responses. In hindsight I guess there is not really a "correct" answer to this as some users have pointed out. It is a matter of opinion but it is an opinion that affects every industry. I plan on learning a second language regardless but was curious if doing so may have unintended rewards. I appreciate the comments and answers.

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    Just one suggestion, you have to be REALLY good for it to be valuable. You pretty much have to have to be really bilungual (ie: you grew up speaking both). It's tough. – Fattie Apr 3 '19 at 20:41
  • I don't know about the full bilingual level requirement, I think it is valuable once you get above the facepalm level of skill. – r_ahlskog Apr 3 '19 at 20:44
  • I don't think we'd be able to tell you how likely you are to get into a hypothetical scenario where the second language would help you do your job better. You're probably a better person to judge how common the second language is in the area your company operates in (in terms of which countries as well as who they choose to work with and their official internal languages) and how close you personally are and want to be to the area where the language is used (if any). – Bernhard Barker Apr 3 '19 at 21:20
  • It is impossible to get fluent in a language, by only reading books and learning its grammar. You still need the speaking, hearing, culture and terms of the language. All this and for no value to the employer. Consider learning a skill to put on your profile instead. – Sandra K Apr 3 '19 at 21:41
  • My kids are bi-lingual (and competent in a third) - just start learning at about 2 years of age... My daughter could count to ten in English and French before she was 3 - did not know that that was two different languages - just thought it was two sets of names :) knows better now though... – Solar Mike Apr 4 '19 at 6:31
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To better phrase the question, from a management point of view how valuable is it truly to have your employees be bilingual in a setting where it really isn't a necessity? Does it add any real value or does it fall into the parlor trick category unless otherwise needed in the job?

I work for in the IT department for a company on a global scale.

It could be extremely valuable if part of your job involves communicating with folks who speak the language you plan to learn.

It could be valuable if you have coworkers speaking your second language.

Otherwise, all knowledge is good, but may not be of major importance to your employer.

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    As an example to this: My colleague speaks Spanish as a third language, which is very valuable when supporting coworkers in Latin America and Spain. I speak Norwegian as a third language, which is not very valuable as we don't really have a lot of dealings in Norway. We are in an IT department in the Netherlands. – Caroline Apr 5 '19 at 9:22
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I'm fully bilingual and in my case there is very little actual business value to it. For better or for worse, English is the main international business language and most international people speak it to varying degrees. A second language is ONLY helpful if your command of the second language is significantly better than the English of the other person AND everyone else in the room or the conversation is also reasonably fluent in the second language. That's very rarely the case.

There are exceptions, though: For example, if your company does business in China, being reasonably fluent in Mandarin is a very valuable skill. English proficiency in China is all over the place, so if you can get to a point where "My Mandarin is better then your English" you have a significant and valuable benefit.

However, this is a non-trivial amount of work & commitment. Learning a few phrases or sentences isn't going to cut it and typically a lot of immersion and daily speaking is required to get to decent level of proficiency. Every once in a while someone tries to impress me with their command of my other language, but it is usually just embarrassing or annoying: most people apparently believe their 2nd language skills are much better than they actually are.

This being said: there is a lot of personal value. I love being bilingual and my kids are fully fluent in between 2-4 languages. There are cultural and experience benefits that are quite valuable (to me) even if it's not a big thing for my employer. So don't let that stop you !

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    Excellent last paragraph. Unless you've spent time in an environment that fully immerses you in your second language, and done well there, it's wise to be cautious and humble about your ability. – Upper_Case Apr 3 '19 at 21:07
  • "most people apparently believe their 2nd language skills are much better than they actually are" - I would point out that this goes the other way too - non-native English speakers often have way more problems understanding English than they like to admit. Speaking someone's "other" language, if only to confirm afterwards, often goes a long way to cutting out misunderstandings. Don't assume everyone who "speaks English" does so perfectly. – Joe Stevens Apr 4 '19 at 9:24
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how valuable is it truly to have your employees be bilingual in a setting where it really isn't a necessity?

If it doesn't provide value or a competitive advantage to your employer then there probably isn't any value.

I have a lot of skills that aren't specifically related to my work, but unless they're providing actual value or a competitive advantage, they're of no value to my clients/employers.

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  • Not so much an oxymoron as a redundancy. "Worthless value" would be an oxymoron. (Since we're grammarizing a bit :-) – Kent A. Apr 4 '19 at 14:12

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