Rita Rosenback is an Author, Blogger, and Coach with www.multilingualparenting.com.
While working in the education and coaching sectors, Rita constantly uses a language other than English. When asked how often she uses another language at work, Rita replied: “I mainly do my job in a language other than English.”
Could you give us some examples of when you have used foreign languages at work?
My mother tongues are Swedish and Finnish, so English is a “foreign” language to me, though I now do all my writing in English.
I give speeches on the topic of raising bilingual children in English, Swedish, and Finnish. Being able to speak with potential event organisers in their mother tongue makes a huge difference in how quickly you can connect with them. There is also a higher element of trust when you speak the same language.
In my past professional life, I have twice been offered (and accepted) a job I had no formal qualification for, but was chosen thanks to my language skills and then given the necessary training for the job.
Would you say that speaking foreign languages is advantageous in your sector?
Definitely, as I deal with bilingual organisations and people.
How proficient would you say people need to be for language skills to be useful at work?
Any level of language knowledge is better than none. Learn the basics, greetings and culturally polite phrases, and expand from there. Even if you can only do small talk, it will help to get a bigger deal done. To lead more demanding sales discussions and agree on terms and conditions of a deal, a much greater fluency is needed.
What would you say to a young person about the benefits of speaking at least one other language when entering the workplace?
No matter which language you learn, you will, at some point during your career, need it and your language skills may be the factor that puts you above the rest when looking for a job. When I got the job as a Manager of IT support, without having much IT experience, it was because of my language skills. When I asked why I got the job, the answer was: “You can’t teach a techie a foreign language within a few months, but you can train a linguist the necessary IT skills in the same time.”
What helped you to learn languages effectively?
I grew up in a bilingual household (Swedish and Finnish), studied German at uni, and also worked in Germany. I learnt English at school and have lived in the UK since 1998.
Learning as a child is probably the most effective way, but this is not an option later on in life. Formal language training combined with stays in a country where the language is spoken is the most effective way to learn. If you HAVE to use a language, you’ll learn a lot quicker.
A massive thank you to Rita for sharing her stories and tips.
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