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Bilingual applicants more attractive to employers

Victoria Hendricks

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“Hola, ¿cómo estás?”

Spanish, French and German are just a handful of the colorful foreign languages students will hear when strolling down the hallways of the Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures Department in Jardine Hall at Wichita State. Ears perk up at the fluency, tone, inflection and speed the professors use.

Those sounds are also becoming more imperative in today’s workplaces.

“Employers always prefer bilingual employees, especially in the context of global business and services,” said Wilson Baldridge, department chair of the Modern and Classical Languages Department.

Rachel Showstack, assistant professor of Spanish and Linguistics, agreed.

“Bilingualism is helpful in social services, politics, elementary education and a range of other fields, as well,” she said. “If an employer has a choice between two similar candidates and one is bilingual, the bilingual candidate will usually be more attractive.”

The facts are out there about why learning a second or more languages is vital to employment placement after graduation.

“The United States has the second largest Spanish-speaking population in the world,” said Rocio Del Aguila, academic lecturer of Spanish and graduate coordinator of the Spanish MA program.

Jose Enrique Navarro, assistant professor of Spanish and coordinator of the certificate in Spanish for the professions, said one in five U.S. residents speak a foreign language at home.

“American employers need personnel who can speak more than one language to accommodate the needs of that population,” he said.

Moreover, the advantages are far and wide being bilingual, especially in careers.

Being bilingual can make the difference between you and your coworkers and can bring unique opportunities for your professional development,” Del Aguila said. “If you are in a bilingual working space, you will fit better and the results of your team work might improve.”

In addition, the advantages also demonstrate strength in cognitive development.

“Recent studies show that people who speak more than one language may perform better in academic terms, because those individuals are more prone to develop sustained attention and switch between tasks,” Navarro said.

Generally, all the professors said the need to be fluent is preferred, but not demanded.

“It depends on the type of work,” Showstack said.

“Of course, fluency is recommended and that is the reason why we try to make our students practice as much as possible and in an adequate cultural context. Fluency comes with time and exposure to the language,” Del Aguila said.

So the question remains.

What language is best to know?

“No language is more practical than the other,” Navarro said. “It is how we use it or what we use it for that makes it practical for us. If someone’s loves a language, he or she will find the way to make it practical, may it be by using it in a professional setting, meeting new people, or traveling or living abroad.”

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