Multiple Language Skills Could be Key to Career Growth

  • Article by: MATT KRUMRIE , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: May 23, 2011 - 8:18 AM

A global workplace and changing demographics are creating a need for Twin Cities workers who can speak multiple languages.

Dear Matt: What Twin Cities industries have an increased emphasis on speaking a second language and what languages are more important locally?

Matt: As the demographics change across the state of Minnesota (and throughout the United States) and as technology continues to increase our ability to do more business at an international level, those with diverse language skills will position themselves for career success. That's what a number of Twin Cities business professionals say and what a recent University of Phoenix Research Institute study confirmed. That report said that 42 percent of employers expect the need for business proficiency in Chinese to increase over the next decade, while 70 percent indicated that the ability to speak Spanish will be a key skill set. For professionals looking to gain an edge, learning in-demand language skills could be the key to professional growth.

"Adding a language skill and being fluent in your field of work is definitely an advantage in today's increasingly skilled and credentialed workforce," said Deb Bahr Helgen of the City of Minneapolis Workforce Council. "In order to compete globally, local companies will need to look at the diversity of language skills as a necessity. In Minneapolis, Spanish and Somali are the primary languages mostly because small business start ups come from those communities and are very doing well here."

Abby Pinto, managing director of the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, agreed, adding the Hmong language to that list on a local level. Those who are pursuing business careers should also consider the suppliers, customers and partners that Minnesota-based businesses work with around the world, where also learning Chinese, French, Portuguese, German, Japanese and Korean would be beneficial, said Pinto. On a global level, the languages the U.S. government (Departments of Education, Defense and State) have identified as critical for diplomacy and national security are: Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Russian, Turkish and Urdu.

Job opportunities for those with advanced language skills are already in-demand on a state level, said Caron Hassen, a career and employment counselor with the Minnesota Dislocated Workers Program. Those with multiple language skills in the accounting, customer service, health care, human resources, freight forwarding, international business, manufacturing, marketing, military, restaurant and retail industries are in a better position to find and keep employment as well as see increases in salary.

And one local worker already knows the importance of multiple language skills. Norma Beasant is in the process of starting her own HR consulting firm. "I plan to offer my services in both English and Spanish," she said.

- Matt Krumrie
Twin Cities freelance writer specializing in career advice

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