Jan29200912:50 pm

Importance of foreign language skills for an international career

As with my last post, I’ll again put up some of Sherry’s thoughts for her, since her time these days is not her own as she and her staff finish preparations for NCIV’s biggest event, the annual National Meeting. She recently had a short email interview with International Educator magazine about the importance of foreign language skills in international careers. I think Sherry’s answer is an affirmation of how essential foreign language skills are for those of us in these fields, even if we are not using the language(s) on a daily basis.

Q: Is language proficiency an increasingly desired skill in today’s global workforce, and if so, why is that the case? Are more and more employers looking for candidates who are fluent in more than one language?

Sherry: I believe employers are looking for people who are fluent in several languages not so much because they need those languages on a daily basis (though in some cases, of course, they do) but because mastery of another language often reflects the cultural competence and political sensitivities many international jobs require. The willingness to study another language, in most cases, is an indication that a person has the genuine desire to learn about another country and culture that is the primary prerequisite for success— that capacity for authentic curiosity is vital for people whose jobs necessitate interaction with international colleagues.

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