How learning a language can help your career
Sarah works as a Multilingual Search Manager at Search Laboratory, and she’s taken time out to tell us why and how learning a language has helped her develop her career.
Q. Your experience of learning a language…
– When did you start?
I started learning another language at the age of seven, when my family moved to Germany. I often say that I learnt the language by watching TV, but it was actually a combination of listening (which did involve TV), reading (mainly as schoolwork gave me no choice – I wasn’t the bookworm then that I am today), and being thrown in the deep end. If there’s no other communication option around you, you will pick up a language. It just might take some time.
– How did you get into languages?
I got into it through video tapes for children designed to help learn a second language, and then through tuition and being surrounded by the language in everyday life. For the first six months of living in Germany I went to an English school, but then transferred to a German one, so speaking the language was a must for grades, making friends, and just generally communicating.
– What was hard?
The first few months were pretty tricky. I’m known as a bit of a chatter-box (this is likely to come across in my answers), so not being able to communicate was tough, but also an incentive to just try the language and learn by doing. The best way to learn a language is to speak it. It’s also the scariest thing about learning a language.
These days the main challenge is remembering the right word for the right language. With two languages buzzing in my head, I can often recall the perfect word for what I want to say, but in the wrong language for the situation.
Q. How you have found being multilingual useful when searching for employment and building a career?
Being multilingual has been very useful for my career, as it’s given me more options, and I think it’s also helped me stand out a bit in the employment crowd. This was especially true when I was younger, and just starting out. Though multilingual isn’t as unusual as you think these days.
It was also a way for me to narrow down my career search. I knew that I wanted to be part of a company that provided opportunities for multilingual speakers, and was equally interested in different cultures and understanding different markets.
Q. How do you use languages in your everyday role as a Multilingual Search Marketing Manager?
I manage our French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Chinese team, so the language alone doesn’t help out; however, the language experience is vital. I feel that because I went through learning a language and living in a different country that I’m more empathetic to and understanding of the struggles of day to day life (or at least some of them – the team may disagree).
I also think that the language experience has made me very inquisitive about other cultures, and languages, which really comes in handy when looking into the differences of search behaviour and trends in other markets.
Q. Why do you think more people should learn more languages?
Because it’s great fun! And because it can open up career opportunities that you hadn’t even thought of yet.
I sometimes forget that I’m classed as multilingual as having more than one language is natural to me, to my family, and most of the people I work with. I think I’d be pretty bored if I only had one language to rely on.
Also, looking back and seeing all the opportunities I might have missed out on, is a bit of a scary thought.
I’m excited to learn more languages, though can’t decide of the languages which my team speaks, which one to start with. There’s just too much choice!
Do you use languages at work? Have you found knowing more than one language has helped you in your career?