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Proficiency in one or several foreign languages is invaluable in business. Language is the basis of all communication and many companies operate across linguistic borders or internationally. In many sectors, being able to speak a second or third language is a major asset.
Speaking the customers’ own language
In job advertisements, companies almost always ask for good foreign language skills. Even though they usually imply knowledge of French, English and/or German, they sometimes ask for less common languages. Companies want customers to be served in their own language. This ensures smooth communication while enhancing the organisation’s reputation.
Language proficiency: an asset in every sector
Good foreign language proficiency will help you find a job more easily, regardless of the company size or sector. As a customer service assistant, it is important that you don’t panic if and when you get a non-Dutch speaker on the phone. The same applies in the transport sector where knowing French is a must if your end customers are mainly in France or Wallonia. Many English terms are used in marketing jobs, so if you want to work as a marketer, you should be very proficient in English.
Be honest on your CV
You must list your language skills on your CV. It is important to make a distinction between speaking, writing and reading proficiency, by using a table for instance, where you specify your level: native, fluent, good, intermediate or adequate. Know your own worth and be honest about your claims. Don’t pretend to be an expert in the French language if your knowledge is average. You are likely to fail miserably if they test your proficiency during the job interview, which might ruin your chances.
Every little helps
You can score points, even with basic language skills. This certainly applies to less common languages such as Spanish (in the case of a company headquartered in Spain) or Polish (e.g. in a construction company with many Polish workers).
The financial value of a language
This value is calculated based on the ratio between the anticipated profit that the knowledge of a language yields and the cost of learning the language. It should not come as a surprise to know that English is one of the world’s most “profitable” languages, although it is gradually losing ground to other languages such as Chinese. French remains one of the most valuable languages in Europe, along with German and English. The economic importance of a language also depends on the specific context of the market. Dutch, for example, is very valuable in Belgium, while Spanish and Portuguese are key languages in South America.
Globalisation of business
Stressing your proficiency in foreign languages is not just for job applications with international companies. Considering the rise of globalisation, it is, in any case, a smart move to mention on your CV all the languages your master. You will increase your chances of getting a job interview, and, who knows, of landing a great new job!
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