Foreign language skills provide sharp edge in the job market

 @ibtimes
on January 22 2011 4:00 AM

Job seekers with bilingual skills could look forward to a profusion of opportunities in the coming year, according to various reports and company hiring plans. With the globalization of businesses and populations growing increasingly cosmopolitan, the need for transactional knowledge of languages has become very important in both private and government sectors.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of translators and interpreters in the country is expected to increase by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018. Another book on the employment scenario, Closing America's Job Gap (W Business Books, January 2011), predicts that For those completely bilingual in Spanish and English, these highly marketable language skills open doors to new careers.

In the US in particular with people of different linguistic origins converging for medical treatment, the need for medical interpreters has grown by leaps and bounds. Consumeraffairs - the news and advocacy portal - also points out that the new standards imposed by the Joint Commission requiring hospitals and health organizations to provide language interpreting and translation services will further boost the demand for personnel fluent in speaking foreign languages.

A big name in the translation and interpreting industry, thebigword has announced that it will be creating 3000 jobs for linguists in 2011. Worldwide, thebigword's interpreting business, is expected to grow by 150 per cent during 2011, fuelled by major contract wins.

Within the US itself, the company's expansion rate has touched 20 percent per month. thebigword has identified the government sector as one of the largest areas demanding linguists and interpreters; in an official release the company says that increasingly cosmopolitan populations are driving the need for regional and national Government bodies to communicate in a range of languages in the USA and Britain.

The company has won substantial Government business based on its ability to deliver savings expected to be US$100 million per year.

Strangely however, based on a report by the University of Phoenix Research Institute, the Wall Street Journal reports that while proficiency in languages - especially in Chinese and Spanish - seems to be among the most critical skills likely to be sought by recruiters over the next decade, very few workers had plans to invest in language instruction.

A survey among 419 employers and 511 workers last fall revealed that 42% of employers expected the demand for business proficiency in Chinese to be high among recruiters; 70% said the same of Spanish. However, a majority of workers said that they neither planned to learn Spanish nor attain business knowledge of Chinese in this period.

However, going by the explosive growth in the number of students enrolling in Mandarin and Chinese cultural courses at the school level across the US, the workforce of the future may be better prepared to meet such demand. In fact, as the Congress takes a relook at the No Child Left Behind Act (or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) language enthusiasts hope that it will pass the $400-million proposed funding for teaching world languages to K-12 students.

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