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foreign tongues may increase your job options — and your pay.
Interpreters and translators are among the top five fastest growing
Research from Wharton and LECG Europe found that studying a second language is correlated with about 2% more in annual income. Good. But f
RJ Sangosti—The Denver Post/Getty Images
So you think that's a pretty low return? As study
author Albert Saiz points out in a recent Freakonomics podcast, for someone making $30,000 annually, 2% amounts to only about $600 more per year. But Robert Lane Greene at The Economist shows
that once you factor in compounding, a 2% foreign language increase could mean
nearly $70,000 more in savings by retirement. Put that way, it’s not too
Of course, broad correlations aren’t so helpful if you’re looking for
a concrete pay bump in the real world. But there are many specific
cases where a second (or third) language could increase your job
opportunities and income.
For example, interpreters and translators are among the top five fastest growing occupations,
according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with opportunities
expected to increase by 46% between 2012 and 2022. And for those who
dream of being a real-life Jason Bourne, the C.I.A. loves polyglots.
When it comes to money, members of the U.S. military can earn up to $1,000 more per month if they are proficient in multiple languages.
A foreign language can also amp up your desirability—and therefore
your pay—in business or law..., says Charles Volkert, executive director of the legal
department of staffing agency Robert Half. Recently, 42% of employers at
top law firms surveyed by Volkert’s team saw an increase in legal jobs
requiring a second language.
“With so few qualified candidates, there’s a huge demand for
professionals who can speak Asian languages, particularly at globalized
auto and tech companies,” says Volkert.
If learning a whole new alphabet sounds intimidating, there is good
news: Saiz’s study found that the pay premium for learning German was
higher than the average, at 4%.
Want to test drive Deutsch ? There
are plenty of ways to learn beginner language skills for free.
example, starts off by teaching you to read, write, and speak basic
phrases like “Ich bin ein Junge,” then ramps up difficulty—while giving
you opportunities to compete with Facebook friends who are also learning
Next stop might be one of the BBC’s well-reviewed free
After that, you might want to shell out—either for Berlitz or plane ticket