Fluency on the rise

Could knowing a foreign language get you the job?

If you went to high school in Michigan, you probably had to take a foreign language class. In fact, you may have been required to take a couple courses at Ferris. But was the struggle necessary?

According to Job Outlook 2017, a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, only 4.5 percent of employers attribute knowing a foreign language as a highly important skill on a résumé.

Creativity, for comparison, surveyed at 21.2 percent and tactfulness at 25.8 percent.

Similarly, when employers have to choose between two equally qualified applicants, being fluent in a foreign language was rated a 2.1 on a five-point scale as “Not Much Influence,” according to the same survey.

Foreign language majors and minors, as well as students who suffered through a language class to fulfill a credit, should not believe their hard work has gone to waste just yet, because the New American Economy (NAE) reported that bilingual employees are in-demand.

“In 2010, there were 239,267 job listings targeting bilinguals while in 2015, that figure had more than doubled to 627,182,” reported the NAE.

This figure did not result from a random need for translators or interpreters. According to NAE, the need is across the board from customer service representatives to medical secretaries.  

Ferris music management junior Ashlee Jones can attest to this need.

“I think it’s important that some people know how to speak different, just with my experience in working in customer support,” Jones said. “I support people with internet and it’s really difficult when you get that phone call and they’re speaking Spanish and you can’t even tell them that you don’t speak Spanish because you don’t even know that much Spanish, but I don’t think it’s important for everyone to be able to speak a second language.”

Jones, who has had one year of Spanish in high school, does believe fluency in a second language can add to a résumé. However, it might make a person appear overqualified. Jones mentioned that it was surprising that foreign language fluency was rated by employers as having little influence on hiring an employee.

“I think it is just because there are a lot of people in America where their first language isn’t English,” Jones said.

Ferris pre-welding freshman John Campbell was not surprised by how employers rated fluency in a foreign language.

“I mean, I imagine that it would be higher on the list in certain fields like if you’re going to be interacting with lots of different people. But other than that, no, not really,” Campbell said.

For those who think they might need a second language for their future career, NAE concluded that employers are increasingly searching for bilingual workers who speak Arabic, Chinese and Spanish.