Should We All Be Learning Chinese?

by Vault Careers | January 18, 2011

  • My Vault

Careerists seeking to distinguish in the coming years themselves should learn a second language. That's the takeaway from a recent study by the University of Phoenix, which found that 42 percent of employers "expect business proficiency in Chinese to be in moderate or high demand in a decade." And Spanish-speakers are likely to have even more opportunities: some 70 percent of employers expect employees with Spanish skills to be in demand.

Despite that, workers haven't been rushing down to their local language school, or bulk-ordering Rosetta Stone CDs; the number of workers who said they were likely to be proficient enough to conduct business in either language over the course of the next decade: less than 20 percent for Chinese, and only 40 percent for Spanish.

Analyzing this trend, The Wall Street Journal points out that college students appear to be taking note of the changes: enrollment in college Spanish and Chinese classes is up significantly in recent years.

The message for modern careerists is clear: in the not-too-distant future, being able to do your job may no longer be enough for you to be able to progress in your career, unless you can do it in a couple of different languages. And if you can't, some young upstart fresh out of college will be more than willing to take your place.

Of course, there's always the possibility that all of this is overblown hype. English has long been the lingua franca for international business, and it's difficult to see that changing. Unless, of course, you consider the etymology of the key term in the previous sentence.

Maybe it's time to start dusting off those old high school textbooks.

Read More:
The Wall Street Journal: Languages Needed, but No Plans to Learn

Phil Stott, Vault.com

Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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