Language Learning I: The Why

Language Learning I: The Why

In conversations with alumni and employers, they often comment on the need for foreign policy professionals to know a second or third language. While this seems self-evident for professionals looking at working overseas in a non-English speaking environment, there are significant reasons why US-based practitioners would need to know a second-language.

1) It may be directly related to your job

There is field-specific importance given to particular languages.  For example, if one were to work in official development assistance programming in Mozambique, a working knowledge of Portuguese would be essential, and in many cases a necessity for employment.

This carries over to headquarters positions.  Search for Common Ground is recruiting an International Grants Officer that requires English and French fluency.

2) It is worth an additional salary bonus

Several economists have posited that there is an average 2% salary increase associated with knowing a language.

Over the course of a 40 year career, the Economist calculated that a professional could earn between $51,000 and $128,000 in additional salary due to language knowledge.  Given that salaries in the public policy have been consistent with inflation over the past several years, this is a significant bonus.

3) It can make you a better analyst

Recent studies have shown that bi-lingual learners have a heightened ability to monitor an environment.  While this has specific effects in monitoring a surrounding, it is not a far leap to think that this increased situational awareness would easily transfer to monitoring program effectiveness or working as a threat analyst.

4) It can help you multitask

Very few of us work in environments where we can concentrate on one task at a time.  Recent studies show that learning a second language improves the brain’s ability to concentrate on simultaneous tasks.  In an environment where staffers need to continuously increase their productivity, this is invaluable.

5) It can make you a better writer

Many of us last thought about grammar and vocabulary in our native tongue during our elementary school years.  By having to learn these rules anew in a second-language makes us more cognizant of the the full capabilities of language.  This makes us more easily able to write clearly and concisely for all audiences.