Skip Nav

Most Profitable Foreign Languages

Foreign Languages and Your Salary

Some people have a knack for languages (like multilingual Natalie Portman) and others have a bit of a block when it comes to expanding their repertoire of tongues, but do the former really have an advantage over the latter? Studying at least two years of a language was required for my major, and like the majority of the other students in my department I took on Spanish. It served us well living and studying abroad, but I haven't used it in any workplace — even living in California where Spanish speakers are so common. In 2006, 52 percent of college students enrolled in foreign language classes opted for Spanish, but the wage premium for bilingual Spanish speakers was just 1.7 percent. To find out how other languages are rewarded by way of wage premiums just

One study that focused on comparing wage premiums for American college graduates who spoke Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian and Chinese as a second language came up with findings on which languages are most lucrative. Unsurprisingly, Spanish was the least valuable, then French with a 2.7 percent premium, and the other four tied with an average of a four percent income increase. I thought that the findings would have shown Chinese with a higher wage premium, since its difficulty level prevents many students from committing to the language.

If you're looking to get some monetary mileage out of a foreign language and have an interest in working for the FBI, their most in demand languages are Swahili, Urdu, Farsi and Bahasa Indonesian. The Modern Language Association (MLA) says that enrollments in Chinese and Farsi are on the rise and are two of the top ten most popular languages for college students in the U.S. The list also includes Japanese, Latin, and Russian.

Did you ever learn a foreign language, and if so has it paid off beyond the personal satisfaction of expanding your knowledge?


Latest Career & Money
Watch Our Holiday Gift Guide Show!