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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?


Join The Conversation
Oxymoron1 Oxymoron1 9 years
My mother tongue is Spanish and I´ve learnt English, German, French, Latin, Ancient Greek and a lil bit of Dutch. I really love languages, but I don't need them in my career and I´m not fluent in any of them.
Advah Advah 9 years
I'm fluent in 3 languages (I studied languages) and can make my way around two others - that didn't help me score a job that pays well or is very interesting..
sugajen sugajen 9 years
In ohio, Avon workers can get paid up to $7.oo/hr more for speaking Spanish but at places like Best Buy it gets you hired not higher salary. I think the biggest factor is where you plan on workling.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
Spanish is probably the least valuable, because it's so much easier to find someone that speaks it now. However, I was looking into moving to California recently and came up with so many dead-ends because ALL the jobs I was even vaguely interested in required that you speak Spanish fluently. I did take two years of Spanish and one year of French, but I'm horrible with languages. Ack.
GeriAnne1932 GeriAnne1932 9 years
While Spanish isn't very profitable in terms of salary, it certainly will help you get the job...I have found several jobs I was interested in and I didn't have enough of a Spanish language background to meet the criteria, that didn't exist but apparently they want. Not high paying jobs but post-graduate, experience needed types of jobs.
tigo8 tigo8 9 years
I speak Spanish fluently thanks to intense study, study abroad, and a natural talent for languages. It has always impressed employers and I have specifically been hired for certain jobs where foreign language ability was not a requirement, but it gave me an edge over other applicants, and without my language skills I may have been passed over. But, it has never led to an increased salary.
shimysugar shimysugar 9 years
lol I'm a Int. Business Major and French minor glad to know those extra classes were worth it....nottttt lol
pequeña pequeña 9 years
I consider to have two mother togues (Catalan and Spanish) and I was raised almost trilingual, because I had to spoke English too. I would say I'm fluent in four languages (Spanish, Catalan, English and Italian). I also speak quite good French and I'm learning a little German since my boyfriend is from Germany. I find it extremely interesting to learn new languages. I would like to study interpretation when I finish my degree in literature. Speaking forgein languages in required in most well paid jobs in Europe, specially English. I don't think in the States is required to speak a forgein language to get a good job, but I think you need to be fluent in Spanish depending on where you live. What I would love to learn is Arabic, a friend of mine is starting and it's fascinating.
longhorn_sugar longhorn_sugar 9 years
i have to be fluent in Spanish (hola, Texas!) but I would kill to know Chinese. It is THE language to know in a global economy.
concentrate1 concentrate1 9 years
i took french in school, and aside from a trip i took to france my freshman year in high school, it has not helped me at all except for looking suave (or whatever). right now i am a student of Hindi, that is because my boyfriend is Indian and one day I would love to visit/move to india. also to communicate with his family who isn't as comfortable using english as he is. i don't expect any salary rise by knowing this language too, however.
paramita paramita 9 years
Interesting to know that Bahasa Indonesian is in demand with the FBI. It's my mother tongue :). I also speak fluent English, and some German and French.
anaid anaid 9 years
I've always known that I wanted to travel when I had a career, so I have always been studying languages. It's worked out pretty well because now that I'm looking for a career I do find that my skills are wanted/needed. I can't imagine having a world where English is the only or most spoken language. How boring that would be. I think languages are essential for us to get to know and care for each other. World peace!
dropstar dropstar 9 years
I'm fluent in French, and can stumble my way through Catalan, Spanish & Russian. Working to improve my language skills and pick up some new ones, too. For me, the best thing about learning languages isn't really the prospect of earning more money-- it's being able to travel anywhere in the world and raise your level of enjoyment because you are not hampered by communications issues. I really like shopping in peace (without my husband) in France, or just being able to wander around by myself and explore as I wish. Fluency in French helped turn a trip to Tunisia several years back into something I'll never forget..
megnmac megnmac 9 years
I'm sure the doors to some jobs are opened with ability to speak languages, even if it doesn't equate to higher compensation. I know in my job, there is no requirement for speaking another language, but if I spoke Spanish I'd have such an easier time speaking without an interpreter to my victims and their families that don't speak English.
mirawilliams mirawilliams 9 years
Surprisingly Bethany21, French isn't that prominent in Canada. More and more people are studying or being raised bilingual up here though, which is good.
bethany21 bethany21 9 years
I knew I was onto something when I chose to take Latin and French over Spanish. I just felt like everyone else was taking Spanish, so I wanted to do something different...and I guess it pays off! And I think French is probably way useful in Europe and Canada. And I know it's useful when you're studying literature.
beingtazim beingtazim 9 years
oh - i really wish my parents taught us (my brother and i) Gujarati growing up, as most of my cousins speak it and of course the older people. i feel left out. :(
beingtazim beingtazim 9 years
i think it depends where you live. it may be 2.7% for french in the USA but with it being one of the national languages in Canada, i'd say if you want a government job you need to speak french. Chinese is a huge bonus too! I am studying Mandarin in university now as a second language is needed (2 years of it, minimum), and also i'm learning hindi/urdu on my own as a lot of my family speak it and it is also useful in Canada. i need to learn french if i plan on possibly moving to montreal, too (and i really want to check off the "french" box on all those forms). so yeah - those 3 are ones i would like to speak. i started learning spanish but, even though there are an increasing number of mexican immigrants in Canada the last few years, i think the other languages might be more widely used in my future.
SDTransplant SDTransplant 9 years
I'm Filipino and grew up speaking Tagalog at home with my parents and grandparents. I took a couple of classes in college and worked in the Philippines for a summer and feel that I'm reasonably (conversationally) fluent in it. I took French for three years and one college semester and don't really remember any of it, nor find it useful. I'm now taking Mandarin and it is very challenging, but I like how learning new languages keeps me on my toes.
gabiushka gabiushka 9 years
I was borned and raised in Mexico,speak english and spanish of course, met my husband in a school exchange program in the U.S. , and now I work for projects in Mexico and the U.S. where i have to use both languages and they both are very valuable to me.
UrbanBohemian UrbanBohemian 9 years
I have studied French, Greek and Italian. I used a third of my skills into use for an art internship for archives and documents written in Italian. Even though it's eye-catching on my resume, I have yet to use any of them for another job. I really hope I get the chance in the long term.
Jessamae22 Jessamae22 9 years
I'm fluent in Spanish (thanks to years of study, a minor, and living abroad in Mexico), but I don't get any extra comp for it nor have I ever. Mostly, it serves as a convenience if we have a client who prefers Spanish or, in one case, we get a wrong number call and I need to translate that she has called the wrong number...haha.
SugarKim4203 SugarKim4203 9 years
I'm going to be an American Sign Language interpreter. I for sure need to know two language (English & ASL) for that job!
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