Guest Post: Daniel Owen – Recruitment Consultant for Euro London Appointments, Multilingual Recruitment Specialists
Today, Daniel answers a question from a member: “What is the best way to achieve the fluency needed for a bilingual or multilingual job? How can I best demonstrate my language abilities to a prospective employer?”
Globalisation has changed the way we eat, live and sleep; it’s also changed how we conduct business. It enables us to eat food from halfway around the world, it provides the means to watch, read and listen to media of different cultures anytime and it allows us to conduct business almost anywhere in the world. Here at Euro London Appointments we see multinational organisations and institutions coordinate their efforts daily, all over the globe. Success in this playing field requires effective communication across language and culture barriers. The problem with this is that communication is challenging enough even if all parties speak the same language. So the clear advantage goes to a person capable of navigating culturally sensitive situations with the ease that only language training can provide.
One thing is for sure; learning a language has never been easy and I doubt it ever will be. It takes enormous amounts of willpower and effort to become proficient enough to call yourself fluent, but how do you get to that stage and how do you show potential employers once you’ve gotten there?
Techniques for Learning
Frustration and plateaus are completely natural, so keep your chin up and motivate yourself in unconventional ways when needed. Mix it up and make it fun. In addition to your regular coursework and structured practice, it’s wise to incorporate your second language into your everyday life. One fun way to do this is to narrate your actions as you go through your day. There’s anecdotal evidence that this improves retention. This can be as simple as stating out loud to yourself what you are doing while making a cup of tea. Another fun way to challenge yourself is to watch films, listen to music and read books in your target language. Travel if you can and practice at every opportunity, even if you’re not sure how to say something. Maybe you might like to challenge yourself with a goal learning target, such as memorizing a particular number of words every day for a week.
The most important thing to remember is everyone learns differently in life, and this is no different with languages. What works for you may not work for someone else; just keep practicing what works for you. Much like poetry, there are no right or wrong answers!
Once you have learned a new language you’ll want to use it as often as you can – perhaps in a new job.
So what kind of language skills are employers looking for?
Here at Euro London Appointments we see several different common job descriptions. More often than not, we see “fluency is a must”. If you see this in the job description, we recommend applying only if you feel you will be able to comfortably converse in your second language. However, we also sometimes see “knowledge of a second language is an advantage”. This is a much more encompassing job description, allowing you to interpret whether you feel your knowledge of your second language would be adequate for the role. Fluency is not necessary required here.
How to demonstrate your ability to use your language
If a prospective employer is looking for an employee with language skills, they will most likely test your language fluency by holding a conversation with you in that language. This conversation might include anything from how you learned your language, to what you do day-to-day. This not only means knowing your words and how to congregate them but also being able to use your new language without hesitation. It should hopefully be very natural to speak in your second language by the time you feel ready to use it in the work environment.
Usually they will be looking for general conversational fluency, but every hiring manager is different so there is no way you can really predict what they are going to ask. The more vital language ability is for the role, the more intense the language test will be.
So what if you feel you didn’t use your second language to the best of your ability in the interview? If you feel it was not an adequate demonstration of your language proficiency, you may want to send a letter thanking them for the interview in your second language to demonstrate your ability to use that language. Providing certification works on occasion, but not always.
If you don’t get this job, consider it an invaluable practice and learning experience. The interview will put your strengths and weaknesses into perspective in a way no other experience can. You’ll learn what you need to work on for next time – be it specific grammar, vocabulary topics, listening comprehension or simply confidence.
Daniel Owen is a consultant in the Multilingual Recruitment sector. Follow Daniel’s latest blog posts on Language, Culture and International news at http://www.eurolondon.com/blog/.