The Business Case For Bilingualism: Why Multilinguals Earn More
by Jeffrey Nelson
Multilingual people earn more money on average than monolinguals; even in the United States. It's well-known that interpreters and translators parlay their language skill into cash, however the slight-less-well-known side of the coin is that regular jobs can also pay slightly more for someone with a bit of linguistic latitude.
Bilingualism By Country: How Rare Is It
The United States isn't exactly a hotbed of bilingualism. 20% of the population is bilingual, with only about 10% of native-born Americans speaking more than one language. One of the most bilingual countries in the world, Switzerland, however, officially recognizes bilingualism as a great advantage. In Switzerland, bilingualism may not net you more money, however in North America your chances are much greater.
In the United States, bilinguals earn on average about $7,000 more than monolingual speakers. This wage discrepancy is most likely due to the following two reasons:
There are far fewer bilinguals to choose from, so each bilingual has a slightly higher 'value.'
It takes into account bilingual speakers who speak English vs their monolingual counterparts who don't speak English. In our English-centric culture we often overlook that bilingualism goes both ways.
In Canada, a much more bilingual country with about 34% of recent graduates speaking more than one language, bilingualism is on the decline. The government's goal is to hit 70% bilingualism in graduates, reaffirming the value of bilingualism.
Even with a higher number of bilinguals, an article in TheGlobeAndPost says that bilingual males earn an average of 7% more and women earn 8% more if they speak both official languages in Canada: French and English.
Which Fields Are The Best For Bilinguals To Find Work?
Client-facing industries are great for bilinguals in the United States. Jobs in the medical profession as well as the legal field give fantastic opportunities for bilinguals to shine. Working with the public means just that; working with a cross section of people who speak a variety of languages.
With Hispanics nearing 15% of the US population, it only makes sense that someone who speaks English and Spanish and works in a law firm in a position that deals with clients would be well-suited to ask for a bit more money.
In the dozens of positions in the medical industry, is can be just as important for an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) to speak Spanish as well as English in some precincts and situations. It is literally a matter of life and death. Per our average number above, while a monolingual EMT may make about $30,360 per year, a bilingual EMT would make over $40,000. That is quite the difference just for knowing another language. In a 30 year career, that would equal out to be over $200,000 more for speaking a language in addition to English!
While that logic has its obvious flaws, the point is this: bilinguals can use their language skills to help them earn more money in a variety of professions.