Job Skills For The Future – Another Language

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

As you’ve been following along, I’m discussing what job skills are important in the future. Having covered culture knowledge, let’s lay down the hard truth about the future.

Knowing another language is going to be more important for future careers It’s becoming more important now.

Let’s take a look at the current state of things:

  • In Silicon Valley I see calls for specifically Bi-lingual jobs, with hints of it elsewhere in the US. My friends who have skills beyond English – be they professional or not – are at a distinct advantage here (and elsewhere to judge by the assorted recruiter emails).
  • If you’re in any international business, have any international customers, or just work in certain locations, speaking additional languages can help.  If nothing else you might not speak someone else’s language, but you might have a second language in common.
  • Company buyouts, acquisitions, new partnerships inevitably require you to deal with people from around the world. New vendors may not be n your state, your country, or your continent. All my previous writing on the importance of Vendor Management and Culture Knowledge being important in the future? Now you see where Language skills make those abilities even more powerful.

By the way, there’s no equivalent of the Star Trek Universal Translator yet.  I’m not holding my breath.

Right now having a language other than English is a big advantage, if not just a requirement. None of the trends above seem to be reversing, so it’s going to become more and more of an advantage – and a requirement.

My prediction is that knowing another language outside of English, with at least basic fluency, is going to be a major job skill for the future. It will give you a very big edge over others, and for more jobs it will either be required, or be something you expect to get.

I don’t see any hope of this trend reversing. If you’re young and/or have time to learn a new language, you can gain quite an advantage in the future.


– Steve