It’s a global world: but, for many Americans, we’re just living in it. Still, 75 percent of the world’s population speaks a language other than English. In the U.S. alone, over 21 percent of Americans speak a language other than English at home. By 2030, this number is expected to rise to 40 percent.
Despite the evolving demographics of the U.S. and a dynamic that is shaped by our global economy, only seven percent of U.S. undergrads are enrolled in a foreign language course and less than 10 percent study abroad to practice those skills.
Speaking a critical world language like Hindi, Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, and Urdu (to name a few) will empower you to directly influence how well we can engage and facilitate positive change in our evolving world—whether that change is in healthcare, the environment, human rights, education, energy, tech, or otherwise.
This movement is for you. If you speak another language, we want to hear your voice. If you do not and want more opportunities to learn one and advocate for its importance, join us.
When one out of every three American jobs is linked to international trade, it is only a matter of time before most careers require foreign language skills. In fact, the demand for employees with language skills is already growing: In 2014 alone, over half-a-million jobs in the U.S. requested candidates with foreign language skills.
It’s no longer just top executive jobs or certain occupations that require foreign languages. Northern Illinois University surveyed businesses in the state of Illinois to unearth the significance of language for the state’s economic competitiveness. The results are revealing: One out of two employers in Illinois reported that by 2020, they would favor candidates with foreign language skills.
Whether you plan to start your own business, join a nonprofit, advocate for a cause, or work in corporate America, the fact remains the same: your work is likely to go beyond just the U.S. Are you prepared to truly impact the world?
You’re just a plane ride away from the next travel destinations on your list like Kuala Lumpur, Johannesburg, or Rio de Janeiro. You’ve talked with street food vendors in Bangkok, learned about ancient sites in Jordan from local guides, and collaborated with international students for group projects. All of these experiences have shaped your perspective: the world is made up of global relationships.
Whether you connected with foreign friends through your travels, a past study abroad experience, or as a member of a multicultural team at work, the relationships you forge are what makes these experiences memorable—and ultimately are what make the world a peaceful and more prosperous place. Speaking another language is key to forming authentic relationships with people of entirely different backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities.
Evidence demonstrates that a second language strengthens and even positively transforms the architecture of our brains.
Speaking a second language increases our attention span and memory, improves our decision-making process, and slows down the aging in our brains. Study after study confirms that multilingualism develops the transversal skills of critical and creative thinking, leadership, tolerance of ambiguity, and collaborative mindsets.
We need more people like you—multilingual (or ready to learn or able to recognize the importance!), adaptable, and culturally aware—who believe we must do more to prepare future generations to gain the global competencies needed to work across cultures, communities, and the world.
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