Why study a language

Learning a foreign language can transform any career. And it will lead to amazing adventures along the way.

Specialising in foreign languages can lead to a career traveling the globe as an interpreter, diplomat or foreign correspondent, giving you a front-row seat to watch history unfold.

But almost any career – from finance, to law to engineering – can be transformed by studying a foreign language. Even a basic understanding of a language that is important to your employer can open the door to rapid promotions and prestigious foreign assignments.

And learning languages can be one of the most fun things you can do. You can learn Spanish by talking football in Buenos Aires; improve your Italian by watching opera in Milan; and perfect your Chinese by exploring the spicy food of Sichuan.

Less than a quarter of the world speaks English. Learning languages opens doors to the other three-quarters – and a world of hidden opportunities.


Studying languages can provide the key to some of the most glamorous jobs in the world: become a diplomat who mingles with presidents and princes; a journalist who reports on revolutions and wars; an executive who travels the world to open factories and open new markets.

The world’s top interpreters can translate between multiple languages in real time without taking notes.

Jose Mourinho, one of the most successful football managers of all time, got his break translating for his English mentor Bobby Robson.

But you don’t need to be fluent for a language to give your career a major boost. Conversational German might help an engineer win a place on a prestigious project. Some Arabic might win a journalist or diplomat a foreign posting. Spanish might transform the career of a chef. Every diplomat knows that a few phrases in a person’s native language can be one of the surest ways to make a good first impression.

Language is key to understanding a culture – from how a country eats to how they socialise to how they work. People who take the time to learn the language can help their employers win over new customers – and avoid the kind of cultural mistakes that can sink a business deal or cause a diplomatic spat.

Ireland has been incredibly successful in attracting international firms with multinational firms employing over 200,000 people, including some of the country’s best jobs. Firms like Google, Facebook and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer use dozens of languages to serve markets around the world. The Irish government says it believes language learning will be key to attracting more international firms – and key for graduates seeking the highly-paid jobs they create.

Native speakers of foreign languages – including hundreds of thousands of migrants who have arrived in Ireland in recent decades – will play a very important role.

But so too will native-English speakers who can combine language skills with expertise in areas like technology, marketing and law.

Native-English speakers tend to speak fewer languages, so making the effort to learn another will make you stand out in a crowded jobs market.

The importance of non-English speaking countries is set to grow dramatically in the coming years as markets for Irish products. And after Britain leaves the European Union, our non-English-speaking neighbours will become even more important. Learning their languages will allow us to take advantage of huge new opportunities.

Less than a quarter of the world speaks English. Learning languages opens doors to the other three-quarters.

And in many important new markets like Latin America, China, Russia and the Middle East, the language of business is often not English.

Learning a foreign language is a fun challenge, and along the way you can use your language skills to walk the streets of the world’s great cities – buying food, chatting to locals, watching films, reading newspapers. Understanding the culture is as important as understanding the grammar. You can’t learn a language without having fun!

Learning languages can open the door to some of the world’s richest literature, its best films and most exotic foods.

Many language graduates say that travelling to learn another language and another culture has been one of the most rewarding decisions of their lives.

Studies have shown that language learning is good for your brain. Speaking more than one language can help make you a better listener, improve your creativity and help you to manage multiple tasks.

Languages provide a window on other cultures that make people more open-minded and sensitive to diverse cultures. In a country where the population is increasingly diverse, this will become more and more important for employers.

Languages let us see the world through the eyes of others and see opportunities that most will miss.

Additional facts

  • One Harvard University study found that people who speak a second language earn an average of 2 percent more, although the benefit could be double that depending on the language spoken.
  • The British economy is likely around 3.5 percent, or 48 billion pounds, smaller than it would be if British workers had better foreign language skills, according to a government study.
  • The world is changing fast. Mandarin Chinese, not English, is the most widely spoken language on the planet and China’s economy is expected to eclipse that of the United States in the coming years.
  • Around 200 million people will soon be travelling out of China every year, according to the World Tourism Organisation.
  • While knowledge of a second language has always been a bonus, it is increasingly becoming a requirement for some jobs. The number of job posting for bilingual workers in the United States more than doubled between 2010 and 2015, a recent study found.

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Did you

Only 6.5%
of the world’s population are native English speakers