Money: How Languages Help


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Money and Languages

Welcome to the 5-Week Linguist Show. This week, I wanted to talk about languages and money. Over the past few years, I’ve really wanted to take a big step outside of myself about the things that are important to me. I’ve always looked at languages or used to rather with some tunnel vision because I lived it. It was so much a part of my life. It’s been what I’ve studied. It’s been my career. It’s had big significance in my personal life and my leisure time. I love it, but really why should you, why should anybody else love it? And it’s a question that I’ve addressed in different ways in different areas. In the most practical sense for me, very short term was with my students. How do I make this experience effective, but also enjoyable, really a worthwhile experience? And so I was very focused on that.

Trying to get young people who may not necessarily be inclined to love languages, give them a really great experience. And I feel like I’ve found through that so many ways to help people learn languages that were really effective. And I also want to thank the polyglot community for that because they’re always sharing different ideas. Now they have a completely different take. The polyglot community are people who are passionate, who really want to learn. And of course, so many of the people that I’ve worked with aren’t inclined that way necessarily.

Money and Languages: College

So it’s been really fun to sort of have a foot in both places. So the polyglot community is so great about sharing activities and resources. And I continue to study languages on my own, and I adapt a lot of those experiences back for my students. And they’ve continually helped me improve, I think, as a language teacher, seeing it through that lens. So recently I’ve really tried to focus on languages, and money. Now I know that one of the speeches rather lectures, or however you want to call it, one of the things I preach about is how great languages are for money. And again, I see it through my lens. For years I’ve taught a class called AP Spanish language and culture, and the course is taught in high schools and it’s the equivalent of a junior level college Spanish class.

And they have equivalents in French and Italian, German, and so forth, and sometimes two classes. So conversation, composition, grammar, those sort of advanced courses. “Advanced”, because they’re not necessarily advanced, but they’re pretty far up there. They’re really good courses where you can really develop your skills. And what I discovered throughout my years of teaching was that while the course was difficult, you have to do seven challenging tasks and you have to really become comfortable with speaking a new language. A lot of big universities offer huge numbers of credits. So because they counted the upper level courses, as well as some of the lower level courses that passing the exam meant. And of course, this is different at every college and university.

But kids can get half a semester, an entire semester, these unbelievable number of credits when they take their exam score and present them when they enter university. And so that’s free money. I had one student get an entire semester worth of college credits, take a couple more courses, and you’ve got a minor. How amazing is that? And it’s one of the things that I felt and have felt really proud in the work that I do, that I was able to serve people in that way to really help them save money and provide a portion potentially of their child’s college education while they were still in high school.

And I also, apart from money, love being able to offer them the opportunity to let’s say, work for a semester, again, earning experience and money at the same, or to take that time they don’t have to spend at school to travel, to study abroad, to shorten the amount of time they’re in college. So they can do other things, should they choose and depending on what’s right for them and what’s right for their family. So I wanted to dive deeper into that and I really wanted to talk about some statistics and some studies about languages and money. And I’ve done a link to a lot of the studies and articles below. So you can go a little bit more in depth with this on a part from AP, how that can potentially offer a high school future college student a lot of money. I wanted to talk about some other ways to do so.

So if you’ve studied languages in high school or on your own, even, and you plan to go to college, look at the CLEP program, it’s college level examination program. It’s significantly easier than the advanced placement program that I was talking about, but it offers lots of credits. So if you have any experience in a language, go on Amazon or go to the library and check out the book and get practicing, because this can potentially save you a lot of money. And if you maybe took the, or your child took the AP language exam and they got a two or a score that a university isn’t going to accept, the CLEP is significantly easier. So just like that “free money” I was talking about earlier, this CLEP can provide the same. So please consider that. You can also, if you are a native speaker of a language, check out something called ACE, I believe it’s called ACE. So they’re college level credits that can be gained through taking a test with ACTFL, the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages service, language testing international. And they do what’s called an OPI.

And it’s basically credit by examination. So if you are in college or you’re going to college or your child’s going to college and you’re a native speaker, that’s another option for credits where you really just have to pay for the test.

Languages and Money: Employment

So obviously I see the fruits of people’s labor in languages, but I want it to look at it from a wider lens and did a bit of research and discovered some really interesting numbers. And I want to share them with you. So, nine out of 10 US employers rely on people with skills other than English. And this certainly shouldn’t prove as any kind of surprise, but I think the numbers are just a good reminder. And I think that many companies, they conduct, in the United States anyway, lots and lots of their business in English. However, having that second language really provides an edge. It makes you all of a sudden eligible for advancement.

So I can tell you, one of my aunts was a Spanish teacher back in the ’70s, extremely bright woman. And she needed to move when she got married, because her husband was going to do his doctoral degree just outside of New York City. And she decided that that was a great opportunity for her to consider the business world. They were going to be there for a few years. She could gain experience. She got hired by IBM and they trained her in business. She traveled all over the world. So if you can learn Spanish and you can learn Portuguese, then we can teach you about business. We can teach you about our company. You’ve got great communication skills, long story short. She had a long and very illustrious, very well accomplished woman in business. And it was really the language skills that got her there.

Languages and Money: Earnings and Retirement

Also numbers. There was a study by, I want to say his name is Albert Saiz, that languages on average in the career world will offer people about two percent of their salary and the figures that he did talked about how that only was equivalent to about 600 a year, which isn’t great. But then the economists Robert Lane Green did the math of that compounding. That’s70,000 over the course of a lifetime or a career, that’s pretty astounding. And to get further into the numbers, they found different values for different languages. So Spanish was, I believe 1.5% increase on average in ranging up to, this is in the United States mind you, German, which was a 3.8% increase.

So, being able to do a job and then having the language really puts you in a great position. And to be realistic, English is the lingua franca for international business. And I read a really interesting study that I’ll link for you in the Harvard Business Review. And they talked about the Japanese company, Rakuten transitioning to be an English only company. And you can imagine what a huge task that is and how much pushback there would be on that. So this is a Japanese company based in Japan. Why would we require everyone… Why would we want to do all of our business in English? And the thinking why do we want to close ourselves the culture of this company to just be us? When we open it up to English, then everyone’s English is going to improve. We’re going to be bringing in talent from all over the world. We can conduct business from whatever. This changing to English only is going to only help us grow because otherwise we’re much more limited.

And I think it’s safe to say that English being the lingua franca, that there’s lots and lots of… There really isn’t a need necessarily for a native English speaker in some companies to actually be able to do their jobs, knowing the language sure makes a difference. Like the story I told you about my aunt, that can make the difference between getting the job or not. That can make the difference between losing business or not. That can make the difference between advancing or not.

Languages and Money: Business

And I thought it was really interesting talking about losing money. In the United States, they estimate that it’s about two billion dollars a year loss due to cultural misunderstandings, and one in four US employers said that they lost business because of potential skills. That’s amazing. And the English for business, well, it does count for 30% of the world GDP, really being able to access the international part, knowing a language at least to some extent is unbelievably helpful, because it’s going to allow you maybe not doing business in English, but it’s going to allow you to socialize. It’s going to make you the person that they maybe send on a meeting that you aren’t going to make those cultural faux pas. One I can think of is in China, people don’t put business cards in their wallets, because you’re going to sit on them. It’s considered really offensive.

So, doing something like that without knowing it could potentially lose your business or in Chinese, when you go to someone’s house, you usually compliment them. Just knowing those little things that come with language study can make the difference between getting the deal or not.

And in the United Kingdom, they say that deficiencies in language skills costs them about $63 billion a year. Isn’t that astounding? 47% of US States say they need languages just for the US market alone. Translation and interpretation is one of the top growing job areas. And that led me to find this other statistics. So unsurprisingly, the quality at this language translations in business really matter. They can’t just be done by computers.

So E-bay increased by 10.9% their business through apparently high quality artificial intelligence. And I’m not exactly sure what that means. I’m assuming it means maybe some of their customer service chat bots or replies that they really had them looked over by a person, really studied by a person which would make a whole lot of sense because then they could do it well and keep it all culturally relevant. I also wanted to share with you something really interesting that I read, and it’s a study by Keith Chen from Yale University and he talks about languages without the future tense.

Languages and Money: The Future

So for clarity, the future tense is a verb tense of course, we have an English and it’s essentially using the word will. We will go. We will, whatever. And languages of course like English and Spanish and French have this. And they use it really commonly. And then there’s some languages that don’t and Mandarin Chinese does not. And in the study I learned that Finish does not. So we have languages that are future, English. We’ll use that example and that our future-less, that don’t have that feature verb tense.

And there are some astounding statistics that this simple thing, there seems to be some correlation between some of their statistics about the future tense in these languages. So a future language, we do talk about the future. And in future-less languages, there’s no real difference between now and the future and the language that we use.

So in English, they have 39% less in their retirement funds than in the future-less. The people with the future-less cultures, they live in the future-less cultures, they saw the future as equally important because they spoke about it in the same terms, they didn’t use a separate verb tense. So they had 5% more GDP saved on average. That’s pretty astounding. It’s because they see it as future. They have less obesity. They have fewer deaths caused by obesity and lots of people went back and he came under a lot of criticism, Keith Chen, and these studies keep coming back and saying the correlation seem to be pretty true. And you keep going back and you look at the numbers of saving for the future. Thinking about the future. So not smoking, obesity, taking care of that, saving money.

Languages with future language, the future tense, were simply… The numbers show that those future-less societies were actually better prepared for the future because they saw the future as equally important. And I think that is pretty astounding.

So in summary I’m pretty amazed at what languages can do in terms of real numbers for our pocketbook. So languages can help you get a job. Languages can make the difference between you getting the promotion and someone else. Languages can help you earn more at that job. Languages can help you retire earlier because you’ll have more money. Languages can help you earn more every month, looking at the world through the lens of language can teach you a lot of things. You can learn how to take the great lessons from other countries that have future-less language and how they prepare for the future.

Languages and Money: Start Now

You don’t have to learn another language necessarily to this huge native level speech. A lot of times the business is going to be conducted in English. It’s knowing enough of the target language that you’re dealing with to be able to make sure that they feel comfortable and that they see you really as a person and not just numbers.

So I wanted to share some really practical ways to be able to get languages into your life, to perhaps really get some of these benefits. So the first one is, if you want to learn a language it’s really a matter of carving out time and making commitment to using that time, even if it’s just a little bit of time each day, to be able to learn. And for a beginner, I would recommend no more than 30 minutes at a time, you’ll get really tired. And I’m going to link to my 25 ways each day to learn. I pick something different every five weeks. It keeps things fresh. It keeps things interesting. It keeps things exciting. Right now on binge watching it Yabla videos. I do it about a half an hour a day. And my next five week batch, because I can’t go to Italy this summer because of Coronavirus, I am doing lessons on Italki just a half hour lesson each day with a community tutor. I’m going to leave a link there for you.

Languages and Money: Side Hustle and Rewards

If your native language is English, consider doing some tutoring. There’s And there are also places like VIPKid for English. And I highly recommend for any language learner to spend some time teaching English, whether that’s being a community tutor on a place like Italki or some kind of conversational tutor, even if you’re not a certified teacher, it will be an amazing learning experience.

Even watching some of the teacher training, because it really helps you see learning through the lens of the learner and you’re going to really be able to apply all of those lessons to yourself. You’re going to become a better language learner by watching people go through the process of teaching and learning. You’ll learn how to really use and learn comprehensible input, which is how we learn languages. We learn languages by what we understand through these lessons. And as I shared with you, I can’t go to Italy this summer, but I decided to turn this into money and I explored the Chase Sapphire card and they offer cash back. And I really wish I had done this sooner. So they’ve got all kinds of offers, but essentially I need to, to whatever I have to pay, my groceries, my gas, all these things that I’m so used to paying with a debit card that I’m not getting any rewards back on, I’m going to use my Chase Sapphire.

And my objective is to pay it off, of course, be financially responsible, but to use that, to get the points, the cash back, to be able to fund five weeks in Italy next summer, studying at Italian language school. So while that might not be your goal, it’s certainly a way to help fund some intense study of languages. And if you can’t take five weeks off from work, maybe that money could help you get an Italki tutor or get books on Audible in what your target language is.

Until next time.

Thank you for listening to the 5-Week Linguist Show with Janina Klimas. Join us each week here and visit us at for more resources for learning and teaching languages.

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