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Why the English language is key to global employment success

What is the single most crucial skill for a modern-day worker to learn? Coding, maybe? Data science? Project management? Emotional intelligence? All important, for sure—but it turns out none will have as much of an impact on your prospects as command of the English language can. Why? It’s simple, really. As the barriers to global employment come down and a true marketplace for global talent emerges, knowledge of English massively increases the opportunities on offer. As a result, English is not just nice to have but fundamental for workers looking to survive and thrive in this new world of work. Still not convinced? Let’s dive a little deeper!

The English lingua franca

It almost goes without saying that English has long been the de facto language of international commerce. In 2016, research found that an estimated 85% of international organizations used English as one of their working languages, with that percentage almost certainly increasing in the time since. While English may have achieved that position of dominance through various nefarious means, it’s hard to envision its status changing any time soon. It’s a topic that came up during our recent Debrief with Multiplier’s co-founder and President, Field Operations, Amritpal Singh. “I’m not giving any kudos to the British Empire,” Amrit explained in the interview. “Unfortunately, this is just the way it is. Although it may be uncomfortable, although there may be national pride in holding on to local languages, the English language makes it possible for people across the world to transact. Teaching English is, therefore, something that people cannot compromise on.”

Start them young

Unfortunately, compromise they do. While there are some 142 countries in the world where it’s mandatory to learn English in schools, there is enormous variation in the age at which this teaching kicks in. Often, primary English language teaching is skipped entirely—and that’s without even mentioning the 41 countries where learning the English language is only ever optional. “Leaders across the world need to recognize that they are doing a fundamental disservice to their working population if they do not incorporate English at the school level,” said Amrit.

The link between language, opportunity, and performance

This disservice chiefly takes the form of lowered wages—because knowledge of the English language can make more of a difference to a worker’s paycheck than any other factor. On average, studies have shown advanced command of the English language yields a wage premium of 11%, but it can be even more pronounced in some places. “If you’re a Vietnamese coder who doesn’t speak English, you are paid half compared to your compatriot who can,” Amrit explains. “Because the coder who can speak English can now work for a company based outside of Vietnam.” It’s not just about expanding access to roles, either. Learning English (or any other second language, for that matter) may boost your work performance in a few unexpected ways. A study conducted by Penn State indicated bilingual speakers can better screen critical information and filter out irrelevancy, for instance. It’s thought that this skill might be a result of the constant mental switching between two languages that being bilingual requires. Neat!

Reap the rewards of global employment with Multiplier

We hope you’re convinced of the efficacy of learning English for global employment. And if you’d like to learn more about Multiplier’s perspective on skill cultivation in this new world of work, check out our full conversation with Amrit in our latest edition of the Debrief. Of course, none of this is to say that learning English will mean you always understand what your English-speaking colleagues are discussing. It’s a highly diverse language, after all, and some of the expressions your colleagues come up with might just leave you scratching your head. But fear not! We’ve put together a selection of idioms to help you understand what they’re going on about. And if you’re ready to get ahead of the curve and take advantage of the exceptional global talent out there waiting, consider Multiplier. With us, you focus on finding the right person, and we take care of the rest. Stay competitive and onboard new hires wherever they are, pay your global workforce, and manage the taxes, benefits, insurance, and time off of your international team in over 160 countries. So, if you want to hire easily and with total compliance, talk to us today!
Janki Sethi
Janki Sethi

Manager - Human Resource

Employ the best person for job, regardless of location

Employ the best person for job, regardless of location

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