For the past few weeks, Subtirelu has been looking into a collection of ads taken from Careerbuilder.com, trying to find trends in the job market — whether or not knowing a second language really is as much of a boon as language teachers make it out to be. Within his sample group, Spanish was the largest language represented (apart from English). But, for the most part, he says:
“On the Careerbuilder.com job market, Spanish is not really treated as a marketable skill. Indeed, it is far more likely to appear as a requirement or a preferred qualification (‘a plus’) in jobs offering wages in the bottom half of all incomes in the United States than for those offering wages in the top 10 percent (according to the U.S. Census).”
The idea that Careerbuilder.com is reflective of a larger linguistic skill assessment of the job market is laughable. The US Department of Defense has a fairly long list of positions available for people who speak Arabic, Mandarin, Urdu, Farsi, and a host of other languages. Those jobs are not always as easy to get as others where Spanish is used regularly, but that’s the point. The big picture of language-related jobs involves much more than Spanish, and surely much more than Careerbuilder.com.
What may be more important to this is that bilingual individuals tend to snag most of these jobs, making it nearly impossible for an L2 (someone not native to a second language) to even interview for one of these positions. A true analysis of language related careers would encompass multiple job sites and the top ten or so languages spoken in the US.
Lastly, learning a new language is always a marketable skill as it tends to mean that one is better educated, more intelligent, disciplined, and dedicated than a monolingual peer. Besides, who wouldn’t want a guide through China Town or Little Havana for a nice business dinner!?