The Bilingual Boom

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In a global economy, polyglots have the edge. There's never been a better time to be bilingual. Whether your second language is much-in-demand Spanish or little-known Uzbek, the bilingual job seeker has a real advantage in today's global economy.

In a global economy, polyglots have the edge.
There's never been a better time to be bilingual. Whether your second language is much-in-demand Spanish or little-known Uzbek, the bilingual job seeker has a real advantage in today's global economy.
Bilingual Skills Keep U.S. Market Alive


The bilingual business boom proves to be most ironic, coming on the heels of a vociferous English-only movement that has enveloped the U.S. political scene over the last 20 years. Twenty-four states have measures restricting the use of non-English languages. Politicians and other public figures have frequently--and publicly--bemoaned the "threat" to English caused by foreign languages.

Increasing numbers of bilinguals are being rewarded for their skills.

Given this pervasive social rhetoric, bilingual and multilingual jobseekers may be forgiven for devaluing their skills. But to do so is a serious mistake, says Wilson Lee, manager of the bilingualism-jobs.com Web site. "Despite the repressive rhetoric that will always be present, the reality is that U.S. businesses cannot survive and prosper without the diverse language skills of immigrants."

Web Offers Variety of Hispanic Sites
Consider this: Hispanics, the nation's fastest-growing minority, have purchasing power expected to reach $477 billion this year, according to the Intercultural Development Research Fund. That's a lot of clout. Increased Spanish-language publishing, marketing, and advertising are testaments to this fact. And recruiters, who are scrambling to find bilinguals to address the burgeoning Latino market, are at work both domestically and internationally.

"The need is there, and the need is being filled. Increasing numbers of bilinguals are being rewarded for their skills," says Dan Canning, director of marketing for LatPro.com, which bills itself as the leading job source for Spanish and Portuguese-speaking professionals. Founded in 1997 by Eric Shannon as an informal mailing list, LatPro's rapid growth reflects the global trend that bilingualism has brought to the marketplace. Roughly 200,000 jobseekers visit LatPro's site each month. And, Canning claims, more than 20,000 professionals post resumes there and subscribe to lists that allow them to apply for jobs as they become available. It is estimated that 2,000 recruiters and employers are looking for bilingual talent to fill both domestic and overseas postings.

Places for Panamanian or Peruvian Pros
LatPro is a very focused site, specifically targeting middle- and upper-level management jobseekers between 25 and 45 years old. Most work in finance, IT, sales, marketing, and telecommunications. "A lot of folks are in their thirties," says Canning, "ready to make that move up. We don't serve mass markets."

LatPro's services don't come cheap, either. Unlike most other sites, jobseekers must pay a fee when they register, ranging from $35 to $250 a year, depending on the package they purchase. Available in three languages (English, Spanish, and Portuguese), jobseekers can access various lists that pertain to their field. "If you're in IT," says Canning, "you'd receive on a daily basis all the jobs in that field." The site also includes articles oriented toward the bilingual professional here and in Latin America, with a focus on the Internet in Latin America.

Demand Increasing for Pacific Rim Languages
Although Spanish is in very high demand, Asian languages are increasingly needed, particularly since China's entry into the World Trade Organization. According to Lee, "Many tech companies hire Japanese and Chinese personnel due to the size of those economies and the need for support." Asian bilinguals make up 57 percent of bilingual-jobs.com users; European-language bilinguals comprise the remainder.

Although most of the jobs posted on these and other sites concentrate on the new economy, every once in a while you will find something different. JobChina.net, for example, has an intriguing posting for an English editor for a Chinese culture web site to work in Beijing and Shanghai. And vas-dc.org offers a $20/hour opportunity for a bilingual Vietnamese/English speaker to train other Vietnamese in Virginia in jobseeking skills.

Using Your Uzbek for Fun and Profit
At the Center for International Studies and Foreign Languages in Charlottesville, VA, employers can connect with actors and bilingual employees who provide voice-overs, translations, and interpretations in a wide variety of languages, dialects, and scripts. The center features opportunities for professionals with expertise in languages including ancient Greek, Arabic, Armenian Uzbek, Vietnamese, Yiddish, and Zulu.

And you thought you'd never find a way to use your Uzbek!


Diana Digges is a multilingual feature writer and editor with extensive experience in foreign language communities from Quebec to Central America to the Middle East. She specializes in women's issues and diversity for YourWriters.com.
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