How to Translate Your Foreign Language Skills into Marketable Skills


“I speak two foreign languages and I have lived abroad, but nobody really cares, and since none of these is covered in the job requirements, there is no need to mention it in my cover letter…” WRONG!

Have you ever wondered how to fit your linguistic skills into your resume or cover letter? There are so many ways that speaking a foreign language can help you get a job or internship, even if that knowledge itself is not specifically sought after.

Here are five desirable qualities in the current job marketplace that I believe you could leverage in order to ace your next interview as a result of your linguistic knowledge and/or study abroad experience:

  • Curiosity: Do you often find yourself exploring new ways to practice a foreign language, or meeting native speakers of that language? Are you curious about cultures other than that of your own, and have you found creative ways to connect with them? Curiosity is a very important trait that can help you succeed at work. As a young professional, you should give proof of eagerness to learn and be on the watch-out for new trends in your industry.
  • Memory: How long did you spend learning by heart that incredibly long list of foreign words or irregular verbs? Well, you might have gained something out of it. According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), there is a correlation between bilingualism and memory skills. In a research study conducted by the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, results showed the positive effects bilingualism can have on memory at all age levels. Given the ever-changing nature of today’s working world, having a good memory can certainly play to your favor, as you can grasp and retain new concepts more easily.
  • Cultural awareness: How many countries and different lifestyles have you experienced while learning another language? Don’t take that for granted. Living abroad for prolonged periods of time certainly teaches you a lot about other cultures, besides helping you understand that people from different countries might have a different approaches to study/work and communication styles. In today’s globalized world, there is an increasing need for people who can go beyond the literal meaning of words and who are culturally aware.
  • Flexibility: Traveling and moving abroad surely requires some flexibility and sense of adaptability. According to Forbes, flexibility is one of the 20 essential skills people need in order to be successful at work. Being able to bend your own rules and beliefs and managing to “shift gears” according to the context can make you an efficient colleague and employee at work.
  • Spirit of initiative: Learning a new language and studying abroad takes a lot of motivation and initiative, as it is not something everybody could and/or would do. How often do you see “being a self-starter,” or “being proactive” as part of job descriptions? Hiring managers are looking for dynamic, enterprising candidates.

As you can see, your knowledge of foreign language(s) and your international experience can be turned into extremely marketable skills. Appealing to first-hand experiences and lessons learned provides tangible proof of a given skill or quality, and they will certainly make it appear better-founded and more credible in the eyes of a future employer.

I am sure there are countless other skills your personal experiences with cultures and languages has taught you, so… Get creative!


Sara Dal Lago

Sara Dal Lago

Sara is an Italian graduate student in Georgetown University's Master in Public Relations and Corporate Communications. She loves traveling, cooking and... dictionaries! In fact, she speaks five foreign languages!

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