4 reasons why a second language can boost your career in Singapore

By Robert Half on 1 May 2024

As businesses becoming more connected globally, the benefits of bilingual and multilingual fluency is increasingly apparent to many companies.

If you're a professional based in Singapore looking to improve your personal branding, a second language mastery has the potential to make you much more competitive in the job current market.

As a well-known regional and international business hub, here are four reasons for why speaking a second language in Singapore can boost your career prospects.

1. Singapore is a regional and international hub for many companies

As an international hub, Singapore’s business interests span across different continents and regions with different languages. Through expanding one's language capabilities, Singaporean professionals open their doors for potential career opportunities in those countries.

Europa, the official European Union website, lists Singapore as the European Union’s largest commercial partner in South East Asia, while the World Bank lists East Asian countries such as China and Japan as among Singapore’s top export partners.

Global consultancy Towers Watson Asia reported that Singapore hosts 41 per cent of Asia-Pacific headquarters among 319 global Fortune 500 companies, with corporations such as Bosch from Germany and Rakuten from Japan who have their regional headquarters in Singapore. With these international businesses operating in Singapore, a candidate with fluency in a secondary language will reap dividends.

2. A second language can improve stakeholder relationships

Research conducted by the University of Melbourne in 2013 on multinational teams revealed that trust levels were directly related to native language proficiency. Working in a multilingual environment such as Singapore increases the practicality of learning the native language of key stakeholders, offering an opportunity to improve their trust towards you.

A reason why stakeholders can trust you more when you speak their language ties in with the concept of cultural empathy. As explained by the Harvard Business Review, professionals who develop cultural empathy learn to ‘see’ and ‘feel’ like a speaker of a native language - which in turn makes the native language speaker feel understood and related to.

Having good stakeholder relationships can help you to establish yourself in your industry. Being proficient in the language of your key stakeholders may make you their preferred point of contact, and may also put you at an advantage when dealing with new markets that speak the same language.

3. It helps you gain access to customer insight

With key industries in Singapore penetrating new domestic and international markets, being fluent in a second language can help you gain access to unique customer insight in key markets.

This is because learning a second language helps you develop the necessary cultural sensitivity to interact with customers. Even if you can’t speak the language fluently, a second language helps you understand the cultural considerations that go into both decisions and actions.

Being knowledgeable about what caters to specific markets, will position you as a more competitive candidate in your industry with the wealth of market information that you can provide to companies.

4. It opens up more language-based career opportunities

Mastering a second language may also open up bonus career benefits and opportunities.

According to research by Rosetta Stone, a language learning provider, households that speak at least one other language earn US$10,000 more in annual household income than those that only speak one language.

Fluency in another language can also open up job opportunities that may not be otherwise available if the candidate were to just rely on technical skills or experience. In fact, being fluent in a second language is a transferable skill that can be utilised in a career change across different industries.

Improve your career prospects – learn a second language today

Take the opportunity to add learning a new language to your career goals.

As a skilled professional fluent in a second language, you can position yourself more competitively in the market with this extra skill-set that could benefit your company's operations. This can translate to higher salaries, more benefits, as well as more opportunities for regional and international exposure.

Achieving mastery in a second language requires frequent practice. By incorporating a second language into your business communications, you will be able to interact with international clients and stakeholders more effectively, and improve your career trajectory in the process.

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