Written by Mary Luz Mejia
Wednesday, July 4th, 2018
I was three when we landed here in Canada from Colombia, and I wanted nothing to do with my native tongue, Spanish. My parents doubled down their efforts and ensured I learned it.
"It will open doors," my dad argued. "Just wait and see."
Fast forward to my first job out of journalism school at the CBC's National and Newsworld newsrooms. The MRTA hostage crisis hit in Lima, Peru and I was the only native Spanish speaker in the newsroom. I'm fairly certain that my near-simultaneous translation of live feeds from Miraflores helped me clinch the only available (and much-coveted) staff position in the newsroom. I worked at the CBC for two more years before heading to South Florida, where I got a job (and a work visa) as a producer in Spanish and English language television programming.
Learning another language is culturally enriching and useful, but it turns out it's also a way to help you get ahead in your career and earn more money over your lifetime. Learning a language can be looked at like an investment.
Benefits of Bilingualism
University of Guelph economics professors Louis Christofides and Robert Swidinsky researched how much knowing both of this country's official languages can boost a person's paycheque. Their 2010 study found that people fluent in both languages in Quebec earn an average of 7.5% more than unilingual Francophones. Bilingual women outside of Quebec earn an average of 6.6% more than their unilingual counterparts, while men averaged 3.8% more on their paycheques.
A literary review undertaken by researchers from the University of Calgary in 2017 examined numerous existing studies on the advantages of second-language learning. Of particular interest is this statement made in their review: "The ability to speak a second language often positively affects earnings both directly and indirectly through educational achievement, a wider range of opportunities for involvement in local and global markets, and by signaling enhanced communicative and cognitive abilities and skills to potential employers."
Another Language for Your Side Hustle
While you might already use another language in your full-time job, you might find it particularly useful if you're looking for a well-paying side hustle that can net you some extra bucks. There are voice-over gigs (a particular region's accents and colloquialisms are always sought after), or being a tour guide in your city, museum or gallery, where non-English speakers from all over the world would love a little translation as to what they're seeing.
Other potential matches include any kind of job that involves travel (from writing to researching) and even tutoring others in your second or third language.
If you're really keen and ready to make a more serious commitment, you can take a certification program here in Canada offered by the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council (CTTIC) should you want to become a professional translator, interpreter or terminologist. With a certification behind you, the pay scale is more clearly defined if you want to translate text, or serve as an interpreter in a meeting or a court hearing.
The bottom line: Learning another language can be a lot of fun, but there are other benefits to it as well. Boy were my parents ever right!