Leveraging your Languages alongside your day-job

 

The previous post – Leveraging your Languages in the Workplace – was all about adding value to your current job, but if your current working situation doesn’t require a knowledge of your foreign language or doesn’t offer any scope in which to use it, this second aspect of Leveraging your Languages may be a way forward:

This type of leveraging is all about Leveraging your language skills to develop a “parallel career” in your chosen foreign language.

The type of “parallel career” meant here is a career in the very loose sense of the word. In reality, it will be a succession of professional or professionally-related activities involving languages, which runs alongside your day job.

Not only will Leveraging your parallel language career make it less likely that you will lose your ability in a foreign language if your day job doesn’t require it, but it will also give you the chance to gain experience in using your language in professional contexts and become familiar with the terminology of business and the workplace.

Maintaining a “track-record” of language-related activities and positions in your “parallel language career” will also make you more confident about taking up new professional opportunities that DO require your language and you will be in a better position to re-integrate your language into your mainstream career at some point in the future.

Continuity is what this type of Leveraging your parallel language career is all about. The activities need not be inter-related or take place at the same time.

Launching your “parallel language career” is simply a case of STARTING SOMEWHERE and taking on activities that will “stretch” your knowledge of your language and give you opportunities to keep using it.

So here is a list of things you could do to Leverage your Language as part of your “parallel language career”:

  • Join a professional social networkLinkedIn, Viadeo or Xing – and actively engage with it.
  • On your chosen network, seek out Groups related to your area of work or interest from the country concerned. Respond to posts on the group or make your own posts in the language. “Follow” companies or individuals in your target language country that post interesting content.
  • Create a profile on your professional social network in the target language – LinkedIn includes the option to have profiles in more than one language.
  • Use the social network to make professional contacts in your target-language country and message them in the language.
  • Research – actively research a topic relating to your target-language country that has fascinated you. Use websites and sources in the foreign language and actively collate the information in a Word or PowerPoint file. PowerPoint can be more flexible, as you can paste pictures and snippets of text and move them around much more easily.
  • Take an online course that is delivered in the language. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are offered by a large number of universities worldwide and are free of charge. Many are available via portals such as Coursera or FutureLearn. Courses are available in English, but also in French, Spanish, German, Dutch and other languages besides. The good thing here is that you can combine using your language and taking a course that may benefit you professionally.
  • Join an on-line forum in the foreign language about a topic that interests you and make regular contributions in the language. Try to develop your prominence and play a more active or leading role as time goes on.
  • Join a MeetUp group or similar for speakers of your target language. Most larger cities or cities of business importance in the UK will have such groups.
  • Start a blog or a website – nothing beats having an online presence – it serves as your calling card and demonstrates to future employers that you are engaged in and committed to a topic and extending and sharing knowledge. The blog could be on a topic relating to your target-language country, and some or all of the posts could be IN the language of that country or could include extracts or references in the foreign language with commentary in English. This could be a follow-on from your “Research” activities referred to above. Setting up a blog or website doesn’t have to cost anything – you can use “free of charge” services such as wix.com, www.weebly.com (websites) or www.wordpress.com or www.blogspot.com (blogs).
  • Find out if any colleagues in your company or organisation are native-speakers of your target language. Get to know them and if they are willing, meet up with them regularly for lunch or coffee as a way of practising the language.
  • Team up with a friend or colleague from your target language country and commit to having a long video call (using Skype or a similar app) as often as you like in your foreign language. Identify some of the professional or serious topics to discuss in advance and “tune in” to the language beforehand by watching relevant on-line news videos or YouTube videos in the language.
  • Do some volunteer translation from the foreign language into your native language – organisations requiring volunteer translations can be found by searching on Google.
  • Set aside some time each week or even every day for focused language-related activities and make sure that the language is always part of your weekly routine.

Your linguistic future starts now. Remember, it’s simply a case of starting somewhere and keeping going. Use it or lose it!

Leveraging your Languages in the Workplace

 

As explained in the previous post, Leveraging your Languages is all about adopting strategies and developing opportunities to integrate your knowledge of a foreign language into your private or professional life.

This post is all about Leveraging your Languages in the Workplace.

Maybe you’re already working in an international environment or for an employer that values or requires you to use your knowledge of another language. Or, maybe you are working in a job that doesn’t OFFICIALLY require a knowledge of a foreign language at all. Whichever of those two situations applies, you can still use any of the Leveraging strategies listed here, or in the next post entitled Leveraging your Languages alongside your Day Job.

So let’s get started.

Here are some suggestions that will enable you to leverage your foreign language to add personal and company value in your current job:

Some simple first steps:

  1. Make sure that your knowledge of your working languages is known to other people at work, especially your line manager:
  1. Integrate your language in a very simple way into your e-mail signature:

“With best regards/Meilleures salutations/Mit freundlichem Gruß/Met vriendelijke groet”

(only include the languages you already know well or the languages of your regular contacts)

  1. Make your “out-of-office” message multilingual also, but make sure the foreign-language part is flawless and doesn’t contain any mistakes.
  1. Find out if any colleagues in your company or organisation are native-speakers of your target language. Get to know them and if they are willing, meet up with them regularly for lunch or coffee as a way of practising the language.
  1. Use your foreign language sometimes when e-mailing colleagues or clients abroad. Make the first contact in the foreign language. If an existing contact, add a couple of friendly remarks or a question in the foreign language at the end of an e-mail. The last part of a message sticks in the mind and your contact may then respond in the foreign language. Using the language in this way will strengthen the connection. A positive effect resulting from this is that your contact will also be more likely to forward information or messages from other decision-makers directly to you in the foreign language. They may not have done so if they thought they had to translate the information first. Then take a look at number 3 below.
  1. If telephoning and asking to speak to your contact at the other end, introduce yourself in the language and ask to speak to your contact. Even if you continue the call in English, the colleague from the next desk who picked up the phone may let your contact know that you are a fluent speaker of their language. Greater use of the foreign language and increased access to information are the likely results.

 

Longer-term Leveraging strategies:

  1. Is your company or organisation involved in any projects, or does it have any subsidiary companies, partners or clients located in your target-language country? Get to know the people involved in those projects or communicating with those subsidiaries, partners or clients. Purpose – you may be called upon to make contacts, receive visitors, visit a partner organisation abroad or help develop the project.
  1. Use on-line resources in the foreign language to collect information relating to your company’s area of activity. This could be information about your organisation’s subsidiary companies, partners or competitors in other countries or information about potential sales opportunities.
  1. Translate and/or summarise the information you find under number 2 above into English and pass it onto your line manager or Managing Director, state the source and that you translated the information yourself. Leverage this as an opportunity to remind them of your language ability and familiarity with the country concerned, but it will also give you the opportunity to familiarise yourself (and become fluent) in the language and terminology of your work.
  1. Watch YouTube videos posted by your organisation’s affiliate companies, partners or clients abroad and keep revisiting those videos.

Good luck in implementing these suggestions – the next post will be about

Leveraging your Languages alongside your day-job.

Leveraging your Languages

Chances are that if you’re reading this, you have studied a foreign language, possibly at university level, but have now graduated or are about to graduate. Or maybe you’re already working in a job that doesn’t OFFICIALLY require a knowledge of a foreign language at all.

If you’ve learned a language, the old adage holds true that you must “use it, or lose it”.  Even if you studied a language to degree level, but don’t continue using it, you risk losing (some of) the fluency and confidence in the language you once had. In the future, that means that you will be less likely to apply for or look for a job that DOES require your knowledge of languages.

That’s where “Leveraging your Languages” comes in. “Leveraging your Languages” is a phrase that I coined myself. “Leveraging your Languages” consists of two main strands:

  • Using strategies to make sure that your language stays part of your everyday life, so that you don’t lose your ability to speak, write and understand the language.
  • Using your foreign language skills to add value to your current job, or to develop a separate but parallel “career” that involves using your foreign language for professional activities. Leveraging your language in this way means that you will still be able to re-integrate it into your mainstream career sometime in the future.

Leveraging your Languages in everyday life:

Successful leveraging depends on doing as many of the following things and continuing to do them!

  1. Subscribe to daily e-mail updates from a foreign-language magazine or newspaper of your choice and read them each morning on your smartphone. Simply to the website of the publication and sign up with your e-mail address.
  2. Watch news videos or YouTube videos on any topic that interests you in the foreign language. Do this whenever you have any downtime. I find that watching foreign language programmes first thing in the morning sets me up in the language for the day and helps me think in the language.
  3. Make watching or listening to the media in your target language is part of your daily news intake.
  4. Use the language to stay in contact with a friend in the target-language country via Instant Messaging.
  5. Join a Group on Facebook that relates to your target-language country, a city you lived in or one of your hobbies or interests and submit and respond to comments in the foreign language. You can also comment on posts on other people’s social networking profiles or blogs. Make this a regular thing.
  6. Team up with a friend or colleague from your target language country and commit to having a long video call (using Skype or a similar app) as often as you like in your foreign language. Identify some of the topics to discuss in advance and “tune in” to the language beforehand by watching relevant on-line news videos or YouTube videos in the language.
  7. Get involved in groups (e.g. local MeetUp groups that speak the language), committees, organisations and other bodies where you can use your languages outside of work

Next post: Leveraging your Languages in the Workplace