Why Foreign Language Matters to Millennials

By Barnes & Noble College

Why Foreign Language Study is a Significant Career Advantage for Millennials

One of the main objectives of every college student is to secure a great job after graduation. There have been scores of articles written on strategies that will help students prepare for this goal during their undergraduate years. In the current economy, pressure is mounting on students to distinguish themselves from the pack, given an increasingly competitive and limited job market.  Therefore, students must ask the question: “What skills are going to make me stand out to a potential employer?”

While a high GPA, attention to detail, strong writing skills and familiarity with technology are some of the most important qualities sought by recruiters, one of the most unique and useful skills to have is foreign language proficiency.  Ironically, only a small percentage of job seekers tap into this strategic niche.

The statistics on the benefits of foreign language study speak louder than words.  If students believe that their mandatory three credit class in Spanish, French, Chinese or Arabic is just a requirement to check off their list or if they plan to skip foreign language classes all together – they should look at the facts.


The Wall Street Journal recently reported that, over the next decade, 42% of employers expect the demand for business proficiency in Chinese to be a high priority among recruiters, and 70% of employers anticipate that the demand for language proficiency in Spanish will be a crucial part of their search for employees that can help them meet the needs of their customers.[i]

Studies show that multilingual employees earn an average of $7000.00 more than their monolingual colleagues. In terms of career advancement and promotion potential, 64% of the top executives at large corporations speak more than one language.[ii]

In terms of job potential and career focus, perhaps an obvious career path that relies on strong foreign language skills is translation and interpretation.  Both of these career choices require individuals who have a high level of skill and fluency in a foreign language, and have great attention to detail.  But, there are countless other real world career choices where foreign language skills will set people apart and help them be more successful and effective in their job, whether it is in business, government, medicine, law or non-profit work.

Regardless of which career path is pursued, studying a foreign language can also help with some of the intangible skills that are critical to success in one’s professional, and personal life, including:

-strong analytic skills

-an appreciation for different perspectives

-deep cultural awareness and sensitivity

-improved listening skills

-enhanced communication skills


“One language sets you in a corridor for life.  Two languages open every door along the way.”

-Frank Smith


We wanted to get the official BNCM  “Beat on the Street” regarding what our Millennial students think about foreign language study, and how they are capitalizing on language learning resources that can help them develop the skills that are in demand in tomorrow’s job market.


BNCM interviewed Catherine Lamplugh, a sophomore at Moravian College, to get her insights on foreign language study in college.


Which foreign languages are you studying in college and why?

I am currently studying Spanish here at Moravian.  I have enjoyed Spanish classes since the 2nd grade, which is why I decided to pursue it in my undergraduate studies.  Recently, I declared my major as Spanish Education.


How do you believe your foreign language study will help you after college?

As a Spanish Education major, I believe that my job prospects for a teaching position after college will be very strong.  America has been changing a lot over the past few decades, and the need for Spanish speaking professionals in schools and in the work place, in general, has been increasing alongside our growing Spanish speaking population.


Do you plan to spend any time studying abroad, during your college career?

Yes, definitely.  As a language major, I am required to spend at least one semester abroad.  I am planning to study in Granada, Spain.  I feel that it will be an important part of my curriculum, especially since Spain is the birthplace of the classic Spanish dialect, Castilian.  I think it will provide a great foundation for my future studies, and eventually, for my career.


Have you considered securing an internship during college where you can use your foreign language skills?

Yes.  While here at college, I enjoy volunteering in our local schools, and working on various service projects with great organizations like Habitat for Humanity.  In the future, I would like to use my Spanish to work with service projects outside the U.S. in Spanish speaking countries.


What is the most effective way that you have learned to study outside of class?

I have found that listening to Spanish music and reading Spanish books and magazines has helped me a great deal in improving my fluency – plus it is fun.  In addition, after seeing a great deal of advertisement and doing some research online, I have recently purchased Rosetta Stone.  I think their program will be a wonderful way for me to practice my Spanish, especially during vacation and summer break, when I am away from classes, so that I can continue to use and improve my language skills.


How do you think foreign language skills will set you apart in your future career?

I was not aware of all of the great statistics that you mentioned about future demand for foreign language proficiency by recruiters, or the significant increase in earning potential, but I do believe that foreign language proficiency is a great skill to put on your resume, and a real asset for any company.  Because there is such a huge mix of cultures here in the United States, foreign language study promotes greater cultural sensitivity, and empathy towards non-English speakers, which ultimately helps with improving communication and understanding.

About Catherine

CatherineCatherine is a second year undergraduate student studying Spanish Education at Moravian College. She will be going abroad to Spain in spring of 2015 and is looking forward to it. This semester she will be inducted into Kappa Delta Pi, the National Education Honor Society. She is also a member of the Women’s Soccer Program at the college. In the future she hopes to be a high school Spanish teacher and soccer coach, and spend her summers traveling to different foreign countries and possibly teaching English to Spanish speakers. This is her first year working for Barnes & Noble College Bookstores. In her spare time she loves to go running or hang out with friends and family. She currently cannot put down the book, Divergent by Veronica Roth and she is excited for the movie to come out. One thing she can’t live without is coffee. (She has college to thank for that!)

[i] Light, Joe. “Languages Needed, but No Plans to Learn.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 18 Jan. 2011.

[ii] Williams, Douglas. “4 Reasons Foreign Language Skills May Get You a Job.” USA TODAY College: College News and Information Powered by USA TODAY, 10 Oct. 2013.

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