Do college admissions officers value students who speak more than one language?

Is a Second Language Good for Your Career?

Outside of college campuses, mobility and technology have quickly brought different cultures closer. People are more willing to move to different parts of the world, and companies are more apt to do business with people in countries that, until recently, were inaccessible. For example, a significant opportunity for business opened when China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 [source: Kessler]. Of course, crossing time zones and cooperating with colleagues in other countries is more effective if you can speak a common language and, at the very least, understand cultural differences.

But you don't have to leave home to benefit from the ability to speak a second or third language, especially if you work in one of the following industries:

  • Health care: nurses, paramedics, physician's assistants and home health aids
  • Hospitality: concierge, resort/hotel manager, desk clerk
  • Education: teacher, guidance counselor
  • Law enforcement: police officer, security guard, investigator, probation officer
  • Customer service: sales clerk, store supervisor, customer service representative
  • Social service: social worker (family, substance abuse), social work administration
  • Finance: teller, financial advisor, investment banker, accountant
  • Communication: translator, public relations specialist, journalist, media relations officer

[source: Balderrama]

For the United States, the need for fluent speakers of foreign languages became even more apparent after Sept. 11, 2001, when the country's deficiency in this area affected national security, in terms of being able to translate information obtained by U.S. intelligence agencies. Learning a foreign language not only aids in communication, but understanding and appreciation of other cultures [source: Morris].

In addition, as people continue to immigrate to the United States, schools and businesses become a mix of languages and cultures. North Carolina, for example, is experiencing rapid growth of non-English speakers from Hispanic and Asian countries, thanks to the agriculture and financial industries. When it comes to doing business in the global marketplace, multilingual speakers, who have an understanding of other cultures, have an advantage [source: Morris].

Andrew, the student who was accepted to Georgetown and graduated from the university's School of Foreign Service, thinks that foreign languages pose an excellent way for applicants to distinguish themselves, especially if they study an "unusual" language.

"Knowing a language is half the battle. Demonstrating that you are a 'global citizen' is the other half," he says, regarding both college and job applications. "That's the factor I'd look for. Does the applicant just know the language, or have they also used it to travel, volunteer in their local community or to perform a job they couldn't perform without the second language?"

"The application of the language and the awareness that contact with speakers of other languages can bring far more to an applicant's depth than merely having learned a second language."

For more information on the college admissions process, explore the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • American Council for Teaching Foreign Languages. "Benefits of Being Bilingual." (Feb. 2, 2010)
  • American Council for Teaching Foreign Languages. "Studies supporting increased academic achievement." (Feb. 2, 2010)
  • American Council for Teaching Foreign Languages. "What does research show about the benefits of language learning?" (Feb. 2, 2010)
  • Balderrama, Anthony, writer. "Eight industries needing bilingual workers." Sept. 10, 2008. (Jan. 31, 2010)
  • Bower, Emily. Personal experience. Spring, 2006.
  • Center for Applied Linguistics. "Why, How and When Should My Child Learn a Second Language?  (Feb. 2, 2010)
  • The College Board. "2009 College-Bound Seniors Total Group Profile Report College Board." Page 8. (Feb. 1, 2010)
  • Ferrand, Andrew. Personal interview. Feb. 4, 2010.
  • Great Schools staff. "Why Learn a Second Language?" (Jan. 29, 2010)
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  • Morgan, Joyce Vining. "On Subject Tests: the Subjects Left Untested." National Association for College Admission Counseling. April 27, 2009. (Jan. 29, 2010)
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  • National Association for College Admission Counseling. "Parts of an Admissions Folder." November/December 2003. (Feb. 1, 2010)
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  • National Association for College Admission Counseling. (Jan. 29, 2010)
  • Weatherford, H. Jerold. "Personal Benefits of Foreign Language Study." ERIC Digest. 1986. (Jan. 29, 2010)