Gift of Tongues; Speaking Another Language Fluently Brings Cultural Benefits and Adds Another Dimension to Your Skills Professional Secretary Incorporating Office Appointments

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AS businesses take advantage of closer ties with the Continent and emerging eastern European markets, language skills become ever more important. Although few companies reward linguists with higher salaries, being able to speak another language does open doors. This Friday, European Language Day aims to promote this fact.

"London has a multicultural workforce with more than 300 languages being spoken," says Jane Collins of London's Regional Language Network, an organisation that promotes cultural and linguistic diversity within the capital's business community. Despite this resource, many companies are still missing out. "Research we conducted throughout the UK suggests that 20 per cent of business opportunities are lost because of lack of foreign-language skills," says Collins. "Yet these skills open up opportunities for individuals as well as organisations. They allow people to be more mobile and widen the range of companies they are able to work in."

Jo Bareham, manager of Joslin Rowe's secretarial division, agrees. "If you're going for a typical PA position, a language makes you that bit special. Having says that, there is no premium for languages. I have four posts, two requiring languages and two without, and there's no difference in salary."

Collins stressed that there was no point trying to blag your way into an international company with rusty GCSE German or French.

"Generally, organisations ask for fluency, both spoken and written. If somebody was going for a French-speaking position, their interview with the line manager would be in French. Nevertheless, if you were able to at least book a hotel room in French that would be considered a plus."

Though languages rarely guarantee a higher salary, they can provide a number of ways of topping up your income. "It's a bonus in your annual appraisal," says Jackie Whyte, 27, PA to three bosses in the international department at fund-management firm Jupiter Asset Management. "And in our company there are always opportunities to help out with translating documents, for example."

Fluent in German and with some French, she gets plenty of opportunity to converse with her bosses of both nationalities. "And because we have contacts abroad it's always helpful to be able to jump into their language when they call up," she says. …


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