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Why speaking a second language will be important for future PAs

second language

Speaking a second language is a skill that many of us know we should learn but very rarely do. With technological advances, the world is now smaller than ever and even though you can overcome language barriers using this technology, Vincenzo Ferrara thinks that PAs who can speak more than one language are going to become increasingly popular.  

For most people, the extent of speaking a second language lived and died with French or German lessons at school. For some schools more exotic languages were available such as Mandarin or Arabic, however, since then very few of us have actually thought about speaking a second language – why should we, everyone speaks English right?

Although most business globally is done in English, powerhouse countries such as China and Germany are now major economic and manufacturing centres. With a combined population of 1.5 billion people between just these two countries alone, the tables are shifting to favour those that can speak a multiple of languages in order to survive at the head of the business ladder.

Many major corporations already hire multi-lingual staff in order to stay competitive in the global markets to help sell their product around the world. Even though it is becoming increasingly popular to employ those that are bilingual to lead a team or a business, many of the PAs/EAs that work for these people only speak one language – English.

The world has changed a lot in the last ten years, we can now contact anyone in the world at any time from a smartphone that we carry on us 24/7. We can google a city’s top restaurants, trip adviser a meeting or conference venue and even book a taxi with just a few minutes’ notice, halfway around the world for our boss, whilst we are sat in our PJs all snug and cosy at home.

Even though we have the technology and the ability to translate text instantly via the internet, the traditions and customs of a location can really only come from someone who lives in that place.

Unfortunately, when that person lives in a little town in the middle of nowhere in a country that doesn’t speak English, well then you might struggle to enquire and negotiate in terms of what you want and are looking for. For example, don’t ask for salt when in front of the host in Egypt – it is the equivalent to insulting the host. Meanwhile, make sure you don’t show up on time in Venezuela – arriving on time is considered rude in Venezuela and it is recommended to reach a meeting at least 15 minutes later than the scheduled time. Guests who turn up to a meeting on time are looked down upon as being too eager and greedy.

These nuggets of information can take hours of googling to find on the internet (if you know what you are looking for), but speaking to someone directly can teach you this in seconds. It’s just making sure that you both understand how to speak to each other.

With more businesses globally employing staff that can speak more than just one language and the modern PA being able to work in a separate office to their boss, it will become increasingly important for PAs of the future to speak more than one language.