You want to earn a bit extra from your peers? Learn a foreign language.
A recent advertisement on the professional networking site LinkedIn by tech giant IBM read: “Need a core Java developer with proficient Japanese”.
An MBA, or an engineering degree, may not earn you as much money as knowing a foreign language can, especially if it is German, Japanese or Mandarin.
With the growing business relationships across the globe, the Indian companies as well firms having operations in the country, such as IBM, L&T, Genpact, Accenture, Geometric Ltd and Fujitsu Technology, among others, are now evaluating employees on their foreign language proficiencies. They are even offering a premium of about 20% of the salary as additional language allowance.
Experts say there is a massive requirement for language trainers, translators and software developers.
“There is also a significant demand for coordinators, who can coordinate with the offshore development centres of other countries,” said Vikrant Pande, head at TeamLease Skill University, a part of staffing firm TeamLease Services, which provides vocational education and training.
The top three languages in demand include Mandarin, Japanese and German. Knowing a foreign language is an added advantage for employees as they help the company communicate with clients in a personal tone and helps in easy sharing of documents and information.
The world’s fourth-largest IT services company, Japan-based Fujitsu plans to hire about 500 people in India with excellent communication skills in Japanese.
Auto component major, Germany-based Bosch is also planning to hire about 500 people in India with expertise in German language.
As per the estimates of Sakuraa India Foundation, which provides corporate training in Japanese, at present more than 45,000 candidates are required with Japanese language proficiency in India.
TeamLease in a research found that last year nearly 50 companies in India required more than 5,000 people with foreign language proficiency, and the demand for bilingual candidates is increasing each year by more than 20%.
“There are about 200 Chinese firms operating in India, and almost 5,000 Japanese firms are operating here,” Pande noted.
Kumar Prabhas, chief operating officer, L&T Technology Services, agreed that “the demand for technical competencies coupled with multilingual proficiency has been steadily on rise”.
“Industry verticals such as automotive, industrial, telecom and hi-tech, are well developed in Germany, Japan and China. Access to these markets is highly dependent on local language proficiency of our employees,” Prabhas said.
And, there’s another side of the story as well.
As per a research by a professor of psychology at York University in Toronto, bilinguals are better at multi-tasking.
Some of other incentives of knowing additional languages include more job opportunities across industries, higher salary as compared to regular graduates, on-site options, and ease of business with counterparts and stakeholders based outside the country.
“Most organisations pay additional language allowance as the premium, which is in the range of 15% to 20% of their salary,” said Dilpreet Singh, vice-president, HR at IBM India and South Asia.
Apart from valuing additional language while hiring employees, the companies are also training and certifying their staff.
“We have been training our employees extensively in languages such as Spanish, Japanese, Dutch, German and Swedish from the last five years as demand has been increasing progressively,” L&T’s Prabhas added.
“Our clientele are based across the world and it makes it easier and effective when employees are well versed in different languages,” IBM’s Singh said.
BG Sridar, managing director of Sakuraa India Foundation, which in the last 10 years has trained around 2,000 people with Japanese, said: “It takes almost 2.5 years for a candidate to learn the second-highest level of Japanese, and it costs about Rs 1 lakh. In India, only odd 1,000 people know the highest level of Japanese. But to get a decent job in the technical filed, knowing till the third level is fine.”