Learning German Boosts Your Salary

Anyway, that’s what Time.com reports in its June 4, 2014, online magazine (http://time.com/money/137042/foreign-language-fluency-pay-salary/).  The article says that learning any second language can boost your salary, although in many cases it takes years for the difference to matter.  The average boost, according to the research, is just 2%, but German jumps that to 4%.  I’m sure the German translators and interpreters will feel very pleased at that.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in fact, translators and interpreters are among the top five fastest growing occupations, and opportunities between 2012 and 2022 are expected to increase by 46%.   Hooray!   But…

The fact is, learning another language isn’t as important as learning it WELL.  Anyone can learn to speak another language poorly enough to be dangerous.  Think of the hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of people who speak not only their own language, but one or more others, which can range from just a few words to total fluency.  And the speaking of another tongue is only half the battle.  Language absolutely derives from culture.  If you learn a language, you must study and come to understand the culture that brought it forth.  And then we must learn to WRITE it properly.  That means spelling, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation–all those things that kids spend years in school attempting to master, and many winding up at best mediocre.  Case in point:  how many people do you know who are terrible writers or spellers?

So working as a translator or as an interpreter is no small feat to do well.  Excellence in this field demands extraordinary talent and skill, not just knowledge.  It’s the talent to intuit the pulse, rhythms, nuances and subtleties of both languages in question.  It’s the skill to correctly pick the proper word in the target language that imparts exactly the same message in the most societally appropriate way as the source tongue.  Trust me, that can be very hard, indeed, especially when the cultures are so very different, and one language’s everyday word is another language’s no-no.  And let’s not even get into the terminology differences in the very same tongue as used from country to country.  Translators achieve this in writing.  Interpreters must do it instantaneously in speech.  Without expertise, translation and interpretation can be a minefield.

So, learning German may pay off more than other languages because of the technical fields to which it lends itself, but in the long run, all second languages are rich in payoff, both personally because of the in-depth knowledge of the other culture required, and professionally because of the ability to bridge a language gap successfully for business or otherwise.  The market is the market, and all should be well paid.

Language can promulgate the best of times or the worst of times.  Whether it’s for German or any other tongue, a good linguist is worth his or her weight in gold.

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