The Weekend Post - - Careers -

IN an in­creas­ingly glob­alised world, col­leagues, clients, cus­tomers and stake­hold­ers do not al­ways speak the one lan­guage. Know­ing a for­eign lan­guage can make many jobs eas­ier and give a busi­nesses and job­seek­ers a com­pet­i­tive edge, as work­ers can bet­ter com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple who speak English as a sec­ond lan­guage. It is par­tic­u­larly use­ful in peo­ple-fac­ing roles such as in hospi­tal­ity, care and sales. It is also ben­e­fi­cial when de­tailed ex­pla­na­tions are re­quired, such as in med­i­cal, ed­u­ca­tional and le­gal fields. But it could be used in in­dus­tries as broad as trades and IT.

Aus­tralia is a mul­ti­cul­tural so­ci­ety, speak­ing 300 sep­a­rate lan­guages. One in five Aus­tralians (21 per cent) speak a lan­guage other than English at home, the lat­est Cen­sus data finds.

In the past five years, the pro­por­tion speak­ing Man­darin at home in­creased, from 1.6 per cent to 2.5 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion. It is the most pop­u­lar lan­guage other than English, fol­lowed by Ara­bic (1.4 per cent), Can­tonese (1.2 per cent) and Viet­namese (1.2 per cent). Aus­tralia also is at­tract- ing record num­bers of in­ter­na­tional hol­i­day­mak­ers. Barry Li, author of The New Chi

nese, says China’s eco­nomic boom has made Man­darin in par­tic­u­lar a lan­guage worth know­ing.

“At this stage, Man­darin is only ben­e­fi­cial for an Aus­tralian who has a busi­ness in­ter­est in China, or who wishes to go to China for more than a tourist trip,” he says.

“How­ever, my Hong Kong boss has his chil­dren learn­ing Man­darin (and) the grand­chil­dren of Pres­i­dent Trump are learn­ing Man­darin so if you want to pick an Asian lan­guage to learn, Man­darin is an easy choice.”

Li says it is worth con­sid­er­ing cul­tural dif­fer­ences when work­ing with mi­grant col­leagues too – es­pe­cially if they moved to Aus­tralia later in life.

For ex­am­ple, he says public speak­ing and free­dom of opin­ion were not en­cour­aged in China in the past so it should not be as­sumed that a Chi­nese col­league does not have an opin­ion just be­cause they do not freely ex­press it.

It may just take time to en­cour­age them to speak up.

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