HOW DO YOU SAY USEFUL
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.