Being able to speak another language can translate into solid employment opportunities in the multicultural world of Northern California. From Sacramento to San Francisco, translating firms as well as companies that want to expand their international markets are on the lookout for applicants fluent in a foreign tongue.
When Lisa Stingo, office manager of HR Solutions in San Francisco, posts an ad for a job opening, she always makes it clear that bilingual skills are a definite plus.
"I think having that extra skill comes in handy even with high-tech jobs," she contends. "Especially if you are looking at overseas opportunities and travel."
Global corporations in particular want language skills, with Japanese, Chinese and Spanish among the most asked-for.
Many applicants have such credentials, in part because of the number of dotcoms that flourished in the Bay Area. "These firms had a global presence and employees reflected this," Stingo believes.
She advises bilingual jobseekers to research companies who do business outside US borders. "I especially would look into banking institutions and food canning companies."
Linda Mansouria, president of Make It Happen, an event and meeting planning firm in San Francisco, agrees that having bilingual skills is a definite plus.
"Speaking more than one language is especially helpful in the meetings industry as the number of multicultural attendees at local conventions increases." That may take a little while, however.
"Unfortunately our hospitality industry has been hit hard because a lot of travel budgets were frozen [after 9/11]," Man-souria says. "I'm hopeful things will get better . . . Perhaps by the second or third quarter of next year we'll start to see something positive happen."
Terry Shields, manager of the East Bay Works in Hayward, feels some of the best opportunities exist in customer service and healthcare. Being bilingual simply enhances your chances of getting hired. "Employers are looking for anything special and those extra (language) skills fall into that category. It adds to your employability."
Bette Lee Taylor, president of Total Translating in Sacramento, is always looking for qualified bilingual independent contractors or polyglots (Greek for many tongues). "We hire people who have a proven, accredited track record and references." She says opportunities in this field are extremely good and have
not been affected by the overall economic slowdown. Hiring is usually done on an as-needed basis.
Her company provides translators and interpreters for 200 languages. "Interpreters translate spoken words and translators translate the written words," she explains.
The company receives a wide range of documents needing translation. "Everything
from love letters to huge corporate contracts," she reports. "Other texts are patents, scientific documents, doctor's medical reports, and educational documents for certification."
The Sacramento region's most requested languages are Spanish, Russian, Chinese and other Asian languages such as Vietnamese and Hmong. The latter has three distinctive dialects reflecting individual tribes.
Some bilingual skills don't depend on the written word.
"We do four eight-week American Sign Language classes from beginner to intermediate through- out the year," comments
Caroline Koontz, program coordinator with the Society for Handicapped Children and Adults of Stanislaus County. "We are an independent nonprofit group, founded in 1947, that provides services for people of all ages."
Their foundation-building focus is to help people communicate with those who are hearing impaired using a basic vocabulary of words and conversational phrases. The cost is only $24 for an eight-week program.
Modesto Junior College offers a few signing classes, but certification by the Registry of Interpreting for the Deaf is required for employment, according to Barbara Wells, deaf and hard-of-hearing specialist at MJC.
"To get to that point, 12 colleges in California offer AA and bachelor's degrees in American Sign Language, which also qualifies as a foreign language," she says. Among them are Ohlone College in Fremont, American River College in Sacramento, and San Jose and Fresno State universities.
"Although deafness affects only a small percent of the population, deaf children are going into regular classrooms and they need one-on-one instruction," Wells points out. "There is a big shortage of these teachers. It's very hard to learn. It's not only making the signs but also understanding another person - using your eyes rather than your ears."
So whether you speak it, sign it or write it, that extra language skill promises to pay off - first by increasing your value as an applicant, and then as an employee. And that's good news in any language.
For more opportunities for bilingual jobseekers check these sources:
- CVLatino.com - Job-search site for Latino professionals has listings in the US, Latin America, Spain and Portugal.
- EuroLondon.com - Lists multilingual job vacancies in Europe, searchable by language specialty.
- JobSquare.com - Job search resources and job listings for China and the US, includes a bilingual category.
- JobsInJapan.com - "The mother lode of Japan job info" features extensive information on finding all types of employment in Japan.
- LatPro.com - Job search engine, resume posting, and resources for Spanish and Portuguese speakers.
- Translations4all.com - A worldwide translation and interpretation service for almost every language. Jobseekers interested in contract or temporary work can fill out a short online application and e-mail or fax a resume to (562) 928-1251. If there is a suitable job opening, a representative contacts you within 72 hours. (818) 535-5767.