If you could choose to be a master (or mistress) of any skill in the world, which skill would you pick?
Fluently speak and write different languages. I’m blessed to be trilingual, but sometimes I still think it’s not enough. Many opportunities that come with just being able to speak a language— as a conversation starter, as a means to connect culturally to others, and the privileges that come with it.
I remember I wrote a piece for When in Manila a while back: How to Haggle in Divisoria and Make the Most of Your Shopping Budget. I shared 6 tips on how to negotiate when you shop in Divisoria. For those unfamiliar with the place, Divisoria is a commercial center in Manila famous for insanely cheap goods. Many sellers buy from this area and sell them elsewhere for profit.
One of the tips I shared in that listicle is bringing a Chinese friend who can speak Hokkien to Divisoria. The majority of the sellers inside malls found in the area are Chinese. Most of them can speak Filipino (or at least on a conversational level), but once they hear someone haggling in Chinese, it increases the chance of you getting a better deal. Whenever you speak to to the tinderos and tinderas (shop employees), they will only let you haggle up to a certain extent. Typically, the trick where you haggle directly with the owner, they will be a little more flexible. Nudging to that direction using Hokkien will up the likelihood of a discount. Tried and tested!
Career opportunities are also available when you are fluent in certain languages. Typically, for BPOs or those who deal with regional counterparts. Sometimes, I even see roles that fit my skillsets but requiring fluency in specific languages— the difference in compensation is at least triple, and that’s being in the Philippines.
A recruiter friend based in Japan recently posted a vacancy for a Bilingual (EN and JP) Project Manager with 4-7 years experience in an advertising agency for content creation. Compensation is up to 11m JPY (5m PHP) per year (but of course, the cost of living there is higher). Guess who wants to work in Japan? Now, guess who has 4-7 years of project management experience in an advertising agency and currently in a content marketing role now? Also guess, who can’t write or speak Japanese? Yep. Me. Opportunity out.
Outside of the professional setting, language fascinates me a lot. And it would be fun to see people surprised that you can speak their language, especially if you do not look like someone who would. Just like Xiaoma, a Youtuber who goes around NYC and other places flexing his Mandarin and Cantonese!
I sometimes see grammar Nazis in international communities and forums for people who speak English bad, like it’s a measure of intellect or success. But really, if someone is not fluent in one language, it just means they didn’t grow up with it and is probably great in another language or two like their mother tongue And I think that’s amazing!