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  • Bella Archer

Fluency pays off: Bilingual success stories in various fields

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Graphic courtesy of Canva

Fluent in English and Spanish, Claudia Ortiz Cantu's journey into the world of language began with a noble purpose: assisting others. Cantu, a senior sales associate at Archer Kia, speaks multiple languages that have not only elevated her career but have also filled her life with diverse experiences.

She recalls being 10 years old, accompanying family and friends to various appointments including school enrollment and food stamps, and using her language skills to bridge communication gaps.

“I would get paid to translate and make sure they understood everything. I always offer to help without expecting anything in return but sometimes I receive cash and/or lunch in return for translating,” Cantu said.

Cantu's dedication to language learning did not stop there. She has plans to become fluent in French. Having skills in multiple languages not only makes individuals a valuable asset in their career or job search but can also open doors to remarkable travel experiences.

Mabell Noel, a teacher in Texas who speaks Spanish as her first language and eventually learned English as her second language, chose to devote her time to teaching children the beauty of the language. She highlights how helpful it can be to learn a language, especially when traveling.

“Last summer I traveled to Spain, Portugal, France and Italy and was able to communicate with everyone I encountered. It made the experience that much more special,” said Noel.

For those aspiring to learn a language, Cantu recommends persistence and practice. Much of this she learned from watching her mother, who learned to speak English from watching television.

Noel recommends starting with resources like Duolingo. These two individuals acknowledge the challenges that come with heightened visibility at work but view them as opportunities to stand out.

Noel explained that bilingual teachers in Texas often receive additional stipends, emphasizing the financial benefits of being bilingual. According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the educational governing body for their state, entry-level bilingual teaching positions start at $35,133 per year, while regular teaching positions begin at $33,660, reflecting a 4.4% entry-level pay differential.

According to the Washington Technical Institute, only 20% of individuals in the U.S. have the ability to speak a second language fluently. Cantu's language abilities have transpired into several career benefits.

“I know that if you are bilingual you will be more in demand. Anyone will hire you and you will become an asset to anyone. I assist twice as many people as my coworkers,” she said.

Her second language not only secured her job but also increased her earning potential since she can assist a broader clientele. Learning a second language can open doors to new job opportunities and higher pay, as Noel highlighted.

These two individuals' stories serve as a testament to the professional and personal advantages that come with the pursuit of being bilingual. Cantu and Noel have worked diligently to improve their typical American life by expanding their language skills and experiences. And so far, it has paid off.

By Bella Archer

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