Career Options for Bilingual Speakers

By OptiLingo

Being able to speak more than one language opens many doors that people who only speak one language can only knock on. You have a much wider range of folks you can talk to, and you may find it easier to speak to some people. And the number of places you can go is larger and more varied because you won’t need a translator.

But one of the best benefits of knowing multiple languages is it offers more career opportunities. Many employers are inclined to hire someone who can communicate in more than one language. And some careers are only available if you are bilingual or multilingual.

If you are one of those people who knows at least two languages, you may be able to get paid just for knowing more languages. Some careers are obvious, such as translators, while others are considerably more specialized, including import/export merchants.

Other jobs allow you to travel anywhere your languages are spoken, such as working with airlines or as a nurse. If you know a couple of languages (or if you are looking for a reason to really start working hard on learning a second language), here are a few careers to consider to put that second language to good use:


A professional who knows two or more languages is a translator. You can get started as a freelancer and build up a reputation or gain experience to add it to your resume. This is easily one of the most difficult jobs, though. To be successful, you must have the following three skills: You must be fluent in both languages. You need the same level of writing proficiency for both languages. You need to have either experience or an academic background for the field you want to enter as a translator. This means knowing the specialized technical jargon and terms that come with the job in both languages.

Knowing a second language does not mean you will be a good translator – even knowing five languages doesn’t mean you will be a good translator. It requires a certain mindset, plenty of patience and an exceptional amount of skill because it is a highly competitive field.


Interpreting and translating are actually two different positions. Translating is done in writing, interpreting is done verbally. Interpreting requires the same three skills a translator needs, as well as the ability to listen to someone speaking and being able to take that in while you interpret what is being said for a third person or persons.

It can be an incredibly stressful position because interpreting is done in real time. While translation requires more knowledge of terms and jargon, interpreting requires a deep understanding of colloquialisms, sayings and unique speaking styles. It is a distinctly challenging job that can be incredibly satisfying.

Foreign Language Teacher

If you really want to explore the depths of English, you can become a teacher in a country that speaks your second language. There are many opportunities to teach English in other countries because it is a language used in nearly every industry and field. For some positions, you will have an assistant or someone else who can help you, taking some of the pressure off in the classroom. You can teach adults or children – whichever age group you are more comfortable interacting with on a regular basis.


Nursing is not a field most people consider when they know more than one language. But the truth is, if you speak two or more languages, this position can let you learn a lot about your target language. You can travel to other countries or work in a home where you use your second language. It will require learning all the medical terms in both languages, and you will need to make sure you understand them in both languages before you start trying to speak one or both languages at work.

Subtitles and Voice-Overs

These two positions are types of translating and interpreting, but on a very different scale. You deal with scripts, which can make for much more intriguing ideas and thinking to deal with. It requires you to know different dialects and colloquialisms, but it can be less stressful.

There are many voice actors who know several languages so they can perform the same part for several audiences. Working on subtitles will mean working behind the scenes, but still gives you a hand in working in film and cinema. For those who are passionate about film and TV, you can choose the job that more closely fits your abilities to either speak or write in your other language.


If you are fluent in one of the romance languages (Spanish, Italian and French), you can become a sommelier or wine steward. If you love wine, it could be the perfect job for you to put your language skills to good use. Sommeliers are professionals who understand the many different aspects of the wine industry, including shipping, storage and rotation.

They tend to work with restaurants and vineyards in France, Spain and Italy because these three countries are the top wine producers in the world. Speaking English and one of those other languages allows sommeliers to write instructions on how to manage the wine, the different wine menus and wine pairings, and promoting the wines for an international audience. It isn’t required that sommeliers be bilingual, but it provides an edge over others competing for the same position.

Sports Recruiter

If you are interested in sports, you have a chance to travel and meet athletes around the world as a sports recruiter. From major league sports to college recruiting to the Olympics, sports is a major industry around the globe. Although it can be a highly competitive field, there is nearly limitless potential to find talent. You will get a chance to interact with people who share your athletic interests and passion in new places around the globe. To be successful in this field, it is essential to possess exceptional communication skills, as well as the jargon for the sport or sports for which you are recruiting.

Managing Hotels

Like sommeliers, being bilingual isn’t mandatory for the position of hotel manager, but it does provide a distinct advantage over others in the field. Hotel managers fluent in at least two languages are able to provide better customer service and make better deals with vendors because they can communicate with a wider audience.

Even if you live in a country where your first language is the primary language, you will have guests who speak other languages. Knowing other languages means being able to market and cater to a wider range of potential clients. From providing a more personal experience to engaging with a greater number of vendors, being bilingual in this highly competitive field can put you over the competition.

Import/Export Specialist

With globalization, logistics have experienced a boom that has made it almost mandatory to be able to communicate in multiple languages. Few businesses manage to grow to their full potential without employees who can communicate with citizens from around the world. It is an incredibly specialized field that requires research and understanding the laws and regulations governing shipments in countries all over the world.

This means you need to understand both logistical terms and legal terms to discuss these requirements with clients and governments. However, it also means you can put your second language to good use no matter how uncommon that second language is. Every country needs import/export specialists to manage shipments.

Foreign Service Officer/Diplomats

Also called FSOs, diplomats work in embassies around the world, which means you will have a chance to move around if you speak a language used in several countries. It is a prestigious position requiring an appointment by the government to serve in an embassy, consulate or foreign mission, but it can lead to a very interesting career unlike anything else on this list.

The position requires promoting international trade, conflict resolution and working for the best interest of the country you represent in the nation where you work. Diplomats and their families experience the world in a completely different light because they get a peek behind the international scenes.

Their roles are vital to maintaining relationships between countries, as well as helping tourists visiting the country where the diplomat lives. If you are interested in representing your country on the international scale, this is the ideal position to help you put your language skills to good use.

Flight Attendant/Airline Employee

For those who enjoy customer service and traveling, working with an airline can provide a frequent change of scene and another unique world experience. Being bilingual can give you a way to constantly maintain your first and second languages, as well as help you start learning other languages. Getting paid to travel and use your language skills can seem like a dream job.

You may not even need to be fluent in more than one language at the beginning while you are taking the opportunity to learn another language. However, if you are already fluent in two or more languages, this could provide a way of seeing the world without having to spend a lot of your own money.

If you are considering a job as a flight attendant, you’ll need to sleep on a less regular schedule. Traveling to a new country every day or every couple of days can be very disruptive to your natural biorhythms, so it is not a good fit for everyone. However, if you enjoy meeting new people from all walks of life and enjoy traveling, this could be the best way to put your skills to good use and enjoy it.

Peace Corps


There are actually several organizations where you can make good use of your language skills, but the Peace Corps is among the most recognizable. While it technically isn’t a career (it is volunteer work), joining the Peace Corps can be the beginning of a different kind of career. If you want to make a difference while representing your country, the Peace Corps has a need for people from many different walks of life. It really doesn’t matter what your second language is.

They will have a way to put it to good use while working to improve the circumstances of people from different regions of the world. If you aren’t fluent, you will be given a few weeks in the beginning to learn or brush up on your language. It may not be enough time to master a language, but if you already have a solid foundation, it can help you progress more quickly.

Following the training, you will spend two years in a country where you can use your language skills every day. If you aren’t fluent now, you will be by the time you finish your volunteer work for the Peace Corps.

Typically, you will need to be comfortable with living without modern luxuries due to spending time in places where modern day amenities are largely lacking. If you are interested in helping others while working on learning a language, this is one way to spend two years of your life doing something meaningful.

A World of Opportunity

This is not a comprehensive list of all of the possible careers and opportunities a multilingual person can find. Whatever your interests, there is almost certainly a need for it in a country where your second language is spoken. Some jobs will even help you learn other languages and give you the opportunity to live in other countries.