Multi-lingual graduates bring more than just language skills

Currently two thirds of the world’s population speak two or more languages; this represents over 3.5 billion people, how many  work in your company? Although speaking a second language can have obvious communication benefits, there are also other cognitive skills that bilingual speakers obtain, which recruiters should be aware of.

The British Council recently released an article ‘Languages for the Future’, in which they highlighted the importance of culture, stating that languages are the bedrock of the world’s  cultural heritage and that every language offers a rich and unique insight into different ways of thinking and living for people around the globe.


As part of their degrees, the majority of multi-lingual students must spend an academic year abroad in a country which speaks the language they are studying – this year is called Erasmus. During this year, students are immersed in the culture, tradition and social norms of this country.  Speaking at the GRADchances Language Fair 2014, Damien Stone from Concentrix stated, ‘It is really important for students to immerse themselves in culture and not just the language, we are primarily looking for students who have a good knowledge of the culture of countries’.  By having a greater knowledge of the cultures of various countries, employees have the ability to communicate more effectively and efficiently with their clients abroad – strengthening a company’s overall relationship with these clients. In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart’.

Apart from cultural knowledge, bilingual students also have much more developed cognitive skills. In its current consultation document for a strategy for foreign languages in education, the Department of Education and Skills make the case that that people who are bilingual and multilingual tend to be more flexible, more creative and more fluent in their mother tongue. They also communicate more clearly and accurately to diverse audiences. Research has also shown that the bilingual brain can have better attention to detail and task-switching capacities than the monolingual brain, thanks to its developed ability to inhibit one language while using another.

In conclusion, it is important for employers to understand the cognitive skills attached to employees that are bilingual or multilingual, as these skills are just as important in the workplace as the language itself.

The GRADchances Language Fair will return to the RDS, Dublin on 17 February 2016. This event will bring students, graduates and employers together to explore the wide range of career opportunities that are available for multi-linguists. For more information, visit the gradireland website.

Engaging with the class of 2020!

Earlier this year, gradireland published an article in the 2015 gradireland Salary Survey which found that languages was the number one hard skill which recruiters feel is lacking in graduates and an area where an increasing number of jobs are forecast.

language fair 2014

GRADchances Language Fair 2015


Recruiting students and graduates with languages in Ireland has proven difficult for employers. In Irish secondary schools, only 8% of students study two or more languages, compared to over 50% in other EU countries. A report by the Royal Irish Academy this year found that Ireland was one of only two countries in Europe where a foreign language was not compulsory at any stage of the school curriculum. This means that when it comes to finding students in Ireland with languages, employers have a much smaller pool to choose from compared to continental Europe, where language skills are developed from a much younger age.

The benefits of early engagement with potential employers at college is becoming increasingly apparent to capture the attention of the top language students, with more companies making their presence felt on campus early in a student’s college life, and these same companies also view students who get active and stay involved with all aspects of college life and career planning as valuable future employee prospects. A student who is engaged early with their potential employers will obviously be far more likely to be in tune with the employment landscape and where the jobs are being created. So how is this landscape shaping up?

According to Una Halligan, chair of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN); a career with languages is one with a healthy prognosis for the future. She told the Irish Times that English simply isn’t “good enough anymore” and if we want to sell  ourselves at international level, students need to take what language skills they have at Leaving Cert level and work to develop them, even if they are not studying them at university. She suggests Erasmus programmes, fitting a language module into your studies or working overseas during the summer, anything that adds a level of immersion to your linguistic abilities.

At gradireland we have been reinforcing the importance of languages over the past 18 months, with our languages fairvideos on the subject and articles on what differences languages have made to a student’s career. For our ‘Your career with languages’ sector guide, we spoke to graduates like Constance O’Brien of Slaney Foods International, who told us; “Initiating business with international clients through their own native language is a common courtesy that can often work to secure profitable and long standing business relationships in the future. If you want to travel for work, which is one of the main aspects I love most about my job, languages are obviously a distinct advantage, but even if you want to stay in Ireland, languages are still a great advantage to your career.”

Speaking on this topic Mark Mitchell, Director of gradireland, said: ‘It’s vital that employers are made aware of the employability benefits of languages as early as possible. This will allow them to explore which sectors have some of the best opportunities for graduates with language skills, and it will also give them the time to gain Erasmus experience, or work experience, overseas and boost their confidence in their language ability.’

The GRADchances Language Fair will return to the RDS, Dublin on 17 February 2016. This event will bring students, graduates and employers together to explore the wide range of career opportunities that are available for multi-linguists. For more information, visit the gradireland website.

A day in the life of a graduate distiller

Karen Cotter outlines her journey and experiences as part of the Jameson Graduate Distiller Programme.Karen Cotter


My name is Karen. I am currently working as a Graduate Distiller with Jameson.  I studied process & chemical engineering at UCC. During the third and fourth year of my course I had to do a 6 month placement. I was really lucky to get a placement at Midleton Distilleries in Cork. During this placement I gained insight into the production of whiskey from grain to glass. I also learned all about the heritage and history of whiskey production which triggered my decision to apply for the Jameson Distillery Graduate Programme.


The application for this graduate programme included an online and video application. The most difficult part about applying for this programme was making the application video. My advice for someone applying is to not let this stand in your way! Since I have joined the company I can now see why the video application is such an important part of the selection process. Not only is the company looking for someone with technical knowledge, they also want their graduates to have a personality and the confidence to engage with consumers and be comfortable speaking in public. After all my hard work I was delighted to be successful in my application for the Jameson Distillers Graduate Programme and I have never looked back.

Day to day life

I have been part of the Graduate Distiller programme for the past two years where, day to day, I worked primarily in the Batch Brewhouse, the Bond Area (where all of the whiskey is matured) and I also got my first experience of pot distillation, conducting whiskey tasting for consumers and giving site tours of the distillery to visitors. It’s so much fun giving the tours around the distillery and I have met a wide range of people from all over the world during my time with Jameson!

I found that through my time on the Graduate Distiller Programme, my public speaking and confidence improved dramatically. This came in handy last September when I had to give a speech at the opening of the Micro Distillery, which was attended by the Tánaiste. Something I did not expect to be doing two years after graduating from an engineering degree!


Towards the end of the Graduate Distillers Programme, I started looking at my job options. Luckily a position opened for a Micro Distiller with Jameson. This was a fantastic opportunity and all of my experience as part of the Graduate Distiller Programme helped me get the job! My main roles in this position involves me operating plant machinery, as well as interacting with customers and visitors.

If you like the sound of my life and the role I had as part of the Jameson Graduate Distillers Programme, you can still apply! Closing date is 1pm on Wednesday 25th November 2015.

For more information about careers advice check out the gradireland website.

Start planning your career with languages today!

Ireland’s only regional language careers event, the GRADchances Language Fair Cork, is taking place on Wednesday 2nd November from 5.30pm in Boole Basement, University College Cork. This event brings together some of Ireland’s largest and most influential language employers exhibiting. This event gives students and graduates the chance to meet these employers and see what opportunities are available to them.

Each of the exhibiting companies are actively recruiting students with languages including German, French, Portuguese, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Polish. With over 100 jobs up for grabs, this is an event not to be missed! There will even be interviews conducted on the evening of the event, so come prepared!

GRADchances Language Fair Cork

When speaking about the event, Suzanne Reidy, HR Manager at GLG stated, ‘We are really excited to be attending this year’s GRADchances Language Fair Cork; GLG offers an exciting 6 month internship programme for recent graduates. This opportunity allows interns to work closely with business leaders that drive industry decisions globally. It also gives interns the chance to use their language skills’. GLG currently have exciting positions for students and graduates who speak French, Spanish, German, Italian, Swedish and Russian.

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