Learn a language if you want to get ahead and earn more, study shows

“Investments in learning foreign languages will translate into wage benefits in the future, too,” notes Jacek Liwiński, a senior economist at CASE. Pexels.com

Learning languages can boost your career prospects and increase the size of your wage packet a new study by a Warsaw-based think-tank has shown.

The analysis by the Centre for Social and Economic Research (CASE), which is based on the Human Capital Survey (BKL) in 2012-2014, found that for people working in Poland there is a wage premium for advanced command of almost all the major language surveyed, although not all languages have an equal impact with Spanish, for example, being more of a blessing than Russian. 

For English, the wage premium was 8 percent, slightly ahead of German, both of which are relatively widely spoken in Poland.

Rarer languages offered more of a boost: people with advanced Spanish earnt almost 30% more, while for those with Italian or French it was around 20 percent.

Polish pupils generally learn two languages at school but parents often start priming their children for the job market earlier.Maciej Kulczyński/PAP

Meanwhile, Russian was no help at all. This is not surprising in the context of Poland’s turn to the west since communism collapsed in 1989 and, since 2004, its EU membership.

According to CASE, these overall findings indicate that public and private investment in language-learning in Poland should be encouraged.

“The progressing globalisation and the resultant growth of demand for language competences suggest that investments in learning foreign languages will translate into wage benefits in the future, too,” notes Jacek Liwiński, a senior economist at the think-tank.

For English, the wage premium was 8 percent, slightly ahead of German, both of which are relatively widely spoken in Poland.Tomasz Prażmowski/PAP

Polish pupils generally learn two languages at school but parents often start priming their children for the job market earlier. In Warsaw and other cities, bilingual kindergartens offer children the chance to learn and play in a second language, usually English. As one in Warsaw’s Mokotów neighbourhood states on its website: “two languages – double the choice”.

Among adults, Poland ranks 13th in the annual EF English Proficiency Index, the world’s largest ranking of countries by English skills, encompassing 88 countries. It came first in the “high” proficiency category with 62 points, between Austria and the Philippines. Sweden, the Netherlands and Singapore topped the ranking. Libya came last, preceded by Iraq and Uzbekistan.

There are differences within Poland, EF notes: English proficiency is “very high” in the centre (including Warsaw) and south-west of the country, compared to “high” in other regions.