Is it worth learning foreign languages for PR careers?

European language map
European languages map

In these days of continual learning getting an edge, opening up new opportunities and have a more fulfilling career is a mantra of many PR professionals.

But will a new language offer the return on investment?

The answer is: it might.

English is the business lingua franca for now and consequently it is the de facto PR lingua franca (if there is such a thing).

However, in international campaigns the copy needs to be in the local language.  In Brazil, it should be in Brazilian Portuguese rather than the European version.

This requires more than just a grasp of a new language.

To be a C2 (native speaker standard) is exceedingly hard to attain for those learning a language – few really achieve it that have not completed degrees or lived immersed in a foreign culture for a number of years.

It means that you have to use local language skills and additionally know-how of the media landscape.  It is possible though to achieve results from afar albeit with limits.

So is it worth learning a language for PR?

Well many companies internationally work in English.  In Berlin for instance many PR and marketing jobs (often start-up or e-commerce) are conducted in English.

Nevertheless to be able to converse in a foreign business environment is important and is often appreciated.  It might swing an interview and open up more opportunities.

However, it is the PR skill that is key: digital, social media, knowledge of sector.  The language comes second if you don’t have the business skills.

It costs money and time to realise a second language.

It is worth it if you enjoy it and get something out of learning about new cultures and wish to travel.  This reason alone is enough.

For business, for English speakers it is a useful addition, it could make a career but unless something specific is being aimed for it might well not.

It is not however essential for most PR professionals.