How Much Money Learning A Foreign Language Is Worth

How Much Money Learning A Foreign Language Is Worth

Besides the personal satisfaction of learning a new tongue, becoming fluent in a language could boost your lifetime earnings. The Economist takes a look at the return on investment of studying a foreign language, and which languages are the most valuable to learn in monetary terms.

Photo by Minnesota Historical Society

Assuming an average starting salary of almost $45,000, a 2 per cent “language bonus” average over 40 years, and also a not-very-generous 1 per cent raise annually, you’d have an extra $67,000 by the time you retire. Since you can learn learn a new language pretty quickly , that’s a good investment of time. The figures are US-centric; you might do better in Australia given the relative rarity of fluent second language speakers.

How Much Money Learning A Foreign Language Is Worth

Of course, this all assumes you’ll use your foreign language skills in your work or you’re hired because you can speak in different tongues. Even if that isn’t the case, you’ll reap the less tangible (but still worthy) benefits of language learning. [Thanks Dan!]

Johnson: What is a foreign language worth? [Economist]


  • The figures are US-centric;

    But the graph is in Euros? Or was this in relation to the relative value of the languages on the graph? I’d have thought that for us in Australia, a few of the Asian languages would be more valuable than French or German.

  • What evidence backs this claim and in which areas is this applicable? I know a couple of languages but the bonuses you spoke about do not apply despite having worked with the likes of BMW and Renault amongst others.

    • But the thing that will really bake your noodle is: Would you have had the chance to work with the likes of BMW and Renault if you hadn’t?

  • The economist article seems to cite for the 2% foreign language figure. It is as I understand, essentially an average figure – ie. the average salary of those who spoke an FL was 2% higher. since it’s all lumped together it’s difficult to really say that it’s because they get paid more for their ability to speak a FL. There could be other factors in play, such as say (I realise it’s totally unfounded), those who speak a fL are more productive.

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