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Opportunities in Language

In a global economy, knowing a second language offers connection and opportunity.

This past winter break, we traveled to Mexico to spend a couple of weeks in the Yucatán with my sister-in-law and her family. A native New Yorker, she moved to Cozumel 23 years ago for a new opportunity, and along the way, raised two Cozumeleñas.

Her two girls attend a bilingual school, and they’re comfortable bilinguals with equal abilities in both languages. The oldest one is now considering college and has the option to choose between a Mexican university and an American one. Some of her friends are even considering taking a year off before college to add another language to their resume.

Living in the United States, a powerhouse economy, we sometimes lose sight of the benefits of speaking another language. We consider it a “nice-to-have” instead of a necessity for our kids. We assume America will continue to be a great and desirable place to work and live when our kids are older.

But markets are unpredictable – and opportunities arise in unexpected places. While knowing a second language gives you the ability to communicate with more people, it also leads to opportunity. With shifting demographics, a bilingual or multilingual job candidate has broader opportunities, internationally and right here at home. In a global economy, knowing two languages isn’t just a “nice-to-have”; it’s becoming both an advantage and a necessity.

My sister-in-law, owner of La Cocay in Cozumel, being recognized as a member of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, an international gastronomic association.

My sister-in-law had some Spanish comprehension when they decided to move to Mexico, but she wasn’t fluent. She had grown up in NYC and always dreamed of having her own restaurant. It was a dream that seemed unattainable in New York. When she moved to Mexico, her childhood dream became a possibility. She started working at a local restaurant and improving her Spanish. When the opportunity arose to create her own business, she decided to take the chance. The restaurant business on an island dependent on tourism is difficult, and doing business in Latin America has its challenges. But what would have been nearly impossible in New York City became a reality in Cozumel.

La Cocay is now a hot spot on the island, where locals and tourists enjoy fine dining and gourmet pizza, where the service is always great – a differentiator in Mexico – and the ambiance is welcoming. It’s a place where people come together and mingle among the tables, no matter where you’re from.

We sat down with locals and expats code-switching between Spanish and English. A local easily spoke to my husband in English, seamlessly switching into Spanish when he spoke to me or the kids. Here, no one feels left out. And my sister-in-law’s willingness to embrace another culture and language allowed her to realize a lifelong dream.

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