Foreign Language Fluency vs Excel Proficiency

Which takes longer to do: become fluent in a language or become advanced/proficient in Excel?

The other day I went to practice Portuguese and was asked by someone who insists on giving me employment advice despite having been out of the job search game for a while, you can’t find anything better to do?

A few days later, I went into another depression as I began to start another week of sending out applications and hoping that someone would take me, and called my mother to share my woes. She reminded me that I can’t change the past and should look forward. She said I made conscious decisions to focus on learning languages. (FYI: my degree is not just in languages/linguistics) Shortly after the conversation with my mother, I perused LinkedIn to see how my profile stacked up against those in my chosen fields. I came across GPA’s that blew mine out the water, and then I wondered again why has my overall GPA remained consistently in the range of 3.2-3.4 since high school and my concentration GPA stayed closer to a 3.7?

One obvious reason was that I had issues with some teachers/professors. One high school teacher lowered my grade because of several absences, which she knew was due to my digestive issues, which eventually resulted in the removal of my gall bladder, but she could care less. (True story). Another obvious reason, is that school was hard, I guess, but my grades always fell after the first year, so I guess I just got bored.

The only time I was really excited about school was in high school and during the summer language programs. I liked my college, but I was raised to view college as a requirement, and after having spent time abroad I was just focused on getting a job so I could go back to traveling and was uninterested in the college social scene. And I knew that to be able to live and work wherever I wanted, I needed to know at least one other language other than English, and decided to master most of the UN languages.

So I made language fluency my goal, but now employers are saying I need a degree in Economics to do what I want. I could’ve majored or minored in Economics in college, but at that time I thought I was going to work for the Foreign Service or some non-profit agency. Living in DC soon helped me re-evaluate those desires and come to grips with my place in the hierarchy. However, alongside the econ requirement are language requirements. But do these people want someone with an economics degree, or just someone who can do financial modeling, VBAs, and pivot tables at an above average level? I’d say it’s the latter.

Learning those econometrics skills is a challenge, yes, but one that can be overcome with a simple course. For that interview with the home furnishing company, my mother taught be how to create pivot tables before they flew me out for the final interview. You can’t learn Portuguese that quickly, which is probably why some employers have decided to indicate native proficiency to weed out those people who think taking one course in a language makes one fluent.


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