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How Many Languages Do YOU Speak?

I had a coordinator once who was Vietnamese. She’s been in America for a couple of decades, so she didn’t have much of an accent, but she still occasionally got colloquialisms wrong. For instance, she would say, “Do you grab my drift?”1

I understood what she was saying, obviously, but it still bumps you for a second. “Wait, have I been saying that wrong my entire life? …that’s probably not the most likely explanation.”

One day, she said something funky in front of the AD, who responded in an extremely condescending tone, “Huh. I think you mean, catch your drift.” With an implied “idiot” at the end.

Now, a PA probably shouldn’t mouth off to the AD, but he was being a giant dick to my boss, who is awesome. “Hey, how about you go and learn two more languages,2 then let’s see how coherent you are in the third one.”

I’d like to say everyone slow clapped as I walked out of the room, but really, he just glared at me, and I was on his be-a-dick-to list for the rest of the show. But whatever, if an asshole hates me, I call that a win.

And Jesus Christ, have you ever heard Vietnamese? It’s all vowels. They have triphthongs. How is that even a word I know?

The reason this story came to mind is, I was fixing up a reader’s resume. She mentioned in one of her emails that she was of Pakistani descent, so I asked if she spoke a second language. Like my coordinator, she speaks three languages: English, Urdu, and Hindi. She’s also studying French and Korean, just for funsies.

Don’t you feel like an underachiever, now?

If you, too, speak multiple languages, this is definitely something to highlight in your resume. In fact, it should be the first item in your “Skills” section. It’s just that unique and useful.

The thing is, you just never know when your unique abilities match exactly what a potential employer wants. They’ll put certain requirements in their job listing, sure, but there’s always something that they’d prefer in a candidate, but neglect to state.3

But sometimes, they don’t even know they want something until they see it. Maybe they’re working on Slumdog Millionaire 2: Dog Harder,4 and a Hindi-speaking assistant would be perfect.

What I’m saying is, make sure to highlight anything about you that’s unique, that makes you stand out from the crowd. There’s a lot of recent-film-school-graduates-who-want-to-write-screenplays out there.  There aren’t a lot of recent-film-school-graduates-who-want-to-write-screenplays-and-who-also-speak-Urdu.

There’s a good chance whatever makes you unique is what will also get you the job. Use that to your advantage.

* * *

On a completely unrelated note, don’t forget the TAPArty is next weekend. If you’re not there, you better be on a show!

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. For any ESL readers out there, the standard phrasing is: “Do you catch my drift?”, meaning “Do you understand what I’m saying?”
  2. Did I mention she speaks French, too?
  3. Sometimes it’s a preference they’re legally not allowed to state, like a wanting a hot young thing in a short skirt at the reception desk. You don’t want to work for them, anyway. At least, I don’t.
  4. I’d watch it.
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