Foreign language skills in international development: What’s in demand

An aid worker with Project Hope examines a child during a medical operation in Haiti. Photo by: David Danals / CC BY-SA

Foreign language skills can give you an edge as you’re applying for international development jobs or consulting gigs, and they may even affect your pay. But, which languages are in high demand – apart from English, which most aid groups require applicants to speak fluently?

Is it worth learning one of the major languages like French and Spanish, which are suitable for many countries but won’t make you “stand out” as much as a local? Or is it more beneficial to become proficient in a lesser-known language?

About the author

  • Ingridphoto

    Ingrid Ahlgren

    Ingrid is a Devex correspondent based in New York City. She worked as a staff writer for from 2007 to 2009, helping to write guidebooks, including the "Vault Guide to the Top Government and Nonprofit Employers." Before moving to New York, she was a researcher for National Geographic Traveler magazine in Washington, D.C. Ingrid holds a master's in journalism from the University of Missouri. As the daughter of a U.S. diplomat, she grew up all over the world.

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