How to prepare for a foreign language job interview

International multicultural little cute wooden dolls

© The Shortlisted – 2019

So you speak several foreign languages, and you are applying for multilingual jobs based in different countries, but what if the region you picked is already multilingual itself, such as Switzerland, Belgium or any other border areas?

How do you make sure about the language the interviewer will pick to run the job interview, especially within larger companies, where you might not even know who your interviewer will be?
The above situation happened to me as I started working as a self-employed consultant for multilingualism.
Like anyone else starting their own business, I still needed to pay my bills, so decided to apply for a part-time job as a university lecturer for Italian in a country other than Italy.

In fact, this was in Villach, a city in Carinthia, south-west Austria.
Carinthia is a unique land hosting the borders of as many as three countries: Italy, Austria and Slovenia.
Multilingualism is a big deal, and also a big issue, there.

Because of complex historical and political reasons, Italian and Slovenian are being taught in most schools and kindergartens there, and many people grow up as bilingual Italian-German or Slovenian-German. International companies welcome employees from all over the world, and an International School and an International Kindergarten exist, as well as a Carinthian International Club.

The university I sent my application to offers classes mostly in German, although many courses are run in English, too. By getting that job, I would be teaching Italian in the context of an international course – where foreign people may have basic or poor skills in German and English.

Still, being the university in Austria, I also needed a perfect level German, as well as to demonstrate my level of Italian – which is my first language – as simply being a native speaker of a language doesn’t necessarily make you a good teacher, too!

I am multilingual and I didn’t know which language the job interview would be in, so why not to ask?
Well, asking would have ruined all the fun in such a situation!
So, here are my 10 tips to get prepared for a foreign language job interview when you don’t even know what language the job interview will be in
And, if you were wondering, yes, I eventually got that university lecturer job 😉 .

1: Prepare your CV in all the languages
Do not take for granted that everybody speaks English. Let native speaker friends or colleagues have a look at your resume in each language: your CV has to be perfect!

2: Prepare the presentation in all the languages
This means you need to be able to present yourself, your education, your experience and what makes you a perfect candidate for the job in all the languages you speak. You’ll also need to consider intercultural issues.

3: Do not take your first language for granted
Be prepared to demonstrate an excellent level of your first language as well. And if you are used to speaking different languages regularly, you’ll know that sometimes it could be tricky to find a word in your first language because you’re probably thinking in a different language at that moment. Sometimes it seems like you’re forgetting your native language, especially in stressful situations, but do not worry, this is normal for multilingual people. Just be aware of that!

4: Research the vocabulary you’ll need before the job interview
And be prepared to use it in all the languages you speak, because if the interviewer only speaks one language, you’ll have to give up your code-switching. So, make the effort and prepare yourself well.

5: Create a multilingual glossary
Using categories will help you memorise new words. You can, for example, create a category for your education (what was the name of that particular technical course you attended in Germany a few years ago? What were the key points?), a different category for your work experience and so on.

6: Study your presentation well
And gain self-confidence!

7: Each room a language!
If you can’t switch language easily, then try this. I used to switch language every time I stepped in a different room of my apartment: so the kitchen was Italian (what else? 😉 ), the living room was English and the office room was German, and I would only speak the language belonging to the room I was sitting in! I know this sounds weird but it helped me stay focused. After a bit of practice, you’ll be able to switch from a language to another easily.

8: A very important one
Don’t worry if you’re mixing languages up, this is normal! Just try again until you master code-switching like a professional, without hesitations and without the need to translate every single thought you’ve got in your head.

9: Be proud of yourself!
Remember that not many can do what you are doing, so be proud of yourself!

10: Stay calm and let it go 😉

About The Author

Karin Martin
Consultant for multilingualism

Karin Martin is a professional consultant for multilingualism. She is passionate about helping expat families and children with their language learning. Her online webinars and services offer continuous support and information to those who have to cope with bilingualism and multilingualism.

6 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Lorenzo

    Quite right. As for the rooms trick, I noticed it is a common trait to many people to assign places to concepts.

    As for me, being the ‘engineer’, my four languages are in boxes. In order to use one language, it helps me a lot to picture in my mind the image of closing the language that I am using at the moment into a box, put it on a shelf, take the other box with the language I want from the shelf, and open it. I know it sounds silly, but I can hear the noises of the action and something clicking inside my head.

    Also, an acquaintance of mine used to memorise speeches by assigning sections of the speech to landmarks on a route he knew very well. He would then follow the route and deliver the speech, and he was able to rewind and go forward at leisure.

    Our brain is indeed a weird place 😉

    • Karin
      Karin

      Yes, Lorenzo, you right! Our brain is not only weird, it is absolutely fascinating! 😉 Even more fascinating is the way we memorize and learn things. Have a look at the book by Henning Beck “Irren ist nützlich: Warum die Schwächen des Gehirns unsere Stärken sind”, I’ve just attented his lecture: great stuff!! 😉

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