Over time, there has been an increase in the number of graduates entering the employment market in the hospitality sector. The opening of numerous sectors and multinational corporations due to globalization is one factor. People can travel easily abroad unlike in the past, which has helped the tourism and hospitality industries expand. The main reason students are enrolling in certificate, diploma, and degree programs in the field of hospitality is the widespread acknowledgment of the potential held in this industry. With the increase in the number of students enrolling for these courses, the job market has become flooded. Consequently, employability had become difficult based on the papers acquired which have led to most employers opting for graduates with additional advantages. One of the added advantages in the hospitality industry is bilingualism. Graduates with an additional language usually find the process of job search rather easier compared to monolingual individuals. Learning an additional language is the easiest way to acquire the much needed market advantage because students usually have very flexible schedules to study a new language. Secondly, most colleges offer students a lot of support in learning new languages. This has made multilingualism a key asset for modern professionals in the hospitality industry. The study results coincided with the review of the literature regarding the importance of bilingualism in the employability of graduates in the hospitality industry.

Participants’ Age, Gender and the Program They are Enrolled in

This study had both male and female respondents. 91 women (60.67%) and 59 men (39.33%) responded to the questionnaires given.

Figure 1: Gender of the study respondents

Various factors such as the nature and the culture of the hospitality industry could have influenced the disparity in the number of male and female participants who took part in this study. Traditionally, the hospitality industry has been male dominated especially because personnel such as hotel managers are required to be flexible in case of relocation to a different locality or country (Petrovic, Jovanovic, Armenski, and Markovic 2014). However, as the industry expands, women have been involved largely because they are able to access a higher level of education with ease than it was in the past.

Figure 2: Age of the study participants

The participants who took part in the study were divided into three main age groups: The first group comprised on those aged 18-20, the second group was 21-25 while the final group was for participants aged 26-30. Out of the total 150 respondents who took part in the study, 14.0% were in the age group of 18-20 while those in the age group 26-30 were 11.33% of the total respondents. The largest number of respondents was between the age of 21 and 25 totalling 74.67% of the respondents. Most fresh graduates are within this group and are actively involved in the job market either as volunteers, interns, job seekers or full employees. In addition, this is the age group which is also actively involved in learning new languages because they have relatively fewer obligations compared to the other two age groups. The participants were sourced from various programs in hospitality. A majority were pursuing hospitality management. The others were pursuing international hospitality management, cruise management, events management, tourism and hospitality management.

Country of Origin and its Influence on Bilingualism and Employability

The United Kingdom is a multicultural society. The country hosts people from different parts of the world who are permanent, working or studying citizens. In such a society, multilingualism is critical for professionals especially in the hospitality industry because of the multicultural nature of the society. Compare to indigenous Americans most of whom understand English being the common language of communication, immigrants studying, living and working in the United Kingdom usually have the advantage of being multilingual. There are many Asian-Americans living in the United States. Most of them have lived long enough in the country to have a full mastery of the English language and culture. Therefore, most students who enrol in hospitality courses tend to be of the Asian origin. They are the most preferred employees in the hospitality industry primarily because of bilingualism as the United Kingdom receives a lot of tourists and immigrants from Asia. In this particular study, the respondents were from Asia, United Kingdom, Europe, United States, African and Australia. The majority of the respondents (59.73%) were from Asia. The rest were as follows: 19.46% from the United Kingdom, 8.72% from Europe, 6.04% from the United States, 5.37% from Africa and 0.67% from Australia.

Figure 3: The country of origin among the study respondents

These findings on the country of origin among the personnel in the hospitality industry are critical because they demonstrate a regular pattern between bilingualism and employability. Most of the respondents were from foreign countries which are largely multilingual. This shows how the industry is tapping into the potential of multilingualism. With the introduction of a global marketplace, bilingualism is fast becoming an important aspect for modern professionals especially in terms of relations building. Asian countries have been able to tap this potential which has been critical to the expansion of hospitality industry. This explains why a large number of students in hospitality-related courses are of the Asian origin. These results confirm findings by Mulenda (2013) which suggest that hotels and guest houses with motivated staffs who are able to communicate with the clients using their native language encourage repeat visits. It is important for the staff to understand the language of the guest in order to facilitate activities such as customer services, post-departure relationship management as well as acquiring the guests’ accommodation information and booking. According to Li and Li (2013), the growth of the hospitality industry has led to a rapid growth of universities and other sectors of education offering these courses. In China, hospitality education is accompanied by language studies. This explains why most of the students pursuing hospitality in the UK are of the Asian origin. Most of them are bilingual.

Participants’ Level of Education and how it relates to Bilingualism

The participants in the study were sourced from various levels of training ranging from Secondary schools, colleges, those in degree programs and those pursuing Master’s degree. The majority of the respondents (59.33%) were pursuing a degree course in hospitality. Those undertaking diploma courses in colleges were 26.67% of the respondents followed by Master’s level respondents (10.67%). Study participants at the secondary school level were only 3.33% of the total participants.

Figure 4: Participants’ level of education

Participants who have pursued at least a degree level were the majority since most them are already working or looking for job prospects. This group makes up the largest number of workers in the hospitality industry. Most degree programs in hospitality do not focus on the issue of bilingualism and how it impacts on employability. In his study, Barron (2008) explores the various issues affecting education in hospitality. According to the study, most of the students about to graduate from various hospitality programs described both talent and good communication skills as important aspects which can determine employability. Bilingualism is among the least addressed talents among students in hospitality programs. Bilingualism is among the contemporary issues which the current generation of student in degree programs would like to be addressed so that they can have a competitive edge in the job markets (Barron 2008, p. 730). However, according to Barron (2008), a change of attitude is required of the students in the hospitality industry in terms of language studies. Despite the degree programs designed in such a way that students have a lot of free time, most of them choose to undertake other parallel courses or looking for locum employment instead of enrolling in language studies. Also, Barron's findings suggest that it is important for educators in the hospitality to address these contemporary issues in the industry in order to ensure that graduates are well-informed about the trends in the job market to improve their chances of securing a job. Furthermore, the practical and the vocational nature of the programs in hospitality provide the educationists with an opportunity to address the emerging student needs (Barron 2008, p. 731).

Based on the participants’ response based on their level of education and programs pursued, it is evident that the skills set required of hospitality and non-hospitality graduates are different. In addition, the skills acquired in education are supposed to be directly applied in the industry for the hospitality graduates. Therefore, there is a need to ensure a proper integration between education and industry. According to Alhelalat (2015), hotel executives believe that compared to other graduates, hospitality students should exhibit good communication skills whereby multilingualism is an added advantage. In addition to language skills, graduates in hospitality are required to have better operational skills, situational analysis skills and information search (Alhelalat 2015, p. 46). These skills are best acquired if the person is in a position to communicate the language of the client. Critical skills such as language skills and cultural knowledge are best given by the educators in the hospitality industry (Alhelalat 2015, p. 47).

English as a Native Language and how it Impacts on Bilingualism

Most of the people in the UK are native English speakers. However, a large percentage of students pursuing their education in the UK come from different parts of the world, and therefore English is not necessarily their native language. This is especially the case in the hospitality education in the UK. Consequently, this impacts on students’ level of multilingualism and language skills. In this particular study, out of the total 150 students who responded to the questionnaires, approximately 65% were native English speakers while 35.69% were native English speakers. A majority of the non-native English speakers were Chinese native speakers. Others were Mandarin, Herman, Hindi and Hungarian speakers.

Figure 5: Native and Non-native English Speakers

Since the study participants were randomly selected, it means that majority of the students pursuing hospitality-related courses in the UK are immigrants living or studying here. Therefore, most of the graduates joining the job market can speak more than one language; English and the native language. Consequently, this has shifted various requirements in the job market making bilingualism a necessity before graduating. This also means that compared to native English speakers, non-native English speakers have better chances of securing employment upon graduation since they are automatically bilingual. In order to address this deficit, it is critical to introduce language studies in the UK hospitality education so that native English speakers who only understand one language can have an opportunity to learn new languages. Since more than 50% of the students pursuing hospitality-related courses in the UK are non-English speakers, it implies that students who are not bilingual are fewer compared to the bilingual lot. Therefore, employers are more likely to hire graduates who understand more than one language. Hell and Dijkstra (2002) study suggests that knowledge of a foreign language is critical for a better understanding of the native language and general communication. Hence, bilingualism for native English speakers is also an added advantage even when they choose to practice in countries where English is the native language.

The Number of Languages Hospitality Students are Proficient in

In this particular study, a majority of the hospitality students who participated were proficient in only two languages. A majority of the students (43.88%) were non-native English speakers, and therefore they only understood one language besides English. They were followed by students who were proficient in only three languages (33.09%). A majority of them were non-native English speakers who besides English had studied another one language. Students who were only proficient in the English language were 17.99% while those who were proficient in 4 languages made 3.6% of the respondents. Only 1.44% of the study participants were proficient in more than five languages. In addition, to proficiency, the same case applies to language understanding at the basic level whereby the largest number comprised of students who could understand only two languages and the least comprising of those who had an understanding of more than five languages.

Figure 6: Number of Languages which Participants were Proficient in.

The findings support the theory that the number of bilingual students in hospitality are increasing due to a rising number of international students pursuing hospitality-related courses in the UK. However, the findings also indicate that the number of native English speaking students pursuing hospitality-related courses and can speak an extra language is very low. This, therefore, means that the local students in the hospitality sector should be encouraged to undertake language studies in order to compete favourably with international students. Approximately 95% of the British population is monolingual, and only a small percentage is proficient in an additional language (Potowski and Rothman 2011).

Bilingualism and Future Career Prospects among Students

The study shows that not so many of the students pursuing careers in hospitality presume bilingualism as a critical part of their future practice. According to the study, only 18.12% of the respondents presume bilingualism to be extremely important in their future practice. However, a majority of the students (49.28%) find bilingualism to be vital especially when looking for a job after graduating. 23.91% consider bilingualism to be moderately important while 7.97% presume bilingualism to be slightly important in future career prospects. Only 0.72% find it to be of no importance at all in future career prospects in hospitality.

Figure 7: Bilingualism and future career prospects among hospitality students

These findings coincide to past studies done on bilingualism and employability. The reason why most students pursuing courses in hospitality do not perceive bilingualism as extremely important in their future career prospect is as due to the existing knowledge gap in the education system. The educationists rarely insist on the need for additional languages among students pursuing hospitality-related courses. However, the fact that most students perceive bilingualism as a very important part of one’s future career is encouraging. According to various studies conducted on the importance of bilingualism on career prospects, organisations are currently personalising their services through language skills and cultural awareness in order to provide the best services possible to their clients (Bialystok 2011). In addition, organisations are also aiming at minimising costs especially on language training among their employees by hiring employees who already have the required language skills (Corradini, Borthwick, and Gallagher-Brett 2016).

Advantages of Bilingualism among Students Pursuing Courses in Hospitality

According to the study findings, a majority of the students who participated (78.42%) confirmed to have been better placed due to bilingualism. There rest reported having no advantage whatsoever for being bilingual.

Figure 8: Advantage vs. No-advantage among Bilingual students

The majority of bilingual speakers report advantages, especially in the job market. The findings agree with the reviewed literature whereby bilingual employees are likely to earn more compared to monolingual employees (Arno 2012). According to Ford (2012), employees who are bilingual working in the hospitality industry are likely to earn 5% to 25% more salary compare to monolingual employees. This is because unlike the monolingual employees, bilingual employees have better language skills and cultural understanding and rarely required to undertake vocational training which is costly to the organizations. In addition, the findings also confirm previous studies whereby efficient communication, especially in more than one language, is considered to be an indispensable tool which is critical in relationship building as well as financial success. This, therefore, means that students who are bilingual and with better language skills are more likely to impress even during job interviews. According to Callahan and Gandara (2014), even knowing only a few words of a foreign language can have significant advantages especially for job seekers. Travel agencies mostly require bilingual and multilingual personnel to meet the demands of a diverse clientele. In addition, some hotel companies are based in foreign countries which require the managers to be proficient in the local language in order to build a better relationship with the clients.

Being bilingual is also advantageous in terms of opening up new career opportunities. For instance, bilingual individuals working in the hospitality industry wishing to switch careers can easily land jobs as interpreters and translators. This is among the growing industries in the UK (Rodriguez, Carrasquillo, and Lee 2014). In addition, there are other careers which are not related to hospitality but do require bilingual language skills such as education, international development, and journalism (Cummins and Corson 1997). In addition, bilingual persons are likely to have better problem-solving skills and have a wider perspective on social and cultural opportunities (Garcia and Beardsmore 2009).

Aspects of Foreign Language Students Consider Important to Future Potential Employees

Students have a different opinion regarding what is important in terms of language appeal to towards the employer. According to the findings in this study, a majority of the students (38.12%) considered an appealing foreign language as one comprising of a good spoken language. Another group of respondents (25.90%) attributed an appealing language to overall communication skills one exhibits. Other respondents regarded an appealing language based on the knowledge of cultural peculiarities obtained with the language skills. Others based an appealing foreign language on knowledge of theoretical, vocabulary and perfect grammar.

Figure 9: Aspects of Foreign Languages expected from potential employees

Most employers in the hospitality industry required a certain level of foreign language skills (Gunnarsson 2009). For instance, persons acting as tour guides or interpreters are required to have good spoken language as well as overall communication skills (Lüdi, Meier, and Yanaprasart 2016). On the other hand, jobs that do not require much communication only require a good knowledge of the cultural peculiarities which are obtained within the language skills. However, any level of foreign language is critical, especially when joining the job market (Hunston 1998).

Advantages of Knowing many Languages at Work

Bilingualism comes with a number of advantages, especially at the workplace. In the study, a majority of the respondents suggested that multi-linguals can do their work better since they have more resources to obtain the necessary information. Another group of respondents are able to accumulate a network of contacts, earn more money and travel abroad for business trips.

Figure 10: The main advantage of knowing many languages at work

Knowledge of more than one language is key at the workplace because employers require employees who can easily create connections with clients. Communicating with the clients’ languages is one of the best ways of creating such connections (Newsom, Turk, and Kruckeberg 2012). Being multilingual is advantageous since it opens up more opportunities within the workplace. A multilingual employee will stand a better chance of managing foreign entities of the same company compared to a monolingual employee (Samovar, Porter, McDaniel, and Roy 2017). Knowledge of more than one language also builds up an employee's self-confidence, especially when dealing with foreign clientele (Grin, Sfreddo, and Vaillancourt 2011).


The research paper evaluates the impact of bilingualism on career prospects in hospitality. Generally, the paper seeks to assess the nature of perception which hospitality students have in relation to bilingualism and how it affects their career prospects. The paper starts off with an introduction detailing the nature of the current education system in the tourism and hospitality sector and the changing trends in relation to customer service. The paper outlines the aspects of bilingualism among employees in the hospitality industry and how they are affecting service delivery. A review of the literature indicates that bilingualism is more important for students in hospitality because than they perceive it. Job markets are opening up with globalization, and therefore employees can be posted in any country depending on the companies they are working in. Therefore, it is critical for students to study at least one foreign language before graduating in order to have this added advantage which employers are looking for. In addition, the studies suggest that compared to monolingual employees, bilingual employees in the hospitality industry are not only likely to earn more money, they also have numerous opportunities open to them in terms of career prospects as well having the capacity to build a wider network. Through a set of questions administered to respondents in the form of questionnaires, the study shows the general attitude which students in hospitality courses have towards the acquisition of second languages and how this translates to the job prospects. Although the attitude in terms of bilingualism varies from one student to another, there is a general understanding that employers are more likely to hire bilingual workers to manage and work in their hotels, restaurants or resorts. In addition, based on the study outcomes, students pursuing courses in hospitality also assert that apart from added advantage that comes with bilingualism in the job market, it is also an important aspect of building better relations with clientele by creating cultural awareness.

Although the methodology used was quite successful in answering the research questions, there were few limitations which could have affected the accuracy of the study findings. First, the research was based on only one method of data collection which is the use of questionnaires. Although this method was successful in collecting data from the study participants, integrating other methods of data collection would have increased both the scope and the depth of analysis. More methods of data collection mean that more information is easily acquired from a larger group of respondents. Another limitation of this study is the small sample size. Although the data tries to capture varying dimensions of the respondents including nationality, the level of education, the program of study, age, gender and the number of languages each is proficient in, the respondent are few, and therefore this can lead to biased results.

The study was critical in addressing the existing knowledge gap. First, the research outcomes act as a confirmation of the knowledge gap between the perceptions of the educators and the hospitality industry professionals. Based on the study outcomes and student responses, it is clear that although students perceive bilingualisms as a key factor in the job market, they do not know the extent of the need for bilingualism and how it is applied in career practice. For instance, students had diverse views on the aspects of foreign languages which employers are interested in. While others presume that employers consider good mastery of the language and the overall communication skills, others suggest that employers do consider specific aspects of a language including vocabulary. The research findings, therefore, shows the special role educators in hospitality courses must address in terms of bilingualism. Also, while a good number of respondents demonstrated the importance of bilingualism in their future career prospects, others suggested that understanding of a foreign language was not likely to be of any importance to their future career in the hospitality industry. This, therefore, is a wake-up call to the educators and the industry professionals to address the issues of bilingualism among the students. In addition, despite a good number of students being proficient in more than one language, most of them have no knowledge on how they can use this as an added advantage when joining the job market.

Based on the study results, a good number of bilingual students cited having received no advantage owing to their knowledge of an extra foreign language. Educators should guide students on how to apply their knowledge in foreign languages not in only in looking for employment but also in engaging in entrepreneurship within the hospitality industry. It is, therefore, important for educators and industry professionals to engage students in different vocational training in relation to languages so that they can be open to the current entrepreneurship opportunities which exist in the industry. Careers in language and hospitality such as interpreters and guides are among the fastest growing in the industry. By addressing this knowledge, students will be in a position to properly apply their bilingual skills in the job market. Also, a larger number of native English speaking students will be motivated to undertake studies in foreign languages.


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