By Jonathan Hiltz

It seems like an obvious skill to have if a professional wants to improve their bottom line, yet many experienced individuals in real estate only speak their mother tongue.

Granted, in Canada, knowing English (or French if you’re in Quebec) can certainly get you by, but being able to communicate in different languages can get you ahead. If you’re bilingual or even multilingual you have access to a wider array of customers, many of whom have immigrated to Canada.

A report from Canada’s Census in 2016 showed that 21.9 per cent of Canadians are immigrants, which is the highest it has been in 85 years. More than 60 per cent of our new neighbours are coming from Asian countries. These countries include high concentrations of people from the Philippines, India and China, to name a few.

There are many ways one can learn a new language without much effort. For example, a wide array of apps can be downloaded into a smartphone. These apps (most of the time) are in the form of games so the user doesn’t get bored or overwhelmed if the process is taking longer than expected. Apps that include Duolingo, HelloTalk, Babbel and many more are free and are only a click away.

If a much-needed vacation seems likely soon, there are several international language schools that offer deals that include the stay and lessons on broadening one’s vocabulary.

“We offer different packages that have Spanish classes and lodging,” said Reto Patt owner of WAYRA Spanish School in Tamarindo Costa Rica. “There are three (available) houses in Tamarindo and the possibility to stay with a host family as well.”

Patt sees guests of all kinds coming through his doors, from young students who want to learn Spanish to business people interested in upping their attractiveness for potential new ventures.

If the goal of selling more property is not enough to hit the language books, how about the inevitable benefits on the brain? Studies show that being bilingual or multilingual improves one’s cognition. The brain of a person who knows more than one language works differently than someone who does not.

In knowing how to speak a second language, the human brain is challenged to recognize and comprehend different nuances in speech and meaning. How this translates into better business is as simple as fully understanding your home buyer’s tone and word use when you are showing them a potential property. Knowing how to fully understand a client means the agent has a better chance of giving them exactly what they want.

Knowing a second language has also been proven to help the ability of multi-tasking.

People who can speak more than one language are used to switching between two systems of speech. This includes writing and structure. According to a study by Pennsylvania State University, being bilingual or multilingual can help someone complete various tasks at the same time with fewer errors. That skill can come in handy when you are preparing to show a property while handling a number of other tasks for clients at the same time.

There is a myriad of ways those of us in the real estate sector can up our game to optimize the way we work. If learning a new language has always been something on the bucket list, this is a fabulous reason to learn a new language starting now.


  1. Sabine,

    I agree completely. I can’t resist adding: introduce children to what might be considered foreign foods, as a way of introducing them to foreign languages.

    If the local supermarket doesn’t have a foreign foods aisle, there’s often a foreign food shoppe of some sort within access. Maybe several different ones if living in a multicultural area. And sometimes there’s a city-centre old-fashioned market supplying international foods. A great opportunity to taste-test, too. And speak to the shopkeeper whose language is obviously foreign but willing to share information,

    Due to the number of immigrants in our country (forever; people talk like it’s a new phenomenon), there’s often an opportunity to learn a new language, tied to food. In recent stats someone wrote that more than twenty one percent of the population falls in the new-immigrant definition.

    Geography combined with a little history of languages was always fascinating to me. And the opportunity for exposure to other languages through food can be wonderful. How tribes of various description moved from place to place, couldn’t find foodstuffs familiar to them so they figured out substitutions using local ingredients to at least try to mimic their edibles back home. Some even became exporters and importers.

    This led to many new foods and their preparation becoming part of our own landscape. I can’t think of a better way to take initial steps to learning a foreign tongue. And it would be so useful if incorporated into adult ESL courses.

    Children seem to be more interested in what goes on in the kitchen than ever before. And before long they inter-marry into other cultures. They go to their foreign friends’ homes, and in turn bring them to theirs. It’s not just an opportunity to be exposed to foreign foods, but to other cultures in general.

    One such foreign food example that comes to mind was when I was invited to grandparents’ day at school twenty some years ago… and to bring a bakery item. It was in late autumn and I had my Christmas baking done early as I always did back then, so I elected to bring my Stollen, sliced and arranged on a pretty toss-away plate.

    It was an adult-mingle for teachers, parents and grandparents to be introduced. Of course there were children there, too, in a wide range of ages. The Stollen disappeared quickly but I hadn’t paid particular attention as to who had eaten it.

    Someone apparently pointed out that I had provided the Stollen. Many people had brought store-bought cookies, doughnuts and lemon tarts, and such. So I guess my Stollen was a nice novelty. Next thing I knew, a little boy perhaps ten, approached me with his granny, to ask if there was any more available.

    Sadly there wasn’t, but I remember I asked the granny where they lived and said I would send some to the little boy. Faces lit up like a Christmas tree. Really? They said. You’d do that? Never thinking I meant it really.

    When I got home I prepared another package and sent it home with my grandchild to deliver. Word came back that the people wanted the recipe. No problem. This dish is not particularly sweet and very continental European. Canadian born children wouldn’t maybe be as interested as they seem to enjoy more really sweet things.

    Guess who the family called when they were ready to sell their house. Such a simple introduction that produced much more than foreign food and the opportunity to learn some new words in another language.

    Carolyne L 🍁

    • Carolyne, ,
      What a lovely story. I used to always make my own Stollen. With Marzipan and Rum !!! We are fortunate that my husband and I are from 2 different continents, living in a third one for over 40 years. So for us exposure to lots of food variety has always been a given.

      • WOW! Sabine. Thanks for your nice reply post. I haven’t known anyone else who made Stollen. Mine has no marzipan or rum, but does have cognac.

        Keeps moist for ages with the brandy. LOL. I don’t drink as such only occasionally a glass of wine for a special meal, but I certainly have always cooked with spirits. The bouquet or fragrance that fills the air is magical. And the permeated flavours the spirits are made from enhance food flavours wonderfully.

        For years when I was teaching gourmet long before it was popular as it is today, in the 1970s, I dealt directly with importers and still do business with a couple. But we have some crazy laws in Canada. And LCBO has delisted so many imports.

        You cannot bring liquor across provincial boundaries due to antiquated rules. So if you find something wonderful in Quebec for example you cannot bring it home to Ontario. And friends cannot deliver it or mail it, or even FedEx spirits.

        I remember as late as the 1960s, in Ontario drinking beer in your own backyard was forbidden. If a neighbour reported you there would be big trouble. I never drank beer but when I discovered this, I recall being shocked. What a world. Seems like that might have been prior to your coming to Canada.

        In some cases, there are still some antiquated laws on the books, one of which I read not long ago – you still can’t tie your horse to the post on Toronto’s Yonge St. between certain hours of the day. Particularly not on Sunday. Once laws are made seems some are there forever. Too funny in that notation.

        The old REM Stollen gourmet column link is actually cross-referenced in the current recipe (Gnocchi).

        I always enjoy your REM contributions. There’s a few special people on the forum. I count you as one.

        Carolyne L

  2. It’s actually pretty easy for many to be/stay or become multi lingual . Send your kids to French immersion school , If you have another mother tongue spoken in your home, find out what schools are available on weekends to promote that language. All my kids are tri lingual and frankly we did not want to send them to another school on Sundays to lean the 4th language spoken in our home. It is a lot harder as an adult to go learn another language and to speak it well enough to trade in business . Train them while they are young !

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