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As of April 2010, there were an estimated 50.5 million Latinos in the United States. An ever-growing population brings with it a high demand for Spanish and English speakers to bridge gaps in many fields. Bilingualism is now a necessary skill for any professional that can open doors in a career otherwise considered out of reach. But you probably already know that. What you may not have known is how it can effect your pocket, health and other areas of your life.

Academic & Career – Expressway to Success

Being fully bilingual–being able to read, write and speak two languages with equal fluency–is a two- in-one efficiency package. You’re naturally a cut above the rest if your company deals with a lot of international relations and/or largely Latino communities.

Just ask Larry Muñoz, 39, the Chicago-born, Los Angeles-raised Muñoz, was raised in a household where his Mexican parents didn’t shun the English he was learning in school but insisted he speak Spanish correctly. As an attorney and commercial litigator in Miami, Florida this skill has been useful in international cases that have him traveling to assist clients across Mexico and South America. “I would not have had these opportunities so early in my legal career if it were not for my high-level language fluency,” Muñoz says.

Benji Power, a Chilean American, can attest to the advantages of being bilingual from a professional and personal perspective. Born in Chile to an American father and Chilean mother, Power grew up in the Miami, and credits his family, surroundings and a bilingual magnet program that exposed him to Spanish-only courses from a young age. “The classes provided the formal lessons, grammar, skills that built upon the foundation provided by having a Spanish speaking mother, having visited Chile many times, and living in Miami, where Spanish is as widespread as English,” Power says. “I have many Latino friends in Miami who–because they didn’t learn formal Spanish–don’t know how to read or write it well.” Power’s bilingual advantage led to a job in Cartagena, Colombia as a city planner as well as jobs in urban planning and community development in Miami.

As the director of community development and organizing for a non-profit organization, Power, 29, heads a team that empowers the residents of the historically African-American Miami neighborhood, Brownsville. His knowledge of both English and Spanish allows him to assist the old residents as well as the community’s growing Latino population. “I can speak to both of the resident groups that we are working to assist in their neighborhood stabilization efforts.”

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