How to Become a Bilingual Secretary

Bilingual secretaries ensure there is effective communication in organizations by handling the problems posed by language barriers. They translate information in documents from one language to another or between two individuals talking in different languages. If you have good communication skills and have the ability to converse in more than one language, you can become a good bilingual secretary.

The work

Bilingual secretaries wear two hats in the same job. They work as:

  • Translators
  • Secretaries.

As translators, they carry out the following duties:

  • Drafting letters and emails in multiple languages
  • Interpreting information between their bosses and other business partners communicating in different languages
  • Answering phone calls in foreign languages

As secretaries, they perform duties such as:

  • Keeping the boss’ diary and booking appointments
  • Booking flight tickets for international trips and arranging for accommodation
  • Performing various administrative duties such as answering the phone, taking minutes and liasing with clients
  • Storing information in files and in the organizations computer databases
  • Maintaining office equipment like paper shredders

Working environment

Bilingual secretaries work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

They normally work from their offices and often travel. They may accompany their bosses on business trips, which can mean spending long periods of time away from their families.


Salaries for bilingual secretaries vary with the level of experience and the size of the organizations they work for as shown below:

Level of experience

Annual pay

Starting bilingual secretaries

£18,000 - £20,000

Experienced bilingual secretaries

£20,000 - £35,000

Source: National Careers Service

Entry requirements

There are no specific employment qualifications set for bilingual secretaries. Your fluency in foreign languages and strong IT and administrative skills are your main selling points.

Although not essential, a bachelor’s degree in a foreign language and business studies can put you in a better position to get a job. To pursue a degree you will need:

  • Five GCSEs (A-C)
  • Three A levels. One of the subjects must be a foreign language

You can also complete certificate or diploma courses in office skills, audio transcription, computing skills and administration to improve your chances of securing a job.

Alternatively, you can get into the career through a language and linguistics apprenticeship.

Important skills and abilities

Apart from possessing foreign language skills, you should also have:

  • Excellent written and spoken English communication skills
  • Good organizational skills to handle office work effectively
  • Good computer skills
  • Good multitasking skills
  • Good interpersonal skills

Training and development

You can develop your career by taking courses in multiple foreign languages. The most recommended languages to master include:

  • French
  • Japanese
  • Italian
  • Spanish
  • German
  • Arabic

The following are the relevant qualifications you can obtain:

  • Level 2/3 Award in Practical French
  • Level 2/3 Award in Reading and Writing Arabic
  • Level 2/3 Award in Speaking and Listening German
  • Level 3 Certificate in Practical Spanish

You can also pursue graduate and postgraduate courses in business

Job opportunities

Your employers could include:

  • International organizations
  • Multinational companies
  • Travel agencies
  • Sales and manufacturing companies

With more experience, you can become an officer manager. You can also move into related careers, such as translating, international sales and marketing, or interpreting.

The following can help you secure a job, as well as enhance your industry knowledge:

  • Languages Work
  • Skills CFA
  • National Centre for Languages
  • UCAS

Finally, becoming a bilingual secretary gives you a chance to explore and appreciate other languages, and importantly, make a living out of it.

Image Source: Wisegeek