It’s a widespread belief in Singapore that if you speak English and Mandarin, well then practically the whole world is at your feet.
But it’s actually a mix-up. In large parts of the world, you’re much better off speaking French. Just have a look at the accompanying map (courtesy Wikipedia) to see what huge area of the world is using French as a first, second or important language.
Granted, English is used more in Asia, and if you live in Singapore, French will at most be your third language, on top of English and your mother tongue.
Do you think the French speaking area on the map isn’t all that impressive? For comparison, check out the map of the English speaking world (also from Wikipedia).
I know a number of French speakers in Singapore, and each of them is using their French language skill to their advantage.
Two of them are corporate trainers. When dealing with French companies and expatriates, they have a unique advantage. There are many trainers, but as soon as there is a need to speak French, they will be the ones who get the job.
Then I know a French speaker who has worked in a Singaporean IT company. His expertise is in IT systems, but sure enough, when French speaking clients come up, he is about the only one in the company that can interact with them.
Another guy was working in sales for a Singaporean company and sold his goods to French speaking African countries.
These people all speak English and they are qualified professionals. Yet their ability to speak French opens a world of opportunity to them that is not available to other, equally qualified professionals. Especially in Singapore, where French speakers are still scarce.
One caveat, we’re not talking about just speaking some conversational French here, but about fluency in the language. Want to get started learning? Check out my post on French learning options in Singapore which I wrote a while back and update regularly.