We spend much of our lives focused on improving our careers, fostering our relationships, taking part in fun activities — all in the hopes of finding joy. But we often forget to make time for giving back, which is vital to our happiness and to the health of both our community and society at large.
While there are countless causes you can get involved with, finding opportunities that allow you to put your language skills to use is a great way to practice while also helping people who may be underserved due to the language barrier. No matter where you are or which language you speak, there are volunteer opportunities for you to explore. Here are 8 ways to use your language skills for social good.
1. Volunteer At A Soup Kitchen Or Homeless Shelter
The people who need the most help are often those in our own communities. Working in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter can make a world of difference for local citizens by providing them with much-needed food and a clean place to sleep. Depending on where you live, your skills could come in handy for members of the community who speak another language. Getting support from someone who speaks their language adds a level of comfort and familiarity that they will surely appreciate.
2. Work With An Immigration Organization
The United States is a country of immigrants, and therefore, there are numerous organizations that work to solve immigration-related issues. In the current political climate, immigrants need more assistance than ever, so if you’re interested in advancing the cause, this is a great way to get involved and use your language skills. Explore opportunities at national organizations, like the Immigration Defense Project, the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigration Law Center, as well as local groups. Make sure you inform them which languages you speak so you can help immigrants across the language barrier.
3. Join The Peace Corps
Members of the Peace Corps volunteer in communities abroad, working side-by-side with local leaders to make positive change and promote world peace. When you search for volunteer opportunities on the website, you’ll notice that specific positions have language requirements. Speaking the local language will give you a leg up and help you better connect with the community you’re serving.
4. Get Involved With Elections
Registering to vote and navigating the voting booth is complicated enough, but when you add a language barrier, it becomes next to impossible. Non-English speakers need help throughout this process from people who speak their language. There are many partisan and nonpartisan groups you can work with to help people register to vote, and you can also sign up to volunteer at your local polling place.
5. Become A Mentor
Working with children is a rewarding way to give back to your community, and there are probably kids in your area whose first language isn’t English. Having mentors and role models who speak their language can make kids feel less isolated and more comfortable. In addition to local organizations, some national groups you can work with include Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs and the National Mentoring Partnership.
6. Teach English As A Second Language (ESL)
According to George Washington University’s Face the Facts USA project, 10 percent of public school students in the United States struggle with the English language, and only 1 percent of teachers are qualified to instruct these students. As the population of non-native English speakers in American schools continues to grow, ESL teachers are needed more than ever. Here’s some basic information on how you can work toward becoming an ESL teacher. If you don’t want to make a career out of it, you can also volunteer as an ESL tutor.
7. Volunteer At The Public Library
Public libraries are always looking for volunteers, and they often want bilingual ones, particularly if you live in an area where a lot of people speak a language other than English. The New York Public Library, for example, has volunteer opportunities for people who are bilingual in English and Spanish.
8. Help Grant Kids’ Wishes
The Make-A-Wish Foundation works with children with critical illnesses to make their wishes come true. The organization often lists jobs for bilingual Wish Granters, who interview “Wish kids” and act as a liaison between the child’s family and the Make-A-Wish staff.
Not sure where to start? Websites like VolunteerMatch.org have an advanced search feature in which you can filter by language skills. You’ll find many opportunities to practice your second language while helping to make the world a better place.