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I’m a modern languages student. What are my options?
As the world grows smaller and smaller, communication among human beings has become an important subject. Language is the most efficient tool in solving communication barriers, and the foreign language specialist engages in translating, interpreting, or teaching in one or more foreign languages. The specialist ordinarily possesses and uses knowledge of the literature, culture, and historical development of the country in which the language is used. In addition to pursuing a job in which the primary focus is the use of another language, many opportunities exist for the use of additional language skills in other career areas such as medicine, law, business, education, and many others.
A bachelor's degree is the minimum formal education required. Some areas may require a graduate degree, or may assist employment in highly competitive areas. It is critical that students gain related experience and skills through internships, part‐time work, or volunteering in their field of interest as undergraduates. The connection between foreign languages and jobs is becoming increasingly important. Today's job market is difficult, but if you have a skill ‐ plus a foreign language your chances of finding an interesting job are often better than those of someone who has no language skills at all. With greater involvement in international business by U.S. companies, a language background is a vital and valuable preparation for a rewarding career. In addition, language brings the world closer, travel becomes more pleasurable, literature and art more meaningful. By learning a foreign language, you make a sound investment in yourself and in your life.
Career Opportunities in Classical and Modern Languages:
The need for people with knowledge of a foreign language is constantly increasing. Training in Classical and Modern Languages prepares students to enter most professional schools, including law, business, and medicine, with proper advising. Many students go into teaching. However, there are many other career options where knowledge of a foreign language and literature is a plus, including government work, law enforcement, travel and tour‐ ism, business, and communications.
GOVERNMENT: Diplomat; translator, interpreter (US or UN); court interpreter; CIA; FBI linguist, special agent; Peace Corps; VISTA; Agency for International Development; State Department; Government research specialist; Immigration and Naturalization Service; Bureau of Narcotics; Armed forces; Department of Treasury; Foreign Claims Settlement Commission; Office of Economic Opportunity; agricultural specialist; all levels of government in areas with large immigrant population.
SOCIAL SERVICE: Law enforcement; welfare; health services; income tax consultant; missionary, minister; nursing; medical research writer; vocational counselor; case worker.
EDUCATION: Teacher; translator; editor; textbook author.
LIBRARY: Librarian in U.S., overseas; translator; classifier of foreign documents. SCIENTIFIC FIELDS: Technical writer, translator; researcher; technical liaison for U.S. firms abroad; archaeology; museum work; medicine.
TRAVEL AND TOURISM: Travel agent; tour guide; hotel, restaurant employee; flight attendant; airport personnel.
BUSINESS: International law, banking; U.S. representative for foreign company; patent attorney; representative for U.S. firm abroad; foreign branch of U.S. firm; advertising, sales, fashion buyer; marketing; executive or manager; technical expert; personnel manager; Public Relations; secretarial and clerical opportunities; import‐export firms; brokerage firms; banks; medical organizations; service, cultural organizations.
COMMUNICATIONS: Journalism: foreign correspondent, photographer, writer, editor; TV or radio writer, reporter, technician, executive; CNN, network reporter, video crew; Voice of America writer, editor; translator; advertiser for ethnic, foreign markets; film, entertainment; interpreter; international telephone operator.
Employers/Industries and Success Strategies:
Government: Translation/interpretation – Journalism – Linguistics – Diplomacy – Civil Service – Foreign Service – Immigration/Naturalization – US Customs – Intelligence/Law Enforcement (e.g., FBI, CIA, DEA)
Suggested Strategy: The government is one of the largest employers of people with foreign language skills! Go to www.usajobs.gov, the government’s official job site. Consider attending a specialized language school that teaches foreign languages (e.g., Monterrey Institute). Learn government hiring procedures.
Arts, Media, Entertainment: Advertising – Translation/Interpretation – Journalism/ Broadcasting – Publishing/Editing ‐ PR
Suggested Strategy: Spend time working or studying abroad. Read international newspapers to keep abreast of world affairs.
Industry & Commerce: Translation/Interpretation – Banking/Finance – Sales – Customer Services – Manufacturing – Engineering/Technical – Research – Operations Manage – Consulting – Import/Export – Administrative Services
Suggested Strategy: Supplement coursework with business minor. Gain experience through international internship or study abroad. Find out which companies do business with the countries in which your language of study is spoken. Be prepared to start in a position in the US working for a firm with an overseas presence. Very few entry level positions are available in international business.
Travel & Tourism: Translation/Interpretation – Airlines – Management – Booking/ Reservations – Travel Services/Guidance
Suggested Strategy: Get a part‐time job with hotel, restaurant, or visitors’ bureau to gain experience. Plan to attend a travel school. Develop strong administrative skills. Read international newspapers to keep abreast of world affairs.
Interpretation/Translation: Interpretation (simultaneous, consecutive, conference, escort/ guide, judiciary) – Translation (literary, localization, medical) – Freelance – Education – Business services – Government agencies – Healthcare – Courts ‐ Publishers
Suggested Strategy: Develop a near‐perfect knowledge of second language. Gain experience through internship or volunteering. Learn a third language for greater opportunities. Most people work freelance in this field, and gain expertise in a particular area (e.g., law or medicine). Seek certification or accreditation from an interpretation/translation organization. Service & Education: Translation/Interpretation – Teaching – Educational Administration – Linguistics – Civic Service – Social Work – Mission Work – Library Science – Health Services Suggested Strategy: Obtain state licensure for K‐12 teaching. Consider teaching English in another country. Consider coursework in English grammar or linguistics. Gain experience tutoring or teaching ESL. Volunteer with Peace Corps, Teach forAmerica, Americorps, or VISTA to gain experience. Obtain a graduate degree for university‐level teaching jobs.
In today’s globalized world, modern language graduates are in demand in a wide range of employment sectors. These include roles in which multilingualism is essential, such as interpreting, translation and international politics. But of course there are also many other roles in which speaking an additional language is an asset; this applies to many fields of business and industry. Most modern language courses also require students to develop their understanding of the country (or countries) in which that language is used, and the culture both past and present of these regions. This can mean studying literary texts, films, history, politics and media, and usually also means spending time studying or working in a country where your language of choice is spoken.
Professional Association Links
Foreign Language Associations:
American Translators Association: http://www.atanet.org
Modern Language Association: http://www.mla.org/
American Association for Applied Linguistics: http://www.aaal.org/
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages: http://www.actfl.org/
California Language Teachers’ Association (CLTA): http://clta.net/