Benefits of foreign language study

Amber Kelly is a 2012 graduate from the University of New Orleans in New Orleans, Louisiana where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and graduated cum laude and with honors in Spanish respectively. She has published her honors thesis online entitled “La Importancia de la Comunidad Hispana en el Conjunto Cultural de Nueva Orleans: Una Futuro Profesional Examina su Cultura y Lenguaje.” Amber is an aspiring translator and editor with hopes of one day landing her dream job of translating and editing books from English to Spanish and vice versa. She is also looking forward to furthering her education by obtaining a Masters in Journalism. Amber enjoys reading, exercising, doing community service, coaching gymnastics, and traveling.

Whether you have claimed a major and/or minor already or are still trying to figure out which field of study will suit your interests, it is never too late to consider declaring a major and/or minor in a foreign language. A foreign language degree can be utilized with many other fields of study that will maximize your chances of being more marketable once you finish college. The end goal is to stand out from all the other thousands of applicants who may have the same degree in order to be considered for a job. What will set you apart from them? Which skills will you have that others lack? How can the companies you are trying to work for benefit from having you as part of their team? These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself when declaring your field(s) of study.

In today’s job market, there are many companies looking to hire bilingual individuals, especially since more companies are expanding internationally. Any profession that requires you to interact with customers via phone, email, social media, or in person can use your skill set of knowing two or more languages. The more people and businesses a company is able to reach out to equate to more revenue and more growth for the company. Most businesses will even pay anywhere between 5 to 20 percent more money on top of the base salary for a prospective employer who can speak another language other than English. Keep in mind that this is dependent on whether the employee – not the initial position – is bilingual. Some positions are considered bilingual in nature meaning that bilingual skills are necessary for the job and that there will not be a differentiation in pay due to the use of those skills. However, research has shown that bilingual employers have been known to earn anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 more per year than their counterparts who only speak English.

Hopefully you have an excellent advisor or your college or university has a career development department that can assist you in looking into various professions that utilize bilingual individuals. However, just incase you are figuring things out on your own, a few careers that utilize knowledge of foreign languages are health care, education, government, finance, law enforcement, information technology, social services, marketing and advertising, human resources, tourism and hospitality, and communications. Foreign languages that are most marketable and prevalent are Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Japanese, and Mandarin.

Now, which language would be most beneficial in conjunction with another field of study depends solely on which profession you are most interested in. Some professional entities utilize certain languages more than others, for example, the government currently utilizes more Arabic languages and the knowledge of Mandarin is highly beneficial due to China’s thriving economy. Legal sectors, like those in Texas and California, utilize Spanish more because of the growing Hispanic population in those areas. The best thing to do when deciding which foreign language interests you, or would be most beneficial, is to do your research. Contact people who work in your field of interest and ask for their recommendation on which languages are prominently used in the business. Also, apply for internships, study abroad, and practice your second, third, or fourth language as much as possible. Lastly, being bilingual is not only beneficial to the business world, but it opens the social doors of interaction and exposure to other cultures and people around the world. We all can benefit from bridging the communication gaps.

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