Majoring in a Foreign Language
Thanks to the Internet, telephones and international air travel, the world is more connected than ever.
So it only makes sense that a global society would require bilingual or multilingual members to translate everything from business deals to high school algebra to advertising in the tourism industry.
If you’re thinking about majoring (or minoring) in a foreign language, there are a few things to consider.
First, don’t assume that just learning the language in a classroom will make you fluent. You need to immerse yourself in the culture related to that language too. If possible, spend a summer, semester or year abroad (in high school or college) in a country that speaks the language.
You can also find ways to work on your cross-cultural communication right in your own backyard. Make friends with foreign exchange students. Take a summer job working somewhere that may require you to use a bit of your language (such as a tourist hot spot). Or get an internship at a company with foreign clients. On your own, look for articles and books written in the language you’re studying, or search online for streaming radio or TV broadcast in the language.
Another thing to consider is how you’ll use your degree. Do you want to teach physics to middle schoolers in France? Translate business contracts into Chinese? Interpret for political leaders in Germany? Write songs for Mexican pop stars? Once you know what your strongest interests are, you can look at double majoring, double minoring or just taking additional courses like business, political science, biology or history. In a competitive job market, even minoring in a language can give you an advantage over job-seekers who only speak English.
Finally, if you’re worried about getting a job, don’t be. The National Survey of College Graduates reports that top-paying liberal arts majors for 2014 graduates were foreign languages and literature, with an average starting salary of $46,900. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for interpreters and translators is projected to grow 46 percent between now and 2022, and Common Sense Advisory, an independent marketing research firm, predicts language services to grow to $49.8 billion by 2019.
Not sure what language to study? According to daytranslations.com, the most in-demand languages in the United States are Japanese, Arabic, Chinese and Dutch. No matter what language you choose, there are plenty of job opportunities. With a second (or third) language under your belt, you may be saying “hola!” (or “ni hao” or “hallo!”) to a good starting salary after graduation.