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Foreign languages and your career.


Knowledge of a foreign language opens doors. Chances are good that you will some day meet foreign visitors here in the United States, travel to another country, or even study abroad. Knowing another language will enable you to make the most of such opportunities. Foreign language study also acquaints you with the geography, history, customs, and traditions of other countries. This information may help you to understand people from other lands and their systems of government. Need further inducements? Try these:

* A foreign language may be the key

to the job you want.

* It may open the way to a job as a

teacher, translator, or 'interpreter.

* It is often a requirement for admis

sion to college.

* It increases your mastery of English.

* It makes learning a second foreign

language easier if the need arises.

As this country becomes more and more involved in foreign trade, tourism, and international cooperative ventures, the number of jobs open to fluent speakers of a foreign language increases. Generally, two types of jobs use foreign language skills: Jobs in which people use foreign language ability as their primary skill and jobs in which knowledge of a foreign language complements other skills. Most jobs that use foreign language skills fall into the second category.

Teachers, Translators, and Interpreters Jobs in which fluency in a foreign language is a primary skill are sometimes called language-centered jobs; they include foreign language teacher, translator, and interpreter. Many languagecentered jobs, particularly jobs intranslating and interpreting, require the fluency of a native speaker. N ear-native ability is usually developed in a home where the foreign language is spoken, through study at an institution in a country where the language is spoken, or through living in a foreign country and becoming immersed in its language and culture. Besides knowing the language itself, people qualified for these jobs usually have a thorough understanding of the culture in which the foreign language is spoken. The job market for language-centered jobs is very competitive.

Teachers. Over 50,000 people teach foreign languages in high schools, colleges, and universities. Others teach in commercial or -government-operated language schools. According to the Modern Language Association, the job market for foreign language teachers is competitive except for Asian languages, bilingual education, and the teaching of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL).

Foreign language teachers in elementary and high schools must have a college degree and, usually, one or more years of education after college. State departments of education can provide specific requirements for certification. Private schools may not require certification.

Most teachers of English to speakers of other languages undergo special training in linguistics and education. They must be fluent in at least one foreign language (Spanish is the most common) and understand the culture of the people they teach. They often work in adult education programs. Frequently, people with native fluency are hired as teacher's aides; certification is usually not required for these positions. Some teachers are also employed overseas to teach English as a foreign language. Requirements for these teaching positions vary from country to country.

Teachers in commercial and government-operated language schools must generally have near-native ability. Many of the positions at commercial schools are part time.

College and university foreign language professors must have advanced degrees, usually a Ph.D., although a master's degree may be acceptable at some junior colleges. Competition for these jobs is very keen.

Translators and interpreters. Translators and interpreters must have a very high level of proficiency in both the language they are translating from and the language they are translating into. Many of them have spoken both English and the foreign language all their lives. Frequently, translators and interpreters can speak three or more languages. For example, interpreters for the United Nations must have a thorough knowledge of three of the UN's six official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.

Exact figures are not available on the number of people employed in these jobs; however, the American Translators Association estimates that there are roughly I 0,000 people working in them. Many translators and interpreters work only part time.

Organizations such as the United Nations and the United States Government hire full-time translators and interpreters. Other employers include organizers of international conferences, trade councils, publishers, and foreign governments. Competition for the limited number of openings in these posit ions is very keen; only highly qualified applicants will find jobs.

Translators deal with written communication. Besides foreign language fluency, translators must have a working knowledge of the subject matter of the work they translate. Special training at the university level in translating is often required.

Interpreters specialize in oral communications. They must be exceptionally fluent, have no obvious accent, and have a pleasing voice. They also must be fast-thinking-especially if they are doing simultaneous interpreting.

A Foreign Language as an Extra Job Skill

An increasing number of jobs require workers who can offer fluency in a foreign language in addition to some other job skill. These jobs are more plentiful but less easily identifiable than language-centered jobs.

Non-language-centered jobs that use foreign language skills have varying requirements. For some positions, foreign language competency may be a specific requirement, because it is a skill used regularly along with other skills. For other jobs, foreign language skill may be an optional skill that could be useful on occasion. Here are just a few careers in which your knowledge of a foreign language can help you.

Marketing and fnance As more and more businesses expand abroad or market their products abroad, their need increases for people who are fluent in the language of the host country. And as American businesses compete in international commerce, the need grows for advertising and sales personnel with foreign language proficiency. Skilled marketing analysts or management specialists are more likely to be hired for some positions because of their foreign language ability. Engineers and technicians who speak the language of the country in which a project is located are also needed for some jobs. Banking and finance, in particular, are becoming more international. Your knowledge of a foreign language can supplement your training and experience in finance if you are considered for one of these positions.

Tourism. Workers with foreign language skills are also employed in businesses connected with tourism. Hotel managers, concierges, desk clerks, restaurant personnel, and switchboard operators may all serve international visitors. Sightseeing guides with language ability increase their opportunities for employment; many of these workers, who are relatively few in number, work only part time. Airlines that offer international service also need personnel ranging from flight attendants to reservation clerks who know a foreign language.

Clerical Because so many large corporations carry on business all over the world, there is an increasing need for secretaries and other clerical workers who speak at least one language in addition to English. The business skills required include typing and bookkeeping.

Government. The Federal Government is the largest employer, outside of educational institutions, of individuals with foreign language skills, both in the United States and abroad. Because foreign language proficiency is so crucial in a number of jobs, the Government has established a category of languageessential positions inthe Department of State, the Agency for International Development, the United States Information Agency, and various other agencies. There are also language-related positions in other departments, including the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Peace Corps, and Vista. Especially in demand are persons with skills in languages critically needed by the U.S. Government, which are, in order of priority: Arabic (and dialects), Chinese (and dialects), Russian, Korean, Japanese, Farsi (the language of Iran), and Polish.

State and local governments that serve large numbers of citizens who do not speak English also need employees who can speak a foreign language.

International organizations. International service organizations, both religious and nonsectarian, employ people whose foreign language proficiency supplements other skills, usually in the fields of social work, health care, or administration. Organizations such as Care,Inc., theWorld Health Organization, Red Cross International, and the American Friends Service Committee work in nations around the world and need people with foreign language skills.

Which Language Should You Study?

No one can tell you which language will help you land a job. The requirements depend on the population to be served. However, the most needed language is Spanish. French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese are also helpful in certain positions. Immigration from Southeast Asia and the Mideast may stimulate need for workers fluent in languages spoken in those regions.

If you wish to be able to offer a language as a supplementary job skill, remember that the employer will require fluency. You must know the language well enough to speak it easily, and you might be required to know the technical, commercial, or slang vocabulary. You should also remember that most employers are not looking for translators or interpreters. They need people who can fill a clerical, service, or professional position in addition to speaking another language.
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Publication:Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Date:Dec 22, 1987
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