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Rochester Community and Technical College - Rochester, Minnesota

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World Languages Department
Career Prep


World Languages Help Prepare You for Various Careers

World languages help prepare you to work in many types of jobs. For example, you may want to major in a particular world language and become certified to teach. This would enable you to take a job either teaching that world language, teaching English as a world language, or teaching in a bilingual setting. Combining languages with the study of business can help prepare the student for jobs in foreign commerce, including banking, marketing, import-export, purchasing, finance, advertising, consulting, etc. Combining language with law studies could lead to a career in international law.

Included among the numerous professions in which knowledge of world languages can be helpful are the following: government service, social work, architecture, engineering, journalism, public relations, library service, archaeology, philosophy, medicine, the travel industry, telecommunications, music, theater, research scholarship, interpreting, and translation.

At Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, the Department of Telecommunications recognizes the extreme importance of world language study and requires a two-year world language component of all its majors.

Internationalization and the Workplace

With the growing involvement of the United States in international business and the increasingly multinational character of American society itself, the importance of world languages in nearly every kind of occupation is evident. The New York City bus driver who deals with both city residents and tourists who speak a variety of languages, the automobile executive marketing his products abroad, the scientist using foreign research material, the social worker assigned to a Spanish-speaking neighborhood, the draftsman converting a European design to American measurements, the stewardess on a transatlantic run, the foreign service officer in Asia, the restaurant manager greeting a group of Japanese visitors, the publisher drawing up a contract with an Italian novelist, the television producer of Spanish-language specials – the list of Americans who use a world language in their work is virtually unlimited.

Generally, American business firms and service organizations are not likely to hire employees on the basis of their language skills alone. But a substantial number of them have come to recognize the specific needs for world languages, and most of them foresee a growth in the need for language skills, both in their own particular businesses and in the general employment market. And if there is one thing that employers can agree on in regard to the future, it is change – change in the size, scope, and direction of their businesses, and change in the talents they will demand. Success in the world of work may very well depend on the ability of an employee to adapt to changing requirements – to convert general training and potential abilities into active, productive skills. The engineer whose knowledge of German comes in handy every so often this year may find in five years that his language skills are as valuable to his company as his technical abilities. A monolingual junior administrator for a city hospital may be obliged to look for a new job when Spanish becomes a requirement for the position – and he doesn’t have it.

Education and World Languages:
Important for Many Careers

More and more Americans are recognizing the value of thorough education and training as preparation for rewarding careers in trades, occupations, or professions. This preparation should include learning about work, learning basic skills necessary for work, and eventually, learning specific skills for a specific kind of work. The more varied and the more highly developed one’s skills, the broader one’s options. Knowledge of a world language, a traditional part of the liberal arts education, is at the same time an important part of the basic preparation for a wide variety of careers. The student who misses an opportunity to learn a world language is, in short, closing doors to himself and narrowing his career opportunities.

For many people, the ideal time to begin learning a second language is in elementary school, but the traditional high school sequence can also be effective and profitable, especially if the student understands the value of language study for both his general development and his career orientation. Many high schools are, in fact, offering such courses as Commercial Spanish, Secretarial French, or Scientific German. One high school located near an international airport integrates aviation- and aerospace-related vocabulary into all of its language courses as a matter of routine, and invites bilingual stewardesses to help out in the language resource center. A high school in the southwest offers a number of world language vocational courses, including Spanish for Ranch and Farm Workers, French in the World of Fashion, World Language for Music Majors, Bilingual Secretarial Training, and Spanish Vocabulary for the Construction and Building Trades. A junior high school in the East has incorporated a study of local vocational needs as well as job-related vocabulary into its eighth grade French program and career-related world language mini-courses are steadily on the rise in high schools across the country, providing a “taste” of a number of career possibilities for the language student.

The college language course may also provide an effective career preparation, especially since college students have begun to narrow down their occupational choices and can relate to very specific career needs. Many two-year colleges and a growing number of four-year colleges and universities have introduced interesting career-related courses into their language curricula, some of which can count toward a major in world languages. In other cases, a double major or minor in world languages can be useful in terms of career goals. A major in journalism, sociology, business administration, or medicine combined with a minor in Spanish or Russian, for example would be good preparation for many of the job areas described in this report. But a language major can be useful too even in a “non-language” career. Law, medical and business schools are happy to accept people with undergraduate majors in any of the liberal arts – including world languages. And employers from almost every area of the business world indicate that they would consider a language major as suitable – sometimes preferable – “raw material” for an employee or trainee, provided the candidate has also demonstrated an aptitude for the more technical aspects of the work he would be expected to do.

Whether a college major or minor, a four-year high school sequence, or a preparation beginning as far back as primary school, an education in world languages is not just an exercise in grammar and literature or the background for a few very specialized jobs, but a vital preparation for a growing list of careers.

Other, less tangible values of language study are well known to students, teachers, and others who enjoy words and appreciate the special insight that study of words, word origins, and linguistic features gives them. Language study is pleasurable and valuable in itself because it furnishes to the thinking patterns of a foreign nation or nations; because it affords insights into the nature of language itself, and the human mind; because if fosters a sense of shared humanity among persons who have learned to break down the barriers that impede communication. In addition, language expands and enhances the pleasures of travel, of good literature and the arts, and of social interaction. By combining career aspirations with the humanizing and broadening effects of the study of world language and culture, one can make a sound investment in a stimulating and rewarding future.



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