Careers for foreign language students

Top 10 jobs using foreign languages

I am an Upper Sixth Form student studying French, German and Italian. I love learning foreign languages and hope to pursue this passion at university. Not only are modern language skills highly desirable in the eyes of employers, but they also enable you to gain a better understanding of the world in general, through learning about different cultures, histories and politics. In the following blog I have gathered some examples of career pathways that languages can take you down, hopefully highlighting the fact: languages can take you anywhere.

Journalist with the BBC

One of the best skills you can have as a journalist is the ability to speak a foreign language. Often, employers will favour those with a modern language degree than those with English language or literature graduates- thus leading to more rapid employment. Even possessing some conversational skills can be highly sought after, as it enables journalists to pursue lines of research that may have otherwise been made impossible due to a language barrier. Interviewing abroad is far more likely to be successful if the journalist can speak the interviewee’s mother tongue, as they can more easily connect with one another. The BBC is a co-operation that is always searching for journalists with modern language skills- for example, in October 2016 they were looking for a Senior Broadcast Journalist with French skills to coordinate their BBC Africa coverage. Without modern language skills, such a prestigious job opportunity would be not be available.

Linguist for Waverly Labs

Knowledge of foreign languages can also facilitate a career in a scientific domain; namely linguistics. This is the study of the science of language, which includes phonetics, language acquisition and syntax among many others. Often, such careers are carried out in research institutions or high-tech companies. One such example is working for Waverly Labs, in their development of a smart earpiece called “Pilot”, which is designed to instantly translate languages and talk in your ear (much like “Babelfish” from the popular film ‘Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy’). This earpiece will initially translate latin/romance languages, but there are plans to expand into other language families in the future. Linguists could combine a language career with computer science to ensure that “Pilot” translations are as accurate and natural as possible.

Language analyst at MI5

Possibly the most exciting job on the market for linguists, MI5 is constantly looking for people able to speak, understand and listen to many different languages and dialects (in October 2016 alone there were five job openings for language analysts at MI5). Not only are excellent language skills required, but also a deep understanding of the culture, history and politics of different countries is essential. Although they may not lead as action-packed a life as James Bond, language analysts still play a key role in keeping our country safe.

Interpreter for the United Nations

Interpreters are indispensable in the world of politics. An organisation that relies heavily on the skills of its interpreters is the UN. They have to instantly and perfectly relay information from one language to another, thus allowing the UN to function. UN interpreters work in teams to interpret meetings, for bodies like the Security Council and the General Assembly which deal with a plethora of topics: anything from finance to human rights. Therefore, requirements for this job include a perfect command of one official language (English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese and Russian) and oral comprehension in two further official languages.

Buying Manager for Lidl

A company that has grown exponentially, Lidl is now considered a Times Top 100 employer. It has a Junior Buying Manager scheme for talented young graduates – an opportunity which could be exploited by young graduate linguists. This is a competitive scheme, due to the high starting salary (of £36,000) and various extras, such as a fully expensed company car and private medical insurance. Although fluency in German is not essential, it is preferred so, when Lidl is faced with two equally accomplished candidates, a bilingual German/English speaker is more likely to be hired.

English Language Assistant for the British Council

There is a growing demand for native English speakers to teach English abroad. On top of being paid a teaching salary, the British Council may sometimes pay for your accommodation and even flights. Placements can be undertaken in a vast array of countries, from Mozambique to Venezuela – such exciting opportunities for travelling makes this is a popular choice of placement year for students studying modern languages at university. Some form of language skill is a pre-requisite (except for placements in China), as it enables the English Language Assistants to immerse fully in the culture of the country for the duration of their placement.

UK Civil Servant through the European Fast Stream

To apply for this job, fluency in another language is not necessary, but at least a C grade or above in an A-level EU member state language is expected. It is a four-year long scheme, which will allow you to work both in the UK and in mainland Europe. Almost every department of the UK government is involved with the EU in some way, so there are many different fields available to specialise in, like, for example, the writing of a new border control agreement for the Home Office. Post-Brexit, this job is more important and relevant than ever, as young linguists will be key in negotiations between the UK and the EU to foster the development of a mutually beneficial relationship.

‘Voice’ of the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games

8,000 linguistic specialists were required in the summer of 2016 to help translate the Olympic atmosphere into over 30 languages for representatives of over 200 countries. These linguists had a range of roles, from organising press conferences and cultural programmes, to accompanying athletes to and from events. Candidates can be as young as 18 years old and, although this is a voluntary role, it would provide a rich insight into different cultures for any linguist. Other advantages include free food, transport and training for the role. It is certain that such skills will also be needed at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Translator with Anja Jones Translation Agency

Translators are vital in translating the written word in a way that makes sense in different languages, specialising in fields ranging from legal and political translation, to app and website translation. This helps avoid confusion and a misrepresentation of meaning across languages, enabling people from all nationalities to understand what has been written. One of the many industries that translation is important for is the business world. For example, when companies want to expand across borders, translators (like those at Anja Jones Translation Agency) are crucial in relaying the brand identity to maximise the chances of a successful establishment in the market.

Why should you study modern foreign languages?

All of these examples should have shown what amazing career opportunities foreign language skills can create. If this has not convinced you to start learning a language, then here is another reason: it’s fun!

This article was written by Eddie Sidebotham as part of his work experience week at AJT.