Studying a language and job prospects
I often hear from people (usually my own relatives), why on earth are you studying a language? This kind of chatter is even more prevalent post-Brexit, when I hear people say that ‘oh, we’re no longer part of Europe so what’s the point?’. We are no longer part of the European Union. Last time I checked, the whole country hadn’t got up and moved! I jest slightly, but it’s a valid point. It seems that people are starting to agree with me, with The Guardian reporting in December 2020 that lockdown turned people towards languages in an unprecedented manner, as opposed to an article that showed students to be put off by language learning in 2019.
Regardless, there is still much uncertainty over the fate of language learning in this country, so I’m here to offer you a few reasons why you might want to first, learn a language, and second, do so at Warwick.
Basic skills can be elevated
Anyone who’s applied for a job (or even university with personal statements) will be used to talking about their people and communication skills. Learning a language is concrete evidence that you can communicate – not only that, but in more that one way!
When it comes to Warwick and elevating basic skills, I am instantly reminded of translation classes. Translation (at least in my case) might be seen as simply transferring words from French to English or vice versa. Actually, the translation seminars are more than that – it’s a question of what do these things mean on a larger scale. What’s the tone of the text? What’s the register? What is it trying to convey not in what is written on the page, but what is suggested behind it? It’s like a puzzle that has to be solved by thinking outside of the box – skills that can be applied in a wide range of fields, not just translation.
It can teach you where you want to go in life
Of course, university itself can teach you many things – so where does a language fit into things? The Year Abroad. On my Year Abroad, I worked as a journalist for three months in Mauritius, and part of the rationale behind this was to try out the field, as it’s a backup career for me (the main plan is to go into postgraduate work and become an academic). The work itself was very rewarding, but the placement wasn’t so brilliant. The lesson to draw from this though was what would I do differently? How would I go about a career in journalism if I sought one – what would be the things I’d be willing to do, and what would I negotiate on? And if I can’t have any of those things, what other careers might I consider as a backup?
Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity…
This is specifically about the Warwick French Department. We often get emails about research initiatives and non-module opportunities (such as translation competitions and linguistic lectures/seminars). What I want to draw attention to here is how these things can snowball from one thing into another. I innocently assisted on a video project in Summer 2018. Fast forward to 2021, and I have presented at the Warwick Education Conference 2019, co-authored a paper, and I am now currently a WIHEA (Warwick International Higher Education Academy) Student Fellow. I’m not trying to brag – although it may sound like that. Rather, I just want to demonstrate how taking one project can open the door to several others. Taking opportunities within the department can give you several things to make a competitive CV.
In summary, learning a language can provide you with many practical skills, as well as opportunities, that can help you stand out when it comes to looking for a job. So next time you might find yourself faced with someone saying ‘oh, languages aren’t needed’, you can correct them.