Career in languages

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An interest in languages opens up a whole world of career opportunities. While translating, interpreting and teaching may be the obvious choices, there are many other job areas that need language skills – for example, export sales, bilingual business support, finance, tourism and travel, broadcasting and customer relations. In the government, charity, industrial and commercial sectors, people with language skills are also in demand.

In Working in languages, you will meet people working in just such a range of jobs, using a number of different languages at varying levels of fluency. Some will have studied languages at college or university; others will have taken short courses or picked up their language skills while working ahead. Many of the jobs featured are in sectors where languages complement other professional skills and experience.

What qualifications will I need?

You can choose to study qualifications such as AS or A level in a wide range of languages, but there are also plenty of other options, like National Vocational Qualifications/Scottish Vocational Qualifications (NVQs/SVQs) and business-related language qualifications such as the Certificate of Business Language Competence.

For jobs that specialise in languages – such as translation, teaching and interpreting – you will need to have studied the language at a high level as well as obtain professional qualifications, such as a postgraduate degree or diploma. You can also combine languages with other skills such as business studies to give a wider range of opportunities.

For many people, though, languages are only part of their work and you may not need such a high level of fluency. Someone working in sales, marketing or finance, for instance, may need to speak a foreign language to communicate with a customer.

How can I gain working experience in languages?

Visiting a country is considered the best way to acquire or improve language skills. However, there are many opportunities to practise your language skills at home either before or during study. For instance, your school, university or college may have access to local business contacts and be able to arrange student placements. Language degrees must always involve a year or so studying or working abroad.

New horizons and opportunities?

Currently, there is strong demand for linguists across all the main occupational sectors with jobs available at all levels, and for a wide range of languages. Finance, technology and engineering are just some of the areas where languages are becoming an important secondary skill for jobs as varied as accountancy, website development and car manufacturing.

Languages aren't just about learning grammar and vocabulary. One of the reasons language skills are prized is that they bring with them a range of other assets – like general communication skills, cultural awareness and an openness to new experiences and challenges.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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