Languages Skills Make Soon-to-Be Graduates More Appealing

A report released by the Modern Language Association earlier this month suggests employment for language studies students — after two years of steep decline — is stabilizing.

That’s good news for students nearing graduation, said Dr. Chris Conway, Associate Professor of Spanish.

“Language skills are skills for a global age,” said Conway, who is also Faculty Fellow at University College. “This is a skill you take with you and can apply it in a wide context.”

Taking language skills from the classroom to the boardroom may be essential for future language studies graduates. While the MLA report reviews full-time teaching and language-and-literature jobs and their outlook, Conway said his experience has shown more and more foreign language speakers are wanted in the private sector.

“One of the things that’s driving interest in business is international business,” he said. “Most of our upper level (Spanish) students are business or Spanish majors. And those in business are international business majors.”

Conway said a recent, non-scientific poll his department conducted on Spanish majors revealed a majority of students are “heritage speakers.” As such, he said, these Hispanic students “already have a grasp of the language and a sense of the culture and they want to use that as a springboard in their aspirations to work in Mexico and Latin American countries.”

“These are first-generation college students,” Conway said. “They come in with an awareness of their asset of bilingualism and culturalism. They want to build on it and use it to their advantage.”

While a majority of the students in a foreign language major may be looking beyond graduation toward a teaching role in secondary education or additional study in a graduate program, Conway stressed that the knowledge and skills learned may translate into a multitude of job opportunities.

Which is imperative as language jobs in the education sector decline.

“You’re learning a communication skill that’s in high demand,” he said. “If it’s something that involves interaction with different kinds of people, being a strong Spanish speaker, writer and reader, for example, is going to make you a better candidate for employment. Being bilingual is something that people almost expect of top-tier professionals in this day and age.”

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