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News updated at 11:18 AM IST

Rise in demand for linguists, polyglots

March 7, 2013: 11:45 IST

IN LINGUA

Learning new languages could open up new and exciting career opportunities, writes Trisha Bhattacharya.

Communication forms the crux of everyday living, both for personal and for professional reasons. The element of language sustains this process of communication, especially for working professionals.

From an Indian perspective, the use of English as a second official language throws open doors of employment to many individuals. Job opportunities for polyglots and linguists are abound in the fields of trade, tourism, media, science, technology, international relations, the hospitality industry, and other private and public sectors. It is important here to note the difference between a polyglot and a linguist, as both are connected to ‘acquiring expertise in language’.

A linguist studies language, and may or may not intercommunicate in a lot of languages. A linguist will understand the nature of language, how it works and the rules involved. A polyglot may not be a linguist, but can effectively communicate in several languages.

German, Arabic, Italian, Russian, Chinese, French, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, are some of the popular foreign languages being learnt nowadays.

Such world languages bring a wealth of opportunities to those wanting to spread their wings beyond English speaking nations. For those wishing to step out of their own countries for better job opportunities in general, or simply for more exposure work-wise (even business-wise), working knowledge of a foreign language finds much credence with employers abroad.

In some countries, without knowing the local language, it is almost impossible to find a full-time job, because without it, communication with co-workers would be stifled, unless of course, everyone speaks English. Some multinational companies overseas might take you on, without knowledge of the local language, but foreign language skills are always commended.

Not just abroad, but learning languages can open up job opportunities in your own country; as translators with translation agencies, or as interpreters, especially in the tourism industry, and in other such niche areas. Travel interpreters (this will require travelling out of the country), interpreting in courts, or as interpreters for business and official meetings with visiting delegates, are some of the widespread specific work areas, for interpreters.

The work of translators could be taxing, because not only do you need to have knowledge of two languages, but also, have an understanding of the culture it represents, and the subject area it covers. These are respectable, appropriate paying jobs, and are much valued for the exposure they provide. Undergraduate degrees and postgraduate degrees in languages are considered important for pursuing a career as a translator or an interpreter.

Going by your style of learning and other personal criteria, opt for learning one language at a time, and through a medium which you find suitable. Achieving proficiency should be the goal for a new student at first (instead of native fluency), by pursuing a regular and consistent course of study over a period of time.
Learning languages, even though the goal is clear, requires much effort on part of the individual. Attending quality programs, learning from knowledgeable tutors, interacting with natives, make up the entire process. This process is at times rigorous, but you must remain steadfast.

Several universities, online and on-campus institutes across the world, offer courses and programs for learning various languages, in varying time ranges. Other specialized language schools and self-study programs, through the use of relevant software, may prove useful too. They build upon pronunciation and vocabulary, by the use of dictionaries and phrase books, and aid in imparting language education. Specific course books with supplementary material can turn out to be good language learning guides as well.

Students can learn new languages at any age in life, but must continue refurbishing their skills. If you can’t find a direct job at first after completion of studies, volunteering for charities, and working as internees is the initial step, which eventually does lead to job opportunities for hard working, smart, and sincere candidates.
Being well-versed in languages in addition to your own has several wide-ranged benefits. Additional to income, it allows you to adjust quickly to a new culture (in case you are in a new country).

It provides you with a wider perspective on situations, on societies, eventually enhancing your own life, and those of others around you.

Even without any particular purpose in mind, learning languages can be a fun experience, and conversing in foreign languages can be an exciting agenda in itself.

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