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The Language of Money

Learning a foreign language doesn’t just mean being pretentious and watching French movies. It can be a valuable career move and a profitable career option!

Picture yourself sitting in quaint little roadside café in the south of France communicating without restraint with the local waitress? Or striking up a conversation with a cute Italian on the plane back home? Or smiling slightly when you comprehend that the Japanese couple on the next table are having a lover’s tiff? It’s not impossible, especially if you’re a multi-linguist.

Today’s youth have begun to take a keen interest in foreign languages and not just common ones like German, French and Italian but more unusual ones like Japanese, Chinese and Russian. Phrases such as Bonjour and Guten tag are not uncommon any more. For most it is just a hobby, while there are others who seriously want to make a career in the field.

Most multinational companies stress on the fact that their employees know at least one foreign language. This is to help strengthen relations with their foreign counterparts and is an added advantage when they send their employees on a stint abroad.

Ever thought of making a career out of your flair for languages? If you haven’t then you should seriously contemplate on giving it a try. Though it may not be the most popular career option, there are diverse job opportunities once you learn a new language. Studies also show that since most Indians are already multilingual, learning a foreign language is quite easy for us. That gives us an edge over most people in the world who grow up speaking and writing only one language. For most European and South East Asian countries, English is the second language while Indians have the benefit of already being fluent in it. At such a time, knowledge of an added foreign language is always an advantage.

Why learning a foreign language is always an advantage
When you’re learning a foreign language, you don’t just learn its pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary, but get a glimpse of the outside world through a foreigner’s eyes. It transforms your perceptions, prejudices and notions of a particular nation and you begin to relate to it even better. In this sense, learning foreign languages gives the term globalisation a whole new meaning as the people of the world literally come closer through the medium of language and understand each other better. It will give you a greater edge over others who do not speak the language. Research also shows that studying a foreign language will improve your cognitive and critical thinking abilities to a greater extent. Traveling can also be a lot more fun and refreshing, as knowledge of the local language will allow you to navigate your way more easily in a country and experience its culture better.

Make a career learning foreign language
Once you master a foreign language, there are plenty of job opportunities knocking at your door. As there are not many who opt to learn a different language you have a distinct advantage over most others. You could either choose to be a freelancer or be a part of an organisation. Freelancers can work with translation bureaus, research organisations, international organisations like UNO, FAO, WTO, IMF, foreign companies, the Reserve Bank of India, publishing houses etc.

As a linguist, you could find a fulfilling career as a translator or an interpreter, either full time or part time. As an interpreter, you would need a thorough knowledge of the language, because you would have to transfer spoken statements from one language to another, whereas as a translator you would have to translate written documents, which needs excellent writing skills in languages.
You could also make a career in a government organisation like the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) or in the embassies of foreign countries. Nowadays with all many multinational companies like Siemens, Oracle, Samsung, Hyundai, St Gobain, etc coming to India quite a few foreign language experts are being employed. Some of the best jobs for foreign language experts can be found in the Tourism Industry. The Government of India’s Department of Tourism and private tour and travel agencies are always on the lookout for language experts.

Major airlines, top hotels, export agencies and trade organisations provide great employment opportunities for linguists as well. There are also ample opportunities as online content writers, technical translators and decoders. Academic qualifications in foreign languages help in pursuing careers in the areas of entertainment, public relations and mass communication, diplomatic service, BPOs and KPOs.

Teaching is the most common path chosen after learning a foreign language and for that one should have a higher qualification in foreign languages such as an M.Phil or Ph.D. Not only can one teach in a school or college but also give private tuition at home. Besides this, foreign language institutions like Alliance Francais and Max Muller Bhavan also employ their own students if they complete all the levels and diplomas and have an interest and flair for teaching.

Knowledge of foreign languages like French, German, Russian, Chinese and more recently Japanese, Spanish and Korean are in great demand. Moreover, due to the growing amount of scientific, technological and cultural information more job openings have arisen for those who are able to facilitate international communications. In governmental work, apart from the more common languages like French, German, Spanish and Italian, even smaller languages like Pashto, Uzbek, Tajiks, Hebrew, and Portuguese etc have a growing demand in today’s times.

Many are under the misconception that a job as a linguist does not pay well. This is quite misleading as these individuals earn a pretty decent salary and the time and effort invested need not be very high. The scale of pay generally varies depending on the nature of the work. On average translators get paid around Rs 50 to Rs 100 per page while interpreters get Rs 300 to Rs 500 per hour. Teachers in foreign languages can earn Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000 per month depending on the institution they teach in. Those working as tour and travel industry can earn a starting pay between Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per month.

Foreign linguistics workings as freelancers also have good returns. Those working with embassies can get paid between Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 monthly. Of course Indian professionals who are sent abroad as translators, interpreters and teachers have a chance to earn in foreign currency. Plus, they get an added bonus of a fully paid trip to a foreign country along with accommodation. The best part is that if you are working as a freelancer you can take up assignments alongside your regular job and make a good amount for little time invested. As you can see, the perks of learning a foreign language are quite a few.

Where to Learn?
There are numerous institutes and universities offering foreign language courses in India. The courses range from certificate level to masters and even PhD level. You can find quite a few private institutes, universities and foreign embassies offering courses in foreign languages in major cities of the country including Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi and Hyderabad.

Those who want to learn French, which along with German is the most common foreign language studied in India, can contact the Alliance Francaise (branches available in most large cities. For details you can visit www.afindia.org). At the Alliance Francaise there are quite a few courses depending on whether you’re studying French as a hobby, for professional purposes or because you want to become a translator. After the basic initiation course there are four levels – Elementary, Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2 and advanced French. After each level you could take the corresponding Diploma Course which is issued by the French National Ministry of Education.

The Max Muller Bhavan, a German Institute is present in most major cities as well. Here as well there are a wide variety of courses to choose from ranging from extensive or intensive courses to more special courses suited to your needs. You can take exams like the Zertifikat Deutsch, which test your competence laid down in The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, after the completion of certain levels. Other institutions where you can pursue foreign languages include the Indo-Italian Chamber, Mumbai (www.indiaitaly.com), The English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad (www.ciefl.ac.in), Symbiosis Institute of Foreign Languages (SIFL) in Pune (www.eltis-symbiosis.org), The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture in Kolkata (www.sriramakrishna.org), and Instituto Hispania in Delhi (www.institutohispania.com).

Learning a foreign language can be quite a fun experience, perhaps more so, when you make a career in it. It can definitely change the way you see the world. As Italian film director, Federico Fellini said, “A different language is a different vision of life.” Instead of being stuck in a mediocre job why not try something exciting and give your life a new dimension? For once you might actually get the job satisfaction that you’re always aiming for.

– Aditi Kotwal

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