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Sarkari career prospects in foreign languages

We live in an era where communication has reached its peak, and the world has shrunk into a smaller place. It is not at all surprising to find an Italian buying salwar kameez or a French buying books on Indian philosophy in a local market. Even Indian students, scholars, IT professionals and business wizards commute across the world for their personal and professional needs. Therefore, the role of languages, whether native or foreign, becomes quite relevant. Nevertheless, command over foreign languages, along with the good under- standing of other cultures, provides an edge in a globally competitive environment. Some linguists question the relevance of foreign languages when English has become a global lingua franca. However, learning English alone creates self-imposed limitations and hampers one’s educational development, lowers language and cultural proficiency, confines thinking ability and neutralizes the attitude of appreciation towards others. Learning a foreign language opens a new window to look at the world. This, consequently, enhances global understanding to reduce mistrust and misunderstanding in the intercultural environment. There is no better way to understand the needs and cultural desires of the person than to learn his native language. This is viewed as a sign of giving respect, which helps in improving on relationships. Of course, foreign languages are also learnt for aesthetic reasons. Translation can never be fully true to the intent, style and uniqueness of the original. Thus, native languages can play a significant role in understanding and appreciating the exotic literature, music, art and theatre.

 

Choosing a foreign language

 

During high school, not many choices are given to the learner to study foreign languages. Schools taught only a few modern European languages such as French, German or Spanish; however, in colleges or in private language-training programs, learners can make their own choices. Mostly, choices are based on learners’ personal interest in or affinity for a particular language, country or culture. Nevertheless, while making the choices, the learner should also keep in mind the kind of career he/she wishes to pursue. The choice needs to be logical. For instance: Arabic, the language spoken from Mauritania to the Persian Gulf, can be essential for those business students who are interested to do business in this region. Nevertheless, in some part of the Middle East, doing business in English is possible, but it always puts the outsider at disadvantage. Middle East has a huge impact on the energy market; also, it has a major role to play in the world economy. Thus, having Arabic as a foreign language in the resume can provide many opportunities in the Arab world. French is not only France’s official language, but also the official language in parts of the African continent, the Caribbean and the Arab world. It is the second most popular language of Canada after English. Having good command over French opens door to French companies in France along with other French-speaking parts of the world. In addition, learning French provides gateway to a body of important scientific literature encompassing mathematics, physics, biology and chemistry. Also, it offers access to great French literature, providing opportunity to read the writers such as Marcel Proust, Gustave Flaubert, Voltaire, Emile Zola, Jean-Paul Sartre etc. German, the language of engineering in particular, is used in Germany along with the Scandinavian and other east European countries. As Germany is the third largest contributor to scientific research and development, it provides wonderful opportunity for budding researchers to study and work in Germany. Moreover, Germany can be a good place for engineers to flourish their career.

 

Hebrew is the official language of Israel. Though English is spoken throughout the country, people with proficiency in Hebrew are preferred. Moreover, Israel is second to the USA in having the largest number of companies listed in NASDAQ exchange. Therefore, fluency in Hebrew along with sound knowledge of Israeli culture can be a great asset. Italian will attract more to those who want to learn a foreign language for aesthetic reasons. It appeals more to the students of religion, music, art, opera, or architecture. Japan is a very affluent nation, having most diverse economy in Asia. Moreover, Japan has a growing industry of automobiles and other manufacturing goods. Learning Japanese will enhance the employment prospects in many such businesses. Additionally, Japanese make the third largest language community on the internet after English and Chinese This can be a good market to target in future. Mandarin Chinese has been the mother tongue of around 873 million people, which makes it the most spoken first language in the world. Other than People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese is spoken in the prominent and influential Chinese communities of Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Mongolia and Malaysia. China is now the largest economy in the world. In addition, China has become a huge market; consequently, companies are looking for business executives who can speak Chinese and effectively do business in Chinese society. Russian is one of the six official languages recognized by the U.N. Russia is still one of the largest oil producers in the world. Due to the size and natural resources of the country, Russia has been a favorite business destination for many. Thus, Russian can be an important tool for effective communication with the business partners. Tips to enhance the foreign-language skills Languages need to be learnt at an early age and the learner is at an advantage if he/she makes an early beginning. Moreover, in order to have mastery over a particular language, practice is must.

 

Tips for the beginners:

 

Initially, for a beginner, it is always advisable to join a proficiency course in the target language. Such courses help in providing basic vocabulary and grammar to the learner. In addition, judicious use of the following tips can enhance the basic language skills: Listen to your favorite songs: Prepare a list of your favorite songs in the target language and download their lyrics from the internet. Initially, try to listen to the songs along with the script. Once you start recognizing the sounds, stop using the lyrics. Try to remember the sounds (words) in the context with- out using the lyrics. Do this activity for at least once in a day; gradually, you will learn good number of words. Watch situation comedies and movies:

 

The language used in situation comedies and movies is majorly authentic. Watching such videos will expose the learner to the authentic tar- get language. In the beginning, you can make use of subtitles to understand the context. However, slowly you will develop the skill of meaning making from the sounds (words/grammar) without making use of the subtitles.

 

Build your own vocabulary list:

 

Both the activities discussed above help the learner to pick new words. You should note down each word carefully along with the specific usage in a notebook. Moreover, try to use and incorporate the same words in your daily speech. Similarly, prepare a list of words of whatever you see around yourself. For instance, in a house itself there are number of things which should be known to the learner. This will add high- frequency words to learner’s vocabulary.

 

Commit mistakes: Do not be ashamed of committing mistakes. It is the first stage of learning. Moreover, mistakes will help the instructor to know the areas where the learner needs improvement.

 

Scribble: Keep scribbling the new words you learn each day. Write them on sticky notes and put them around to memorize.

 

Say loudly: While making the list of words, say them loudly. This will help in improving your pronunciation.

 

Repeat: Keep repeating the words and structures that you have learnt.

 

Back and forth: Doing back and forth will help you to know your learning curve.

 

Tips for the advanced learners:

 

These learners are at the advanced level of language learning process and they know enough of the language; however what they need is to attain mastery over the four skills of communication-listening, speaking, reading and writing (LSRW). Of course, these skills are not innate, but they can be enhanced by frequent practice and hard work.

 

Listening skills:

 

Listening is the most frequent, perhaps the most important of all the four skills. Listening involves receiving, thinking and understanding, memorizing and responding. To improve, a person should remain objective without bringing conflicting thoughts into the process of listening. Though thinking is important during listening, too much of thinking can drift the listener away from the discussion. Thus, the listener needs to maintain balance between listening and thinking. Oftentimes, people find it challenging to do enough of listening in the target language; thus, to overcome this, they should try to watch movies and listen to music in the target language.

 

Speaking skills:

 

Expressing and sharing ideas has become very important in the today’s techno-global era. It is quite challenging for a person to get a decent job with poor speaking skills. To develop good speaking skills, one can start with a simple mechanical process of loudly reading a piece of writing every day. This will help the person to develop right tone for the target language. Moreover, a person can form a small group of learners to do discussions in the target language. They can also give small talks and presentations among themselves. This will enhance their understanding, and provide them with the opportunity to use the target language in a creative way. Additionally, cramming of sentence structures need to be avoided; a learner should take enough liberty to use the target language without getting too conscious of making grammatical errors.

 

Reading skills:

 

To be a better writer and communicator, one needs to spend enough time on reading. This also keeps the person abreast of the latest information. To develop the habit of reading, a learner can start with the books of his interests. They can be comic books, story- books, novels, inspirational and motivational books, biographies, poetry etc. Even reading newspapers, especially editorials, can help in improving on one’s reading skills.

 

Writing skills:

 

It is the most reliable form of communication. To improve on writing skills, a learner should use short and simple sentences. He needs to be clear and precise in providing information by avoiding wordiness and figurative language. The arguments in para- graph should be logically structured (claims followed by premises and conclusion) along with coherence between the paragraphs. It is notable that the draft needs to be revised, at least for once, before the final submission.

 

Skill Development through foreign language learning Enhances language and cultural proficiency Raises sensitivity towards different cultures Increases understanding of oneself and of one’s own culture Sharpens cognitive and life skills Strengthens communication skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing) Opens mind towards the views and ways of others Develops comprehensive understanding of foreign literature, music and art Helps to function productively for an employer with global business connections

 

Are your language skills marketable?

 

Some people are born with language learn- ing skills. In fact, for them learning a new language is similar to solving a challenging puzzle. They have ear for sounds to easily understand the pattern of other languages. They can speak, for Instance, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian with the same proficiency as they speak their native language. Moreover, they can easily learn to read and write in another language. Such extra-ordinary language skills are highly saleable. Nevertheless, people with aver- age language skills can also have good career prospects. For instance, if a person has studied a language or two in college, with average reading and speaking skills (writing skills even lesser than the two), but has love for other countries and cultures, the person can easily land a job using foreign languages. Proficiency in foreign languages opens gate for career in sectors such as tourism, publishing, entertainment, interpretation, translation etc. Such career will not only fulfill the innate desire to know about the foreign culture, but also provides opportunities to grow and flourish. Career prospects in foreign languages Foreign languages is a promising area for those students, who are passionate about and intrigued by languages, and, most important, have flair for languages. Students having background in foreign languages can have the following career opportunities:

 

Translator

 

A translator’s job is to convert written mate- rial from one language into the target language. However, the translator needs to ensure that the meaning of the translated version should not be different from the original one. Thus, the translator should have sound knowledge in the area of work so as to keep the style and essence of the original text intact. Generally, translator’s work incorporates the following: reading material; providing written translations; edit- ing copies and preparing summaries. They are generally recruited by industries, publishing houses, government and research organizations.

 

Interpreter

 

An interpreter provides oral translation of a language. The primary role of an interpreter is to facilitate communication among the participants with- out distorting the meaning. Interpreting can be of three types: simultaneous interpreting, consecutive interpreting and liaison interpreting. Simultaneous interpreting is done for meetings, conferences or business seminars. The task of the interpreter here is to listen to each speaker from a sound-proof room and simultaneously interpret the discussion in the target language. Consecutive interpreting is preferred during speeches, where the interpreter orally translates the spoken statements during the pauses taken by the speaker. The interpreter, during liaison interpreting, uses short phrases and sentences. It normally happens where it is difficult to take notes. It facilitates communication among people who have different language backgrounds. Interpreters can easily find employment in judicial services, health care and social work.

 

Foreign Language Teacher & Trainer

 

Teaching a foreign language is like teaching another culture. The instructor should make culture the integrated part of language learning. This will broaden the thinking and the vision of the students. Having a back- ground in foreign languages can provide good opportunities in education sector. The foreign-language instructor can work in a variety of educational establishments rang- ing from primary schools to universities. In addition, corporate organizations recruit foreign language instructors to train their employees in specific languages. This eases the process of on-site deputation of employees in different countries.

 

Professional Linguist

 

Linguists do the systematic inquiry of human language-its sound, structure, meaning and function. In addition, they try to examine universal patterns that exist across languages, and try to explicate them in cognitive and social terms. They also try to understand how an individual acquires a second language or a foreign language. Linguists conduct studies for a wide range of organizations such as universities, software companies, research institutions, consultancies, government and defense. Career in Entertainment Industry Indian entertainment industry, especially Bollywood, is spreading its influence globally. For functioning smoothly outside India, there is a huge requirement of translators, interpreters, proofreaders, voice-overs and editors. Many organizations offer jobs for sub-titling, dubbing, website localization and foreign-language artwork. Likewise, the media (television, magazine or newspaper) also has similar requirements of translators, proofreaders and editors.

 

Career in International Organizations

 

International organization such as UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO, UN, the Red Cross etc have their presence all over the world. Thus, they require language experts to function smoothly in the countries they work. For instance, the World Bank provides financial assistance to developing nations for their growth and development. Thus, it requires professionals who have better understanding of international policies. Foreign language skills can be one of the qualifications in getting such jobs.

 

Travel &Tourism

 

Proficiency in at least one foreign language can provide a lucrative job in tourism industry. The employers in this industry are aviation industry, hotels, foreign embassies etc.

 

Freelancing

 

Most often people prefer to work as a free- lancer after taking foreign-languages courses. These people easily get assignments from translation bureaus, foreign companies, publishing houses and research organizations.

 

Institutes providing courses in foreign languages

 

There are number of institutions and universities which provide full-time degree courses and short-term diploma and certificate courses in foreign languages across the country. Just to name a few:

 

  • Jawaharlal Nehru University , New Delhi
  • English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad
  • English and Foreign Languages University, Lucknow
  • Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore
  • University of Delhi, Delhi
  • Goethe Institute, Max Muller Bhavan, New Delhi
  • Alliance Franciase De Delhi, New Delhi
  • The Chinese Language Institute, New Delhi
  • Institute of Russian Language, New Delhi
  • IGNOU-School of Foreign Languages
  • (SOFL), New Delhi
  • Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla
  • Visva-Bharati University, West Bengal
  • University of Lucknow, Lucknow

(The list is only indicative.)

 

Remuneration

 

After completing the course in a foreign language, one can easily find a job in any private or government organization. The job profile depends upon the language, experience and education of the incumbent. The one who is employed with public sector gets the salary as per the terms and conditions of government; whereas, foreign-language instructors, with doctoral degrees, working with private universities, draw salaries between Rs. 30,000 and Rs. 90,000 per month, with regular increments. In addition, those who prefer to work as corporate trainers, translators, interpreters and free- lancers, their salaries vary from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 70, 000 per month, which may increase over the years.

 

Authors:

(Rahul Kumar Shukla is an academic associate at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad,
Email: rahul.shukla@fulbrightmail.org
Ms. Shikha Dixit is a soft-skills trainer at Galgotias University, Greater Noida.
Email: shikha.dxt@gmail.com)