What Job Can I do With Foreign Language Skills?


Hello everyone, and welcome to the LangFocus Channel. Today I’m going to talk about a question that I’ve been getting quite a lot recently, and that is “What kind of job can I do with my foreign language skills?” or “What kind of job should I do if I’m interested in foreign languages?” Now, this is a question that I respect,
because I’ve witnessed a lot of people investing years of their life into
studying a language, kind of with the assumption that it would naturally
improve their career or give them new opportunities, but without having a plan
for how they would use that language, they didn’t really benefit from it and
ended up being quite frustrated. So young people who are asking this question early on, I think you are thinking about
things the right way. But the answer to this question depends on just how you
imagine your life in the future and how far you really want to go with your
language study. Now, some jobs are specifically language-related; other jobs
are not specifically-language related, but a foreign language could be an
asset; and for other jobs, it’s not really necessary at all, but it might be useful
for your overall lifestyle. I’m going to talk about those three types of
situations. So first up are jobs that are specifically language-related. For these
jobs, you need to have some expertise in the language; you need to have a deep
understanding of the language of the language. So, the first kind of job is to teach a
language. Here in Japan, I know a lot of people who teach English; I also know
people who teach other languages, like French or Spanish. Now, even if you don’t have a lot of
qualifications, there are some opportunities to teach your language,
especially if it’s a major global language, and especially if it’s English.
But the more qualifications you have, then, of course, the better opportunities
you get and the higher pay you can get, the better positions you can find. Now, if
you want to study a foreign language that’s not your native language and then
teach that language, then you’re looking at a situation where you really need to
get some expertise; you really need to get qualifications. You should get a
master’s degree or maybe a PhD or qualifications that show that you know
that language very well at an academic level, at a deep level, not just a
conversational level. That’s if you’re going to teach a language that’s not
your native language. Now, another type of job that is language-specific is
becoming a translator or an interpreter. Now, the difference between those, just to
clarify, a translator is somebody who translates texts; they translate written
materials from one language to another; but an interpreter is somebody who
translates speech; they translate the things people are saying live, in real
time, as they are speaking. Now, being a translator or interpreter requires you
to have a very deep understanding of that language, because there’s really no
room for error or misunderstanding. You have to translate, sometimes, very
important information, and mistakes could be a big problem, so you need to have
very good, almost native-level skills, especially if you’re interpreting in real time, but
also, you need to learn the skills of translation or interpreting. Those are
separate skills that you need to learn on top of knowing the language. So, for
these jobs that are specifically language-related, there’s really no room
for language dabblers. You really need to have a comprehensive understanding of
that language, and you have to be able to show that you can use that language at
almost a native level. Next up are jobs that are not specifically language
related; they are basically focused on another skill that you need, but the
language is an additional asset. The first kind of job is one that requires
some technical expertise, but having a language on top of that will give you
some extra opportunities; so an example that I’ve heard is from an engineer. His
company sells some sort of machines to companies around the world, and they send
this engineer to those companies so he can teach people how to use those machines in their factories. So, he learns foreign languages so that he can do
that. I believe this guy in particular was working in Indonesia, so he learned
Indonesian to be able to teach those people in their native language. Another
example career is business with a regional focus; for example, maybe you get
a commerce degree, or you get a Masters of Business Administration, an MBA, but also you have some language skills, and maybe you work for a company that does
business in that region or does business with companies in that region. Another
example career is the foreign service — being a diplomat, being someone who works
at your country’s embassies abroad. When you work in the foreign service, I think
that often involves some kind of language training before you are sent
abroad, but knowing some languages in advance before you apply is probably a
big asset. Another example is being a tour guide. Now, a tour guide’s main focus
is not the language; it’s the history and it’s the anthropology and all of those sorts of
things, but having in language that they can explain things in, that will help
them have other opportunities, so maybe you might specialize in tourists from
Japan. You learn Japanese; you can be a tour guide for Japanese tourists.
Depending on where you live, another option might be to do some other
job in the tourism industry or open a business in the tourism industry. If you
live on Bali Island in Indonesia, then you would be crazy not to learn English and
Japanese and maybe some other languages that are common amongst tourists. Another
career is being a cabin attendant. Now, their main focus is on safety training, on
emergency response and that kind of thing, but knowing a language, that’s an
additional asset; probably, they need to know English in most cases, but they also
need to know the language of the country they’re working in or of the
destination that they often fly to. Maybe they don’t need to know it fluently, but
knowing some of that language will help them deal with the passengers on the
plane; so if you live in Los Angeles and you often fly to Asia, then knowing
Japanese or Korean or Mandarin or another language like that would
probably be a big asset. Now all of these jobs I just talked about, they’re focused
on another important skill, so they’re not focused on language, so you don’t
need a specific language qualification in most cases, but you need to be able to
demonstrate that you can use that language on the job. that’s the most
important thing. The third type of job I want to mention is one that doesn’t
really have any language requirement, but learning that language would be useful
for your off-time and for your overall lifestyle. So let’s say that you live in
Singapore, and your company does business in English, then you don’t have to learn
any other language; people in Singapore speak English, but nearby is Malaysia and
Indonesia; so let’s say you want to travel there on your off time. learning
Malay or learning Indonesian would be very useful in that situation, so think about
the kind of lifestyle that you want to have, and think about how languages fit
in with that. Let’s say that you want to live the corporate expat lifestyle in
some place like Hong Kong. Then, you can study Cantonese while you get your
finance degree, or you get your MBA or whatever. If you want to be a programmer,
and you can program from your laptop anywhere in the world, then think about
what country you would like to live in, and learn the language of that country. If
you’re an avid traveler, and you love the idea of living in different countries
all the time, then you can learn how to do businesses on the Internet, and you
can learn the language of whatever countries that you want to spend an
extended period of time in. Or if you want to learn a foreign language, and you want
to someday reach an expert level and be able to teach that language, then plan
ahead for that; maybe go for your master’s degree or PhD. Try to really get a deep
understanding and overall knowledge of that language. So these are just my
thoughts on it, based on things that I know and things that I’ve heard, but a
lot of the viewers have different perspectives. Some of you probably have
jobs that involve foreign languages, so we want to know what you think. If you
have any other ideas or any questions about this topic, leave them down below. Thank you for
watching, and have a nice day.

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