Get tongue tied
Being bilingual can enhance your world view—and your job prospects
Hola. Enchanté. Danke. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, knowing how to say a few social niceties in a foreign language can help you make friends—and get a job when you graduate from college. Not only does having an extra language under your belt give you an advantage in the job market, having an understanding of foreign cultures can also facilitate travel experiences and give you a broader global perspective.
The Foreign Language and Literature Department at the University of Nevada, Reno offers Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Italian and Latin, with undergraduate and graduate degrees in French and Spanish. Due to the recent budget cuts, the department was forced to trim some of its courses and degrees, but it is still making global citizens out of its students.
Max Alderman is a junior at UNR who is taking French to complete his language requirement for a dual major in philosophy and political science. He studied abroad in London and hopes that future employers will see his international experience as an asset. “I’m hoping it will show that I have an international perspective on different events.”
Today, English is the favored language for global communication, and many U.S. citizens don’t bother to learn a foreign language because of that.
“As one of the world’s superpowers, the U.S. has a fairly insular culture, where many of its citizens have no contact or understanding of foreign countries and how they may perceive us,” says Lynni Weibezahl, a French lecturer at UNR. “Gaining these perceptions can correct our misunderstandings or lack of knowledge of how other cultures view our actions and policies as a nation.”
Even though English may be widely spoken in other countries, your efforts to speak the local tongue will be appreciated, and when you’re trying to land a contract for your company on foreign soil, you are more likely to beat your monolingual competitor by negotiating in the language of your potential client.
“You may be in an industry whichpurchases equipment from Europe and you might have to meet with your suppliers sometime, who may not speak English,” Weibezahl explains.
Travel is the most enjoyable way to become a polyglot, and UNR’s foreign language instructors strongly encourage students to study abroad. A year abroad is optimal, but any time spent overseas will provide valuable life experience that future employers will appreciate. University Study Abroad Consortium (USAC) is a program offered at UNR where students can study abroad at partner universities around the globe and receive credits for their degree. Students can choose among 25 different countries and summer, semester and yearlong study abroad programs. While it is possible to become fluent in a foreign language without traveling abroad, it’s faster to learn through immersion. Plus, when you return, you’ll find that your remaining foreign language classes are much easier after living in another country.
A degree in foreign language opens the door to new cultures and job opportunities. Wherever communication is involved, there is a demand for language skills. Even if you don’t use your extra language on a daily basis for work, it’s nice to go on vacation and be able to order from the menu and know what you’re eating.