Join the Foreign Legion; Language Degrees Speak Volumes in the Workplace, Says Kate Crockett

Article excerpt

Byline: KATE CROCKETT

RECENT research by the School of Modern Languages at the University of Bangor explodes the myth that language graduates go to work in the hospitality industry: apparently only 3.7 per cent do so. Equally surprising is that a mere one per cent go on to work in translation services.

Instead, almost one-third of language graduates opt for business-services jobs, such as marketing or personnel, while slightly more than a tenth choose retail and 16 per cent teaching.

Wherever they end up, the fact is, prospects are good for those with languages.

Unemployment rates for all new graduates in the UK in 1999 were 5.5 per cent compared with 4.4 per cent among modern-language graduates.

"We are working in a global market and there are so many more career opportunities if you have another language," says Marie Eich-ler, director of recruitment consultants Appointments Bi-Language. "Organisations are more internationally focused and require their staff to be as well."

Three graduates describe the directions their language degrees have taken them.

Michael Windsor, 29, is a French, German and Italian teacher at King's College School, Wimbledon. He graduated in German and French from the University of Durham in 1991 before moving to London to work in publishing, and then going on to teach English in Italy.

He returned to the UK to do a postgraduate course at the Institute of Education and qualified in 1996.

"I lived in Bologna for three years though I didn't have any Italian at first, so it was quite interesting when I first got there. When I was teaching English I enjoyed the contact with people, particularly with young people, so I decided to do a PGCE.

"The challenge of language teaching is to keep the subject relevant, interesting, and to inspire the kids. The reward is watching young people pick something up they didn't know a few minutes before.

"It's also important to keep up to date with your languages, so I go on the German exchange every year, and I visit my friends in Italy. I also did a refresher course in France last year which the school paid for.

"Because the majority of lessons are conducted in a foreign language, pupils sometimes become frustrated because they can't express themselves fluently, and one of the hardest things is getting a balance between accuracy and expression.

"Also, because the students have to speak, it makes the classroom management more challenging. Teachers need enthusiasm, a love of the subject, and a lot of energy."

ADVICE TO GRADUATES "Teaching is great because it really does help you work on and improve your languages. …