Why Learn Languages
College & University
Studying a language in college doesn’t mean that you have to be a language major: Language skills complement any subject matter and give graduates a competitive advantage across all job sectors. Learn the benefits of languages, and see how they can enrich your undergraduate experience.
Amplify Your Studies
Languages are a fantastic compliment to all areas of study, and many language departments are even developing courses that integrate functional use of languages into other disciplines such as business, health, engineering, and social services so that students are better prepared to apply language skills in their future careers. And while you certainly don’t need to major or minor in a language to reap the benefits of learning one, it’s something to consider. Did you know that the vast majority of language majors are double majors and, in fact, languages rank as the most popular double major?
Start Early, Stay Long!
Completing a long, uninterrupted sequence of instruction is the ideal way to become proficient in another language. If you’ve studied languages in the past, college is the ideal time to strengthen (or expand upon) those skills—your brain is already programmed to make additional languages easier to pick up. New to languages? It’s definitely not too late to get started now, either!
Boost Your Career Prospects
Language skills offer job candidates a serious competitive edge over their monolingual peers, and are among the top eight skills required of all occupations—no matter the sector or skill level. Knowing another language exponentially broadens the range of potential career paths you can follow—in everything from the tech sector, law enforcement, business, engineering, health care, national security, finance, sports and beyond.
Serve Your Country
The U.S. Military, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and agencies such as the CIA, FBI, and NSA all have a huge demand for language skills, with many offering scholarships for language students who want to pursue a career in government.
Impact the Next Generation
While clearly a myth that teaching is among the few career choices open to language students, it remains an excellent option for those with an interest in and talent for languages and shaping young lives. With 44 states and the District of Columbia citing language teacher shortages, educators are in urgent demand and many districts are offering impressive hiring incentives.
Seize Travel and Study Abroad Opportunities
Why wait for graduation to take the world by storm? The study and intern abroad destinations—and associated scholarships—open to students with language skills vastly outnumber English-only programs. Language students are in a position to take advantage of any and all opportunities as they arise: The world is their oyster!
Stand Out from the Crowd
Despite the big (and unmet) demand for language skills, only a small percentage of U.S. students enroll in university language classes and even fewer learn less commonly taught languages (LCTL)—those deemed critical to U.S. national security, such as Arabic, Russian, Korean, Urdu, Turkish, and Somali, just to name a few. When combined with knowledge of and skills in another professional area, proficiency in these languages really does make you stand out.
Feed Your Brain
Research shows that bilinguals have better critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as improved memory, concentration, and mental flexibility. And what college student couldn’t benefit from that?!
Make Friends and Build Community
Arriving as a new student on campus can be intimidating and language programs are a great way to quickly connect with like-minded peers, with many offering smaller class sizes, extracurricular activities, or even language-specific dining tables or dormitories.
Become a More Empathetic and Thoughtful Person
Speaking another language is the most direct link to another culture—including its history, politics, and current events. It allows you to gain cultural understanding and deep insights into how other people see the world and globally significant issues. That kind of perspective is an amazing asset to have both professionally and personally.
What You Can Do
Here are some ways to boost your college or university language experience:
- Review higher ed programs in your field or area
- Consider taking your skills on a trip with a study or intern abroad program
- Find a summer program suited to your interests
- Secure a scholarship or grant to fund your studies or travels
- See which apps and online resources you could begin using today
For Additional Reading
- The Skill You Should Acquire To Land Your Next Job – Forbes
- My View: Why language study should be part of your college experience – CNN blog by Russell Berman
- Why You Should Learn Another Language – U.S. News & World Report
- Languages Needed, but No Plans to Learn – The Wall Street Journal
- Learning a language makes you more tolerant, so why aren’t more universities encouraging it? – World Economic Forum (+ video)
- Going Global: Are graduates prepared for a global workforce? – The Economist Intelligence Unit & Kaplan (pdf – full report)