TUESDAY AUGUST 1, 2006 MUMBAI
Language studies is taking an altogether new meaning with tailor made courses that help you keep up with the borderless market. Deepti Sivakumar talks to people who have carved a niche for themselves in the business of languages and finds out the opportunities that lie ahead.
“In the past, language meant literature; but now, language means business”, says Vaishali Karmakar, head, Marketing Corporate Sector, Max Mueller Bhavan, as she explains how language studies have evolved from a hobby to a career. “People world over are waking up to the reality that you can no longer limit yourself to your home country”, she adds.
Rajendra Anvekar, a creative translator says “In today’s times, a lot of transactions happen between countries. In such a scenario, knowing each other’s language makes the transaction simpler.”
To interact and do business with different countries, one needs to overcome communication which is a big hurdle. With scores of opportunities and an unsaturated market, a career in languages could prove exciting and rewarding. François Dupuis, director of studies at the Alliance Française de Bombay, agrees and elaborates, “A career in foreign languages is lucrative in today’s globalised work culture. There is a constant demand for translation of documents and interpretation services.” Apart from senior executives with MNCs and people working in the tourism and travel industry, the target group also includes people in the hospitality industry, export and international trade and also students interested in going abroad,” says AV Kokje, executive secretary, Indo-Japanese Association.
Has language studies seen a sudden rise in demand recently? Language opens doors for several businesses, says Karmakar. Dupuis affirms saying, “There is a considerable rise in the number of Indians learning French over the years. To be specific, we have seen a 35 % rise in four years. Earlier people learnt the language as part of their education or as a hobby but today the demand has evolved due to the people migrating to Canada and the entry of the French companies/ BPO’s in India.” He also adds that there is a constant demand for French teacher, translators and interpreters.
Karmakar notes the changing trend and says, “Earlier we only had ‘hobby learners’ or people who came out of curiosity. Over the last few years, we have seen the trend change. Now, people come to add value to their resume and soft skills.” The Indo-Japanese Association has nine-month courses and Kokje informs that the response has been very encouraging. Though French and German have always been the top choices of students opting for foreign languages, Karmakar observes that ‘smart people also opt for Chinese, Japanese and Spanish.’
The focus of the classes nowadays is essentially ‘communication’ and not just learning the alphabet and grammar, like it used to be. Since the purpose of learning has changed, from ‘hobby learning’ to learning with a view to adding to the resume. There are courses which are designed specially for business executives which teach how to handle business dealings in a particular language. Max Mueller Bhavan has a Business German course where you learn to handle everything from PowerPoint presentations to business negotiations in German. Karmakar calls it the ‘Capsule MBA’. This certification is valid internationally. There are also specially designed courses for translation and interpretation. “InIndiaand all over the world, it is a myth that if you can speak the language, you can translate it too. Translation is a science that needs to be taught,” says Karmakar.
“One reason why the Japanese are very protective of their market is their love for their land,” says Kokje. “Being oriental countries,IndiaandJapanhave a lot in common,” he adds. Easy communication helps in ironing out differences. Understanding the cultural difference, respecting them and communicating with them in their own language will definitely help the business relations. Karmakar asserts that ‘to succeed, you have to be a global player.’
“Dinesh Govindani, language instructor, translator and head, Academia de Español agrees with the ‘global village’ view. “Organizations are exporting their products and importing materials from all over the map, requiring them to interface with people from different countries, different cultural backgrounds and speaking different languages,” he says. Govindani, who has been teaching Spanish for 17 years, explains the importance of Spanish in today’s circumstances, “For companies looking to expand outside the English-speaking world, knowledge of Spanish is essential.”
Different career opportunities
The opportunities in this field are endless, and the exciting part is that the field is still growing. While earlier the choices were probably limited to teaching, now the various career options are: translation, interpretation, language instructing, and corporate networking. Freelancers can also offer dubbing, voice over and translation services for movies and serials. Anvekar who translates for engineering and pharma companies feels that knowledge of a technical subject in addition to the language gives you an edge. “Subject knowledge adds value to your service,” he adds. Govindani offers services which include translation, interpretations, corporate language instruction, and business networking services. Corporate language instruction is also a vast field to explore. Many companies require their employees to be trained in a particular language if their client demands it. Siemens’ employees undergo a six month intensive training programme in German. “Corporates are now realizing how important communication is in any form of business,” concludes Karmakar.
Inter cultural sensitization
Most of these language schools do not stop with just teaching you the language. The Alliance Française offers opportunities for people all around the world to discover French culture. Max Mueller Bhavan also has inter-cultural sensitization programmes for Germans working inIndiaas well as Indians working in German companies. “The idea is to acclimatize Germans to our culture and our people to theirs so they can cooperate and coexist more comfortably,” says Karmakar.
There are so many issues while working with people from different cultural backgrounds, that communication is often misinterpreted. It is important to decode even basics like body language. “Cultural issues are like lubricants to a vehicle,” says Karmarkar. “You don’t notice it when everything is working fine; you only find out when something goes wrong,” she recalls from a quote.