Proficiency In a Foreign Language Increases Job Options



Proficiency in a foreign language increases job options and broadens your horizons, says Uma Keni Prabhu

When Marfik Kamat left theatre to learn Japanese, her only interest then, was to learn” a new language, new culture and a different way of life.” Her passion soon blossomed into a full time and a rewarding career. Today Kamat has her own Academy ofJapanese Language and Culture, trains about 400 students annual­ly and makes a decent pay packet. ‘Knowledge of foreign languages and cul­tures is not a hobby any more. It is an increasingly essential skill in many career fields,” she says confidently.

That a language is now learnt less as a hobby and more as a skill to be used for career advancement is quite evident. Consider these facts: Global business is increasingly becoming the rule. Sophisticated communications technology is fast breaking down barriers between countries and uniting different cultures. Studying a foreign language either as a primary or a supplementary job skill may therefore be the key to carving out a good career or getting that much awaited promotion. “Knowing a second language is a major asset to people looking for jobs,” observes Patrick DEYVANT, director, Alliance Francaise de Bombay (AFB).

Advertisements that appear in various newspapers indicate this trend distinct­ly: Business Process Outsourcing companies ask for executives “who are fluent in European languages? Export Promotion Councils want “consultants to provide foreign language related services” Multinationals hunt for experienced web developers, web designers, and web market researchers skilled in foreign lan­guages, and publishing houses look for content writers and editors for deliver­ing quick, competitive and quality translations.

The pattern is obvious. The study of languages is an exciting and mind expand­ing career option. “In today’s global market, the career opportunities for stu­dents who have acquired skills in one or more foreign languages are virtually limitless/’remarks Nandini Kotwal, teacher, Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai (MMB). Naturally, many between 16 and 60 years of age and above are quick to respond to this new reality, albeit for different reasons. At AFB prospective Canadian immigrants form a large chunk of students. “They do French to be able to answer the Test d’ Evaluation (TEF),” Abirami lyer, librarian, explains. The Canadian consulate follows a certain point system to issue visas for immigrants, and the knowledge of French helps. According to AFB’s education counselor Niloufer Solar, people also learn French to be able to study inFrance.Francehas turned into a popular destination for quality education and offers highly specialized courses like an MBA in wine making and aerospace.

The reason for the mad rush at the MMB is almost identical. About 30 percent students learn German because they want to study engineering, research, medicine inGermany, where education is absolutely free and state of the art.  Approximately 10 per cent wish to do hotel management in Austria, 20 percent work for German companies like Lufthansa, Siemens, Deutch Bank and need to be prepared to live in Germany, and 30 percent of the students are IT professional working on various German projects. IT is still computer geeks’ passport to greener pastures on the other side of the globe. They can straight away get a work permit of up to five years inGermanyand the knowledge of German in an asset. Even the Japan Foundation has announced La financial assistance for IT professionals, who want to study Japanese. Only about 10 per cent learn a language as a hobby, and may get into teaching, translation and/or interpretation as freelancers or full timers.

It takes about five years and an investment of about Rs 50,000 to master a foreign language. One can either opt for a three-year or a five-year integrated graduate course after the 12th standard or take courses offered by cultural centers attached to embassies. These are basic as well as advanced courses and there are no pre-requisites. “But how much time, effort and money one wants to invest depends upon the individual,” says Leela Lall, former director, the British Institute of Languages. “A good memory, discipline, concentration, and consistent work habits help.”

“In addition, a fairly good command over one’s own mother tongue, ease o ken expression, absence of stage shyness or speech defects, good public relations, a good deal of curiosity and awareness of public life, habit of travelling are desirable emphasises Y.C Devadhar, a Latin languages expert.

The demand for language expertise is in different areas like media and publishing, banking and finance, travel and tourism, technical and engineering, information technology, hospitality business, voluntary social organisations. Kotwal talks of several publishing houses in Chennai which have tie ups with renowned German publishing houses and translate volumes of dictionaries and encyclopedias from German to English.  They hire students who translate and send the written material online toGermany. Experts there evaluate and send it back for printing. These student work for five hours a day and make up to Rs.15, 000/- a month.

DEYVANT recollects how an American company that had plans to start about 40 call centers inIndiahad AFB for French-speaking students. In another instance a multinational wanted translators for their websites.”They pay up to Rs 60,000 for this kind of job. For people here this is big money, and for the multinationals getting the job done here is almost three times cheaper than elsewhere.” Guided excursion tours to museums, shopping malls, etc. require personnel with language skills.  Even ITDC and MTDC today prefer tourist guides with foreign language skills and pay them well.  Recently, ITDC paid about Rs 900 per day to tourist guides with Japanese skills, who had accompanied a Japanese delegation to the historical Ajantha and Ellora caves.  Since many German tourists come to Rajas than andGoaby chartered flights, MMB has started a special course called Tourist Guide German.

United Nations is the largest employer of translators, editors, and interpreters.  It also employs professional economists, educationalist, financial analysts, public information officers, librarians, and continuously needs bilingual clerical and secretarial staff.  The demand for language expertise is high even in the NGO sector.  Dinesh Govindani, Spanish teacher with the Study Centre of Foreign Languages narrates the case of a NGO from Spain that that undertaken developmental work in Gujarat to rehabilitate earthquake victims.  “They hired interpreters at Rs. 2, 500 for eight hours,” says Govindani.  Archana Bansal of Surabhi Foundation for Research and Cultural Exchange agrees. “We keep needing services of interpreters for our exchange programmes.”

Interpreters and translators play a great role in international communication. Interpreting deals with oral communication, and translation with writ­ten materials. Professional translators and inter­preters find jobs with governments, international agencies, conferences, publishers and the business world. Interpreters must make quick and continu­ous judgments about what is being said in the for­eign or ‘source’ language, and render it simultaneously or consecutively into the ‘target’ language. There is little or no time to weigh alternatives. Simultaneous Interpretation is given idea-by-idea, or phrase-by-phrase, as the speaker continues to talk. This technique requires speed and fluency, and is made possible by the use of electronic equip­ment. This is considered to be more difficult. In Consecutive Interpretation the speaker and inter­preter take turns speaking. A consecutive interpreter must have a good memory, and generally needs to take notes of what is said to be certain to give a complete rendering. Conference Interpreters serve at international meetings, seminars and dis­cussions. The main languages used at such confer­ences are English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Escort Interpreters accompa­ny visiting delegations or individuals and interpret for them, generally in informal situations. These are in great demand in the area of international busi­ness, as they often accompany businessmen traveling abroad for negotiations. An Interpreter gets anything between Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 per 8 hours, depending upon his level of understanding of the language and the subject he/ she is dealing with. Translators produce clear, accurate, and lucid account of everything from literary works to highly complicated technical reports. They should not only possess a thorough knowledge of the source language, but also the ability to grasp difficult ideas and concepts. There are ‘specialist translators; who have expertise in finance, literature, history, patents, and engineering. Experts charge Rs three per word for ‘source’ language to English translations and almost three times that amount if it is the other way round. Of the three categories – general, technical/ commercial and legal- the latter is the most difficult and most expensive. The charges are approximate­ly Rs seven per word. According to Govindani Spanish to English translation fetches one Rs. 200 per page if the number of pages is more than 10. “If you are good you can get to translate up to 100 pages a month.”

Teaching however is most preferred and for obvi­ous reasons. At MMB full time teachers get about Rs 40,000 a month and temporarily ones work for five hours a day and make up to Rs 25,000. Private coaching fetches you up to Rs 500 per hour and you have to teach for 160 hours. “Teaching is flexi time and even housewives can do it, says Govindani.

 Here’s a list of foreign language institutes:

  • School of Languages,Jawahalal Nehru University,New Delhi
  • Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages (CIEFL),Hyderabad
  • Benares Hindu University, Varnasi
  • University of Delhi
  • Alliance Francaise de Bombay -2035993/2036187
  • Max Muller Bhavan – 2027542/2022085
  • Indo Japanese Association – 287 3027/ 84 4772
  • Academia De Español – 26788930
  • Italian Consulate – 3804071/3804073
  • Cultural Centre of Russia- 495 2495
  • British Institute -287 0755/2870756
  • Studies Centre of Foreign Languages (SCOFL) -6114098/6172562
  • Academy of Japanese Language and Culture  022-26844820 / 26820786
  • Indo Italian Chamber of Commerce

Did you know that….

The largest market and economic block in the world today is the European Union – the two major economic powerhouse nations within the EU andFranceandGermany.  One of the EU nations with a rapidly growing economy is Spain.

Japan is today a world leader in many business and investment areas.

For most scientists, a reading knowledge of German is essential.

Government agencies and businesses the world over that deal with Hispanic immigrants, are looking for personnel, ranging from lawyers to health professionals, who speak Spanish.

France has the second greatest aeronautical industry in the world and is a leader in computer technology, telecommunications, and medical research. (Source: Internet)

Spanish is the second world language as a vehicle of international communication and the third as an international language of politics, economics and culture.

About 330 million people in the world speak Spanish as their first language and another 100 million people speak this as a second language.

Spanish is expected to be the first language of 50 percent of the population of theUnited Stateswithin the next 50 years.

Today Spanish is an official language of the UN and its institutions, the European Union and other international organizations.

Latin American countries are experiencing constant economic growth and because of that, are becoming more important as trading partners.

A large number of Latin American countries are on the verge of signing the North American (NAFTA), created by theUnited States,CanadaandMexico. (Source: Instituto Cervantes).

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