Wake Up Linguists, And Smell The Coffee

Getting an MBA or graduating from an IIT institute will no longer guarantee you the best job. To be a cut above, learning a foreign language or two will stand you in good stead

Guten Tag, Buenos días, Bonjour, Ohayo Gozaimasu, Chen hao. All these mean ‘Good Morning’ in five different languages. If you are fluent in least one of these languages or would like to learn one of them, then you have great career opportunities coming your way. Analysts say that there will be a potential demand for over 160,000 foreign language professionals in the Indian off-shoring (IT, BPO and KPO) industry by 2010.

English is an alien language to many European, Latin American and Asian countries. And with an increasing number multi-national companies setting up business in India, people with a sound knowledge in foreign languages will become very much in demand.
“Students fluent in a foreign language can work with international BPOs, tourist guides with travel agencies, and also as translators and interpreters,” says Dinesh Govindani of Academia De Espanol.

From the IT and BPO industry to the chemical and pharmaceutical industry and of course, travel and tourism, being conversant in foreign language is the order of the day. “It gives you an edge. Language plays a supportive role in all professions,” says Sandeep Nulkar, managing director of BITS Pvt Ltd.

Every language offers distinct career choices. For instance, German automobile companies inIndia, will always prefer a mechanical engineering student who’s fluent in German over the rest of the toppers. Here’s what each language offers you:

Science and engineering courses inGermany are popular with Indian students. “It is better to learn the language here than while pursuing the course inGermany. There are also many university exchange programmes in which the students can participate,” says Walter Buendgens, director of the Max Mueller Bhavan. There are job opportunities in companies such as Volkswagen, Daimler-Chrysler, Siemens and the Indo- German Chamber of Commerce.

Prachi Mahamuni, who is working with Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions (RBEBS) as an associate officer, says, “There is a lot of scope to learn and grow in this field. Appraisals and salary hikes are quite common provided you work with a good organisation.”

Dr Vidyanand Kinkar, who has been teaching Japanese for 25 years, says, “There is a lack of software engineers inJapan and therefore there is a great scope for Indian software engineers who are fluent in Japanese.”Japan has been exporting medical instruments toIndia, so there is a lot of scope and money in translating manuals and user guides. People who can speak Japanese and have a background in medical science are preferred. “Ayurveda is also fast becoming popular inJapan. That’s another area worth exploring,” says Kinkar.

Most of the Japanese translation work deals with financial matters, knowledge process outsourcing (KPOs) and asset management. “If translators of a particular language are a minority in a firm, they can expect a higher package than others,” says Rakesh Kumar, working with RBEBS.

Students planning to pursue a career in Spanish have a plethora of opportunities ranging from teaching the language to working as coordinators for seminars. There is a huge scope for translators in pharmaceutical industries where the bulk of the work includes translating company brochures and legal documents. Govindani says, “There are many international schools inIndia that teach foreign languages, so the demand for teachers is always on the rise.” There are many good MBA schools inSpain and to get into those, one needs to have a good command over the language.

“Here, translation pays more than interpretation,” says Nulkar. In business transactions, all marketing literature and product software manuals have to be in French. Shreya Roy, who works at Oracle India Pvt Ltd as a language specialist, has done her schooling in French when she was residing inPondicherry. “In our firm, we deal with many language dependencies such as making invoices in French and conversing with French customers,” saysRoy. “A combination of an MBA and a knowledge of two languages always puts you higher than others,” she says.

Many multinational companies are establishing business relations with China. Call centres, too, have tied up with China and need people who are fluent in the language.
“There are many companies in the country that import Chinese machinery. They hire translators that can translate the user manuals into English,” says Poonam Joshi, director of Bhashalaya.

”There are eight Chinese dialects, but Mandarin is the official language and is used not only inChina, but also inTaiwan,SingaporeandMalaysia. Around one billion people across the world speak in Chinese (Mandarin),” adds Joshi.

If the job demands only conversation in Chinese then one can learn spoken Chinese which focuses on the pronunciations. If learning the script is needed, then you have to learn ‘Basic Chinese’ first.

Joel Saigawkar, a senior analyst, is an Indian Jew and has learned Hebrew inIsrael. “I stayed inIsrael for around four years and that’s when I learned the language,” he says. “I have done my diploma in networking, but I got chosen by Oracle India Pvt Ltd because of my language skills.”. There is an Oracle entity inIsrael, and Joel’s job profile includes working on invoices, payment procedures and entering records in Hebrew. “However, not many institutes inIndia offer Hebrew as a foreign language,” he rues.


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