Friday, 20 February 2009

Jobs and Careers with Languages?

I've been looking into the demand for language ability, both in my home area and nationwide over the past couple of days. I'm not up for a hot shot career, and it really is just as well considering what the state of the market for East Asian languages actually is right now, especially when you compare it to the market for European languages is - the ones that 'everyone learns'.

On the Top Language Jobs site today, 12 positions required Mandarin of which two or three were ones covering every language on the book and thus didn't really count. Most of the others were in translation and examining, with an odd one or two in other office based work. All but one were in London or nearby counties, the other was local to me in Yorkshire. The demand for Japanese is better with 40 positions going, (obviously including the 'across the board' ones), although still in mostly the same industries and same areas, but a better spread. Korean came in with 15 positions, Thai with none in its own right and Indonesian the same. (We teach all those, except Korean, in the university department I work in.)

European languages? 238 wanted French, 345 German, 112 Italian and 129 Spanish! I hadn't the patience to check through all those listings for geographic spread, but I know that there were a couple of dozen in total (from previous investigations) in my home area. So, the indications seem clear - European languages are the ones in demand in the UK and the market for East Asian languages is very limited indeed, Japanese being most in demand. How Slavic and Middle Eastern languages fare, I couldn't say, but it seems that French and German are the ones everyone really wants and having an 'exotic' language on your CV is virtually useless careerwise outside of the areas where those languages are spoken. A few years ago, I had a taxi-driver virtually in tears over the 'piles of money' I could make with a flashy career as someone's PA or something with Mandarin knowledge. Well, seems he was a little misinformed. The department I work in can give me only £1000 of work per year and, outside of this small niche area, my Mandarin has no market value whatsoever!

Worth bearing in mind if choosing a language for business and career purposes. Do some research first as to what's in demand. I didn't do my studies for career progression, although I confess I would like to be able to use my Chinese etc in an admin or secretarial job, (I have some German etc, but nothing good enough to apply for a bilingual position where degree level knowledge of that language is wanted), it wasn't why I did it. I'd be pretty sick now if I had! I heard that none of last year's graduates from Chinese Studies at Leeds went into jobs using their Chinese! True, there are thousands of Euro-languages graduates every year and so the competition for those few hundred jobs will be quite high too, but at least they know there is some use for them. I think that most people who do East Asian languages really do so mostly for interest and cultural reasons than for career development. I wonder how long the burgeoning interest in learning Mandarin will continue given the lack of work-based outlet for it??

Kinda depressing really. Chinese etc is very impressive to most folk (i.e. those who've never made a serious attempt to learn it), but it won't earn you a penny! Slinks off to get German books out......


Elindomiel said...

Pretty interesting. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that there are far more people from those countries that speak English reasonably well than there are people from our countries who speak their languages reasonably well. Could be that they've given up on the latter and planned to rely completely on the former. :)

Elindomiel said...

Your hunch was right. :D And actually, thanks for pointing it out! I'll probably remember it now! I'm in a weird position in German, because I tested way higher than I think I should have on the placement test (probably Latin and Faroese helped with grammar, and Norwegian with vocabulary?) and as a consequence I have some holes in my education that don't seem to go with my overall German performance! This is one of them. I don't have any memory of being taught that in class, but now that you bring it up, and I see it on the essay, I vaguely remember having read it somewhere in some sort of linguistics essay.

Haha, yeah, it does sound as though you work with students on a regular basis. :P And from a position of more experience.

"Keep up all the good work though, you seem to be doing very well there. You do Spanish, German, Norwegian and are taking an interest in Thai. Have I missed any??=)"

Thank you so much! I'm just a beginner in studying languages! :D

Have you missed any? Only one of the big ones... my rather antisocial Latin is sulking around somewhere. You really can't blame it for not getting as much use as the others, so sometimes I forget how much I studied it in Middle School and High School! No more, though. I'm done with it for the foreseeable future.

I guess you could say that I'm very serious about Norwegian and Spanish, and German is only a tiny step down from that. Then, on a more medium level, I have an interest in Italian, Finnish, and Faroese. I also dabble in Japanese and now, it looks like, Thai! And of course, basic skills in Swedish, Danish, Nynorsk, and, to a lesser extent, only for reading and occasionally understanding, Icelandic and Dutch, have been caught in the crossfire, so to speak. And I play around with whatever comes my way! :D

What is your full list? :)