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......
Third Baby Jacket
6 days ago