More businesses seeking graduates fluent in foreign languages

Jimmy Miller

Learning a foreign language might be the key to finding a job upon graduation, according to a study by the Princeton Review.

Françoise Massardier-Kenney, director for Kent State’s Institute for Applied Linguistics, said the country is beginning to understand the implications of the globalization of the American economy.

“Obviously, when the Web started to be used as a resource, it definitely had an impact,” Massardier-Kenney said. “Internationalization of all activities … requires a lot of communication in (different) languages, even if they know English.”

The Department of Labor has determined that a job such as translating and interpreting is one of the 15 fastest growing occupations in America, which Massardier-Kenney said is because of the global growth where companies conduct business.

“It used to be that the U.S. was the biggest game in the world,” Massardier-Kenney said, “but it’s no longer the case.”

Massardier-Kenney referenced China, where millions of students are being trained to speak English in order to successfully export products to the United States, she said.

Similarly, Geoffrey Koby, associate professor for Modern and Classical Language Studies, said translators and interpreters are “a key link between cultures.”

“There’s a saying that says if 1,000 Japanese-American lawyers died, life would go on. If 1,000 Japanese-American translators died, there’s a problem,” Koby said.

“Not entirely serious, but the point is well taken. Translators … are indispensable.”

For Samantha Ulickas, sophomore French and German translation major, understanding language and culture is not just necessary — it is a passion.

“I love foreign languages,” Ulickas said, “and I always had been fond of languages, and I couldn’t decide what language to choose because I studied three in high school.”

Carrying her passion to the collegiate level, Ulickas’ decision to double major in two foreign languages does not go without rationale.

“The world is becoming more international,” Ulickas said. “People could be traveling more. Businesses are expanding and becoming more international. They just want to understand more cultures, and the best way to understand people is to learn their languages.”

According to the Department of Labor, roughly 25,000 jobs are expected to become available for those who can interpret a foreign language by understanding spoken language, translate a foreign language or understanding a written language.

Koby said not all businesses need to go global, but those that do need to be careful to hire a well-trained translator.

“Language skill is a prerequisite,” Koby said about students who want to become translators. “The level of skill in order to be successful is much higher than what you get in a Bachelor’s degree. Generally, students spend a semester abroad.”

To understand two languages is one thing, but to be fluent in that understanding is another. For instance, junior French literature, culture and translation major Gabrielle Mazzullo said students should be able to speak like a native.

Businesses “probably want you to be able to jump right into a conversation,” Mazzullo said. You will need to “be able to hold a conversation and help them with their inquires without any problems.”

Massardier-Kenney said it is a tough profession to get into but can prove worthwhile.

“Middle- to high-level jobs are going to non-Americans,” Massardier-Kenney said. “It’s a very complex profession. (One) must have linguistic skills, research skills, cross-cultural skills, technological skills. … You must be extremely flexible and master a number of those skills.”

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