Careers & Employment Information

Learning a Foreign Language

Many people love learning languages or would like to learn a language and use their language skills in a job. In today's global economy the demand for language skills continues to grow as governments, businesses and organisations build relationships with foreign interests.

Learning a language is beneficial in employment for two reasons; 1) it offers those in established careers the chance to progress either through gaining promotions or international travel and experience, and 2) it opens doors to new careers and employment opportunities.

This article will look at the range of jobs learning a language can offer.

International Organisations

International organisations such as the United Nations, World Trade Organisation, the Red Cross, and Amnesty International will always need people with language skills for a range of functions from administrative work to management. Most will need a cross section of language skills plus many speakers in the main international languages such as English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

The Foreign Service

National governments demand huge numbers of foreign language speakers for their Foreign Service departments. Working for the Foreign Service could mean living and working abroad in an embassy, liaising with counterparts in other countries, listening to intelligence reports in foreign languages and translating them and conducting research in foreign languages.

The Foreign Service is usually a challenge to get into; however, it is well known that language skills help bolster applicants' profiles.

Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Industries

Speaking a foreign language makes you a good candidate for positions within the tourism and hospitality industries.

Many companies send staff to man local offices abroad, which means speakers of the native languages are required. In addition, the international nature of such companies usually means they have a global presence and that staff with language skills are critical to their day to day operations and future expansion.

Even at home, where hotels, leisure complexes, restaurants receive large numbers of foreign visitors, speakers of foreign languages are needed to offer good customer service.

Translation & Interpreting

Once language skills have reached a good level, translating and interpreting become an option.

Translators deal with written materials and typically translate texts from a source language into their own native language. Translators usually need qualifications or accreditation, but once this is achieved it is easy to register with a number of translation agencies that pass on work to freelancers. After some time many translators become specialised in certain fields such as software, law or social sciences.

Similarly, interpreters, who deal with spoken language, also need qualifications and most importantly experience. Interpreters can also register with agencies that use them for interpreting projects. Interpreters work in two ways: 1) Simultaneous - the interpreter translates in real time such as in conferences. 2) Consecutive - the interpreter listens to a section of speech, waits for the speaker to pause, then translates such as in business meetings.


Many speakers of foreign languages go into teaching. Teaching not only offers the chance to pass on knowledge of a language, but also to constantly practice it.

Teachers can work at a variety of different institutions such as private language schools, government schools or adult education colleges. Languages are taught to a range of age groups from kindergarten to adults. Once teachers have developed their skills they may also gain more qualifications and/or specialise in areas such as Business French or Spanish and law.

The above examples of jobs are but a few of the possibilities available to speakers of foreign languages. The variety points to the fact that learning a language opens up many doors in relation to employment and careers development. So if you would like to advance in your career or considering a new line of work, why not consider learning a language?

Neil Payne runs Kwintessential, a cross cultural communication consultancy. Visit the site at:

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