5 Interesting Careers for Language Lovers (Beyond Translators and Interpreters) Posted by meaghan on Jun 11, 2014 in Archived Posts
When thinking of foreign language-related careers, the first options that come to mind are probably translator, interpreter, and foreign language teacher. Surely, none of those are bad options for a language lover. But linguaphiles aren’t limited to such narrow career paths, and often have interests beyond language learning (blasphemy, I know!) In fact, studying languages develops core competencies sought after by practically every field.
Language lovers are better communicators. They think can express and understand difference perspectives, present information clearly, and speak, read, and write effectively and fluidly. Multilinguals understand cultural differences and show sensitivity toward cultural issues. They can adjust quickly to new environments. Experiences language learners can analyze complex problems and compare and contrast different interpretations and solutions. They offer diversity to a team, can weigh alternatives wisely, and generate creative solutions.
With a skillset of that caliber, where else can a language lover contribute? Here are 5 career paths for the linguistically inclined:
1. Foreign Service Officer—If you’ve never heard of a Foreign Service Officer (FSO), they are the kind folks we refer to as diplomats. They staff our Embassies worldwide, managing government property, providing consular services, promoting international trade, resolving international conflicts, and generally serving at the face of America to the rest of the world. Where do languages come in to play? Officers receive unparalleled language training at the Foreign Service Institute—a mecca of language learning—prior to departing for overseas posts. In fact, all FSOs must achieve fluency in a second language to receive tenure. Want to represent America abroad, move to a new country every few years, and be paid to learn new languages in preparation? This may be the career for you. (And for non-Americans, every country has diplomats, so surely there are similar opportunities for public service in your country of origin.)
2. Flight Attendant—Chances are, if you like languages, you like traveling. What better way to see than world than as a flight attendant (i.e. for FREE). Yes, though the pay may not be overwhelming, if your passion is travel, free flight benefits certainly make up for it. Aside from seeing the sights on your shift, you have the chance to interact with different people from different backgrounds on a daily basis. Sure, some of them will be a pain in your you-know-what, but you’ll also get to speak with businessmen, international volunteers, musicians, military members, and all kinds of kinds. Not to mention you’ll get to put your language skills to use when speaking with them. It’s not all “Would you like ice in that?” for flight attendants.
3. Peace Corps Volunteer—This isn’t quite a career so much as a stop along the way, but it’s one heck of a way to serve your country, make an impact, join a powerful network, and really learn a language along the way to your career goals, especially if those goals involve an international career. Peace Corps inductees receive several weeks of language training to prepare them for their designated sites, but as a language lover you know a matter of weeks is not long enough to master a language. That’s why being a PCV is a language learner’s dream: you get dropped off in a new country to learn a language—usually a less-commonly taught language, to boot—full immersion style. On top of that, you get two years at your site to perfect your language skills and see how far they can take you. If you don’t have an affinity for luxuries like electricity and running water, consider the Peace Corps as your next language adventure.
4. Sports Recruiter—Just because you’re passionate about languages does not mean you don’t have other interests. For the sports fanatics among us, this could be a rewarding career path that taps into your language skills. Sports recruiters are hired by teams, universities, and agencies to scout out the best talent. For highly-internationalized sports—think soccer (futbol)—recruiters are literally scouring the entire world for the cream of the athletic crop, so there’s opportunities for travel and foreign language use. Strong communication skills are paramount to success in this field, considering the amount of negotiating and persuading you must do. We all know that communication is the wheelhouse of language lovers, so even if you’re dealing with an English-speaking athlete, you’ve got a leg up.
For the marketers among us, there’s a role for foreign languages in your field as well. Copywriters write copy, all of that compelling messaging you read on websites, in e-mails campaigns, and beyond. Every company can benefit from excellent writers, but multinational companies need individuals with excellent writing skills in multiple languages. Not sure what I mean? Check out http://www.nike.com/language_tunnel and see the dozens of languages supported by Nike’s website. Having an in-house writer to create copy for your website is crucial, as the very message you’re trying to convey may be lost when sending copy to an external translation agency. If you love putting the figurative pen to paper, this could be the career for you.
Bonus: Translating and Interpreting!
We said we wouldn’t include these, but there’s always a place for freelance translating and interpreting. Don’t think it has to be either mundane translation work or white knuckle simultaneous interpreting for the United Nations. Consider finding a niche like health care interpreting or subtitling Netflix shows.
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