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Published in the 16-31 March 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Education & careers

Careers in foreign languages

By Ameen-e Mudassar 

The Milli Gazette Online 

Not many years ago there was an International Trade fair in Delhi and most in demand were the people " who could speak French". We have seen thousands of Europeans and Americans thronging to India throughout the year. They don't know our language but still get to know all about us. Many countries like Japan, Portugal, Italy, Germany continue to communicate with other countries in their own language, avoiding English. So the question now is why is there a demand for interpreter knowing French or a Spanish translator for the Spanish Americans or a technical translator for German? Its simple. The world is now no longer divided along geographical boundaries and there are no limits to human interaction between all countries and cultures. This has created a huge demand for people who are professionals in foreign languages like German, Japanese, French, Arabic, Italian, Russian , etc. 

Current Trends 
According to Mohammed Abubaker Ali, a final year BE student, who learnt German during his 3rd year, at Max Muller Bhavan, Banglaore, "learn French if interested in arts and culture, learn German if you are technically oriented and learn Spanish if you are in marketing and enterprise." He also adds that" during the course you are taught the culture and customs of that country and the grammatical structure of the language." Speaking about this demand at present he says, " demand for Spanish professionals is increasing because of increase in Spanish call centers" 

Most of the Diploma and Certificate courses are offered for 10th and 12th pass students. For Graduate courses, 12th pass candidates with Diploma or Certificate courses are eligible. PG courses are meant for Graduates in any foreign language. The eligibility criteria also varies according to the university and language centers.

There are a variety of short and long duration language courses for Japanese, Italian, German, Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, Persian, Arabic and French.

  1. 1. Short term (2 months - 1 year): Certificate/ Diploma/ Advance diploma courses. 

  2. Long term (2- 3 years): Bachelor's Degree and PG diploma courses. 

  3. Masters Degree (1 or 2 years): MPhil, MA, PhD, etc. 

  4. 5 years Integrated Masters course

  5. Summer courses - 21 months.

Premier Institutes for Regular University courses

  1. Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

  2. Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad

  3. Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

  4. Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh

  5. Barkatullah Vishwa Vidyalaya, Bhopal

  6. Banaras Hindu University, Varnasi.
    and many more

Institutes offering non-university courses in French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Italian and Portuguese languages.

  1. Bharitiya Vidya Bhawan, Jawaharlal Nehru Academy of Languages, Kasturba Gandhi Road, New Delhi
    (It also has centers in the major cities of India)

  2. Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Qutab Institutional Area, New Delhi

  3. School of Languages, Ministry of Defence, Lodi Estate, New Delhi

  4. Study Center of Foreign Languages, Mitibai college, Mumbai

Foreign Cultural Centers in India

  1. Alliance Francaise centers all over India (for French)

  2. Max Muller Bhavan - New Delhi, Pune, Bangalore and other cities (for German)

  3. Japan Cultural andInformation center, Feroze Shah Road, New Delhi (for Japanese)

  4. Italian Embassy Cultural Center, Golf Links, New Delhi. 
    (for Italian)

  5. Iran Culture House, Tilak Marg, New Delhi (for Persian)

  6. Portuguese Embassy Cultural Center, Sunder Nagar, New Delhi (for Portuguese)

Distance Education

  1. Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad
    Course: MA in French, German, Russian, Arabic. MPhil in Russian.

  2. Madhurai Kamaraj University, Madurai
    Course : Certificate in French

  3. University of Calicut, Calicut, kerala
    Course: Bachelors in Arabic 

Personality requirements 

  1. A keen interest and willingness to learn the language is a must. 

  2. Adaptability to new concepts and an attitude to improve at every point is the driving force. 

  3. Quick grasping capacity along with understanding will help to gain more in a short time. 

  4. During the course of study, even the culture and social life of the people of that country have to be learnt. This requires a person to learn and accept certain traditions and customs which are new, unknown and even taboo in our culture. 

  5. It takes time to gain proficiency in language skills, hence patience and perseverance are required.

  6. One should aim only at achieving fluency and clarity in the language. Not mastery.


Job options 
After successfully completing a diploma/UG course and gaining enough fluency in the language, one can find good openings as interpreters, translators, language teachers, tourist guides, etc..

The avenues where foreign language professionals can find good jobs are:

  1. Hotel Industry - handling International visitors, dignitaries. Taking care of public relations.

  2. Industries - Most of the MNC's today have their clients abroad and employ professionals, who are experts in the clients’ language, for business communication, technical discussions and expansion . So if you are an Electronics Engineer keen to work in Japan, learning Japanese can fetch you a good job. 

  3. Airlines - Opportunities to work as Cabin Crew in Air ticketing department.

  4. Tourist guides - This is a sector which has a lot of scope. With India being a favourite destination for many Europeans and Americans, once in India they need a translator for their entire tour. One can Alhamdulillah achieve and maintain a good standard of living.

  5. Trade fairs - The Central Government, CII and other major Business Establishments organize international trade fairs which throw up part time job opportunities.

  6. Private tuitions - There is demand to learn foreign languages. People who cannot go to an institute engage private tutors. Also many foreigners who come to India like to learn Hindi, Urdu, Marathi etc.. If you know their language, you can easily teach them Indian languages. This is a very lucrative job.

  7. Freelancing - One can take up translation assignments of industrial firms, research organizations and international organizations.

  8. Teaching - After completing Masters, openings exist for faculty positions in universities and cultural centres.

  9. Foreign ministries and embassies.

Purpose of this article
This article shows how even an ordinary person can make a great part-time career by adopting a few other avenues along with the main career. It for this reason how freelancing, (working at one’s own convenience) and not conventional 9- 5 jobs, can give more returns. Being a foreign language professional is possible for everyone. So students and individuals who are doing UG/PG can also take up foreign language studies and get an edge over others.

No full time jobs !
In this career, there are less full time jobs. Most of the language professionals are freelancers who take up assignments with many organizations and work from home.

Why study foreign language during college days?
Most of the Certificate/Diploma courses in foreign languages are taught during weekends or summer vacations at the cultural centers. So its easy to take up these courses. This adds immense value to your resume. Also one can do a part time job during college.

By working as a language specialist, one can earn a handsome salary. Translators are often paid on per page basis (approximately Rs 100-500 per page). The amount varies from language to language. Taking up assignments with multiple organizations can give huge returns.

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