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Thread: Is college the way to go for languages?

  1. #1
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    Is college the way to go for languages?

    I've been looking around at various colleges online lately. One thing that I notice is that you only take 3 years of a language(at least at all the school's i've looked at). Is that really long enough to get a good grip on a language? I ask because i'm still trying to decide what I want to do once I get out of school. I have thought about the Army, but then I would get little to no say in what language I get to learn. I'm thinking about Chinese, Russian, or Japanese. Any opinions?

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    I think colleges are a very good way to learn a language if you are serious about it and you have the resources. College courses are generally very thorough, and they have some great study abroad programs. Granted, it may be easier (and less expensive) to learn the language on your own first, but when you get to a certain point, and you decide that you are serious about learning it, college is for sure the way to go. Having a degree in a foreign language looks really good on a college or job resume. I am actually starting a Russian major next year at the University of Minnesota.

    So If you are serious about it, I would suggest enrolling at a university.

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    Quote Originally Posted by saibot
    Having a degree in a foreign language looks really good on a college or job resume. I am actually starting a Russian major next year at the University of Minnesota.
    What kind of career opportunity in USA do you see for a person with a degree in Russian? Could you give some examples? I would really like to know the situation on the job market.
    Find your inner Bart!

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    It could be any job, really. Employers are very impressed with people who speak more than one language, especially the employers who run companies where the employees interact with the general public. It's just a good skill to have.

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    I got one of my jobs out here because I was able to speak Spanish. Not that I needed it or anything, (well, it always comes handy in So. California) but because I use a lot of different computer "languages", knowing a foreign language shows that I have the ability to learn a whole new set of concepts...
    -Fantom
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    It probally depends where you live too. I think in my whole lifetime i've only seen a few people around here that don't speak English. Though I do live in Illinois(its pretty quiet here )

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    -i think the effectiveness of the college depends on how dedicated you are to the language study; if you are posting here you probably are - so it may really help you. most colleges have accelerated programs as well, some of them in the summer.

    -i know little about chinese; i find that japanese grammar is quite a bit simpler than russian. on the other hand, japanese writing is a way harder (but if you ever decide to take on chinese too, you'll be halfway there).

    -there are various jobs where speaking russian (or chinese, or japanese) would be a big plus. if i had to take a guess i'd say that chinese is the most important of the three at the moment but it surely depends on your field. The usefullness of the language comes only when dealing with foreign countries more or less closely; although if you are in chicago area and your inspirations are to become a manager of a maid service you should definitely learn polish

    A language is just a language - i'd strongly advice against making it your proffession. If you are for example an engineer, you may well find a company doing business with russia/china/japan, and become a very valuable employee. your competitors would be bilingual russians/etc in the same field, but there are many advantages to being american. E.g. most russians will trust you a lot more compared to a fellow russian. plus your english will be better.

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    Yeah, I was thinking about maby a major in Computer Engineering or Electrical Engineering and a minor in one of the languages. I would'nt want to live in China though, I think I would probally be better off financially.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheAmerican
    Yeah, I was thinking about maby a major in Computer Engineering or Electrical Engineering and a minor in one of the languages. I would'nt want to live in China though, I think I would probally be better off financially.
    might or might not be true, most likely depending on the company and position. Executive salaries in major multinational companies are usually comparable regardless of where you are (although of course you won't get there straight from the college). Even in cases/positions where the actual wages are smaller, ppl often get nice local benefits like company cars and apartments, rather typical in Ukraine and for what i know in china/russia as well. as long as you avoid local companies, you should be ok. although i personally wouldn't want to live in moscow, i don't like that city.

    in any case, an ability to communicate with non-english speaking chinese/japanese/russians without relying upon others would be invaluable.

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    Of course knowing a language is invaluable, but that doesn't mean it's worth three years of college, three years that could be put to other use without necessarily damaging your language skills.

    Put it this way, you could study Russian for three years and at the end you'd have a degree in Russian and nothing else, or you could study for a degree in something else entirely and keep picking away at Russian in your own time, and at the end you'd have a far more useful degree, empoyment-prospects-wise, plus that invaluable ability to speak a foreign language.

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    Thats why im leaning torwards a minor in whatever language I pick. Though, I don't know if I would qualify for any of the study abroad programs at University of Illinois if im just doing a minor I really dont think just having a degree in a language would have much use.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scotcher
    Of course knowing a language is invaluable, but that doesn't mean it's worth three years of college, three years that could be put to other use without necessarily damaging your language skills.

    Put it this way, you could study Russian for three years and at the end you'd have a degree in Russian and nothing else, or you could study for a degree in something else entirely and keep picking away at Russian in your own time, and at the end you'd have a far more useful degree, empoyment-prospects-wise, plus that invaluable ability to speak a foreign language.
    i dont think there is any disagreement here. the major should be something else (although it would be better than english ). but not studying a language in addition to the major field in a rather favorable setting would be a mistake imho. it may also go towards the distribution requirement.

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    I think Scotcher is right on the money! Having a degree in Russian is no better than just being able to speak Russian, other than the fact that you have a degree.
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    Joel:

    If you are really serious about obtaining help with pronunciation and grammar, then I see courses offered by universities or colleges as a good place to start. If you are just looking for language skills for self- satisfaction, look to see if the universities or colleges that you researched offer community classes; less intense, no exams, less money. Also, if you have the funds and time available, an immersion-style course or a class at Berlitz (if you have one in your area, they practically are worldwide: www.Berlitz.com) are also good options to think about.

    If you are looking for a job that will allow you to use your language skills, a degree may or may not be a plus. What I mean is, if it is a position that does not require a foreign language, a degree is not necessary, but the knowledge may look good on your resume/application. Many people consider Russian to be a very tough language to learn, so the person reviewing your resume/application may feel that if you can learn Russian, you must be intellegent enough to do the job (not saying that the knowledge will get you the position). If the job requires Russian language, then a degree could be a plus. It really depends on the structure of the company itself. If it is a high-end corporation (especially if it deals with the Russian community or is a global entity), a degree is usually mandatory for most jobs, but a double major would be best (example: International Law and Russian Language and Culture) or a major in another field (Engeinnering) with Russian language as your minor.

    In a case like I am in, foreign language degrees are important and a big selling point for my job search. After obtaining my undergrad in a few languages, I will be attending Monterey Institue of International Studies in a few their Masters programs (Translation and Interpretation, Conference Interpretation, and International Policy Studies with a customization in Culture and Area Studies). The goal is to become a translator/interpretor or language revisor for the United Nations or a Foreign Affairs Officer (Consular) with the U.S. Department of State. A degree in languages is highly favorable for the U.N. position and a great asset for the State Department career. I must add that in my undergrad studies, I will be minoring in International Studies. Also note that I will be gaining further language studies in the graduate course level as well as more concentrated studies in the International Studies field. The broader knowledge base is necessary and makes me a more-rounded candidate.

    Regarding the military. I am in the Navy Reserves and have been looking into the Cryptology Technician Field (I believe the Army equivalent is a Cryptologic Linguist-98G or a Translator Aid-09L). Taking the Defense Language Aptitude Battery will be your first task. If you are looking at Russian as a language of choice, then you will have to score a 95 to 99 on the exam. To be placed in courses for Chinese, Arabic, Japanese and Koren, you must score 100 or better. Taking a foreign language like Russian help me with the test a great deal. The language on the test is jibberish, but the concepts of word declination in cases and syllable stress that are used in the exam are indicitive of the grammar of a number of languages other than English. The thing an undergraduate degree will do for you in the Army is allow you to enlist as an officer. No degree, no commission. Depending on your score, the results of your background investigation, and the Army's needs, they will send you to school for your language training in oddly enough, Monterey, CA...same place as the graduate school I mentioned earlier. If Russian is the only language you are interested in at this moment, then the Cryp. community in the Army may not be the best place for you. If you score high enough, and they need more Arabic interpreters/translators, it is more than likely you will be enrolled in Arabic.

    As you know, it's really up to you what you want to do with your langauge skills, how far you wish them to take you. What is good for me, may not be a correct fit for you. I wish you luck. Take your time if you have it. Look into corporations, government positions, and your self wants. Russian isn't going anywhere. The language, culture and people will be there for you when you are ready to take it all in for whatever your reasons (personal, business).
    Russia cannot be understood with the mind,
    Or measured with a common yardstick;
    She has a unique stature--
    One must simply believe in Russia.

    --Fyodor Tyutchev, poet

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    Good post,ictp72,

    I just joined this forum to help and learn. I am curently working with a large international organisation in Afghanistan, and decided last winter to use my spare time and learn Russian. I am interested in developping my brain with a new language, but the aim is to work in a CIS country on my next assigment.
    Now, most of the expats here do not speak the local languages, nor do they need it. Most, however speak three or more languages. If someone wants to do a carreer as a diplomat, the most important item on your resume will be a masters degree in political science. Language is only a factor in 25% of Vacancy Announcements in our organization.
    What I recommend is for people to study languages after completion of university, or during their studies, if abroad.
    If however the military will give you free training as part of your employment, go for it.
    There is a new trend however, that is emerging in all large organisations. We started using electronic translators because there were not enough qualified translators available.
    Cheers,
    Early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese

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    i think any way to learn a language is a good one as long as you really want to learn it. i mean, most of the time, one just needs some stimulation that all of the courses offer - what you do with it, is up to you.
    i personally am going to start university in october, my major being russian and english linguistic.

    It could be any job, really. Employers are very impressed with people who speak more than one language
    ah, im jealous. in here, two is obligatory, three is fine, four is good (native included). if you don't know any-you're most probably gonna stay jobless for a lifetime [/quote]

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    Why not attempt a double-major? If you are a determined enough individual, you can certainly accomplish this. Get one degree in a practical field (Business, Engineering, etc.), and another in a language of your choice. You could probably still finish in four years (at worst five) if you push yourself.

    Someone else mentioned getting a degree in something, and studying Russian on your own free time. My feeling is that you will never get very far language-wise by that method, as college is intense enough as it is. You likely will have little time or energy to focus on a self-study language program.

    Another option could be to minor in Russian, but DEFINITELY find a way to spend a semester or summer overseas! That is how you are really going to master a language anyway. It sure as heck won't happen in a classroom, although the grammar fundamentals will be invaluable. Imagine the fun you'll have with a semester in Moscow or St. Pete!

    I too am looking to a potential career as a Foriegn Service Officer (Economic). I will be attending the University of South Carolina's IMBA program. I plan on becoming fluent in Portugese in their Portugese language track, living and working in Brazil during my internship. Upon graduation I plan to enter the MBA Enterprise Corps. I will take advantage of that time to improve my Russian in one of the CIS countries. I think with the level of international experience and foriegn language skills I will possess, I'll make a pretty attractive candidate for a FSO position. Or failing that, a multinational corporation with business divisions overseas. Lot's of large corporations are thrilled to have someone multi-lingual they can on overseas assignments.

    All the best in your studies!

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    Galesburg, it's in Knox County(north west part of the state).

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