Is it worth studying languages at college?

I love languages, so I studied French and German and college. I struggled to find a job in any sector, let alone one where I could use my languages. So now I am doing a PhD in translation almost to buy me time to find a job, although I am still not very hopeful about that. It seems to me that studying languages prepares you for no specific jobs, except translator/ interpreter or a language teacher. There are loads of translators all trying to get what little translation work is out there and it seems kind of soul-destroying to be teaching kids to speak a language when you know they will struggle like you to find a job if they pursue the subject beyond school. So, is it really worth studying languages at college? I think when I have kids I will be advising them not to.

I understand where you’re coming from. Have you considered, though, applying your understanding of the languages/ cultures to other areas? For example, you may want to consider law school or business school. Maybe find businesses that do cross-border work into Europe or Francophone African countries or Haiti. Starting even at a low level can give you important experience that you can take into Business School programs. Language, like other liberal arts degrees, require creative thought about how to use your skills. Social workers who work with these populations also need language skills. The court system needs people who have language skills, even if they aren’t interpreters or attorneys–large cities have French-speakers in the population. In some large cities, there are bilingual French-English elementary schools. Law as a lawyer can include cross-border transactions with Europe and the other countries mentioned.

To get into a law school with this kind of program, you need 1) GPA at about 3.7 or higher; 2) LSAT scores at 170+. Then you can get into a Top 10 law school. Shooting for a top10 law school will guarantee that you can get a job in law after law school (lower level schools often don’t guarantee that. Law is fairly saturated now.)

Law education is costly but if you go to the right school you can get a job that pays a lot of money to pay back your school loans. Some schools offer loan forgiveness if you go into government or public interest work. I’m not sure that Ph.D. in translation will provide jobs with that much money.

Doing well on the LSAT is a matter of practice, practice, practice practice etc.

1 Like

Back again! More thoughts on this subject. You have three languages currently. Good for you. Have you considered maybe going to Japan or another country to teach English?

I’ve known several people who have done this program –

They have found it useful and interesting. Also: you came away speaking an Asian language. That plus your other skills that you’re building can lead to big big things. Really.

People who speak other languages –

  • go abroad to those countries to work as journalists, bar tenders, English language teachers, researchers in those languages for others (maybe university professors, or art museums who need help looking into their works of art).

Again, I understand your frustration. It’s really hard to understand what a language major, or history major, or art history major, or drama major, or several other liberal arts college majors can do for a living. I felt this way too. The thing is, you do have skills. And whatever you choose, you will continue to add to those skills. You will find your way. I know it’s hard right now, though.

i’ve known people who graduated with art degrees and they literally sent out 800 resumes. But at long last they got a few interviews and some great jobs. You will find your way.

Best of luck.

1 Like