Careers. Being multi-lingual gives you a clear edge in the job market. The number of students studying languages in universities across the U.S. is on the rise (see study), in part because students are recognizing the career boost that can result from being multi-lingual. Nationwide, students are choosing to double major in languages for this reason. Fields in which language skills provide a clear advantage are:
- International business
- Law enforcement and national defense
- Management in the areas of construction, hospitality and agriculture
- Human resources
- Social work
- New and old media
- Globalization. To function smoothly, our inter-connected world depends on multi-lingual speakers, and more broadly on people who know intimately the culture of other places—a kind of cultural knowledge that can come only from speaking the language. The goal of our majors and minors is to attain a high level of trans-lingual and trans-cultural competence—that is, to be able to act as informed and capable interlocutors with educated native speakers (see study). As China, Brazil and other powers rise, languages like Mandarin Chinese are becoming regionally dominant, displacing English as the language of trade in certain parts of the world (see “Mandarin challenging English as language of choice in Asia”).
- Linguistic diversity. We live in an incredibly diverse region. 55% of LA County speaks a tongue other than English natively, with sizeable linguistic communities of Chinese, Tagalog, Armenian and others in addition to Spanish. The demand for translators, teachers and multilingual professionals in the region will continue to grow into the foreseeable future. (Find the linguistic diversity of your town or zip code, courtesy of the MLA Language Map.)
- Personal reasons. For many of us who grew up bilingual, language is an important part of our identities, and language study becomes a way of actualizing political and creative dimensions of ourselves. We learn to write in our native language and to operate in the formal arenas of academia and business. For others of us who grew up monolingual, knowing another country or region through its language—the most intimate and far-reaching expression of a culture—brings great personal and intellectual rewards.
- Global citizenship. Studying languages and literatures affects the way we learn in other areas of endeavor, changing our intellectual aptitudes as well as our attitudes about the world (see the research). It makes us better global citizens and more well-rounded lifetime learners. The writing, reading, argument and grammatical study at the heart of languages and literature help us think logically and express ourselves clearly in writing—core values of the humanities.
- Study abroad. Study abroad in many ways is the quintessential college experience. It not only can build proficiency in a language and culture but also, on a personal level, can be the most memorable and profound experience of one's college career.