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Seventeen Values of Foreign Language Study

Why study foreign languages?

Imagine being able to go to another country and be able to understand a map, talk to a cab driver, or even discuss a poem. Imagine making connections with people across the barriers of language, culture, and history. Imagine the ways your personality and life might change when you meet and communicate with people whose cultural background differs from yours. Imagine the difference you might make in the lives of others, inside the US and out, who are reaching out across the world to you. Imagine the difference those people might make to you.

Many students come to college looking for classes that will help them build successful and interesting careers as teachers, business people, communicators, scientists, etc. Others want to grow intellectually, to change the world, or to change themselves. Language and culture study at Pasadena City College offers courses that meet all those needs, and language programs in Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish, plus American Sign Language and Linguistics.  The Division also includes English as a Second Language.

Can I get a job if I major or minor in a foreign language?

Yes, of course. First of all, almost any job, even in the United States, can benefit from your knowing another language. More and more of the U.S. population speaks languages other than English, and jobs in social services, business, communications, and the government all use people with language skills. Language skills set you apart from other workers, making you a better candidate for promotion and work on new projects.

Beyond that, there are a huge number of jobs that absolutely require that you speak a second language. These include working in the Foreign Service, serving a translator and/or interpreter for the Government or the private sector, working at international institutions the UN or UNICEF, teaching foreign languages, literatures, and cultures in schools or universities in the US or abroad, and working for transnational business corporations. Some of the jobs people who major or minor in a second language have chosen include:

  • Social services: social worker, probation officer, criminology and law enforcement, school counselor, drug abuse counselor, occupational health care, income maintenance counselor
  • Business and finance: accountant, administration, human resources director, economist, stockbroker, import-export agent
  • Communications: reporter, journalist, publisher, editor, interpreter, tour guide, public relations, film producer or director, sports agent
  • Science and Technology: Engineer, chemist physicist, anthropologist, archaeologist, geologist, biologist, oceanographer
  • Education: library science, elementary, secondary, and college level teaching in the US and abroad
  • Government: translator, interpreter, law enforcement, diplomatic foreign service, customs official, legal advisor
  • Other jobs include: Advertising Copywriter, Book reviewer, Columnist/ Commentator, Passenger Service Staff, Public Relations Representative, Radio Announcer, Production Manager, Technical Writer, Bilingual Educator, Peace Corps Volunteer, Researcher, World Bank, FBI Agent, State Department or Foreign Service, and Exchange Program Coordinator.

Are there any books or websites out there to help me find jobs, or tell me about international opportunities and programs?

Yes, of course. See any of the faculty in the Languages Division, or look at some of the resources below.

The following resources are especially useful:

  • Great Jobs for Foreign Language Majors by Julie Degalan and Stephen Lambert
  • Careers in International Affairs by Maria Pinto Carland
  • Or visit

Here are fifteen things studying a new language might do for you. Language study

  1. broadens your experiences; expands your view of the world
  2. encourages critical reflection on the relation of language and culture, language and thought; fosters an understanding of the interrelation of language and human nature
  3. develops your intellect; teaches you how to learn
  4. teaches and encourages respect for other peoples
  5. contributes to cultural awareness and literacy, such as knowledge of original texts
  6. builds practical skills (for travel or commerce or as a tool for other disciplines)
  7. improves the knowledge of your own language through comparison and contrast with the foreign language
  8. exposes you to modes of thought outside of your native language
  9. a sense of relevant past, both cultural and linguistic
  10. balances content and skill (rather than content versus skill)
  11. expands opportunities for meaningful leisure activity (travel, reading, viewing foreign language films)
  12. contributes to achievement of national goals, such as economic development or national security
  13. contributes to the creation of your personality
  14. enables the transfer of training (such as learning a second foreign language)
  15. preserves (or fosters) a country’s image as a cultured nation

The above modified from Alan C. Frantz, "Seventeen Values of Foreign Language Study" (ADFL Bulletin, vol. 28, Nr.1, Fall 1996).