What a Foreign Language Can do for Your Career

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French (general) By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: French » French (general)
Last updated: 05/07/2016
Tags: careers, international relations, language jobs, multilingual, prospects

As a language student, I heard it a million times: “What are you going to do with those languages? Teach?” It seemed it was my only option… but I’ve always been stubborn and I quickly decided to prove the naysayers wrong.

After living all over the world and working almost exclusively with languages, I now feel well-placed to offer career guidance for those who simply love languages, but wonder if learning them will really be impactful for their careers. Here are some fields in which a foreign language can help you!


I once heard of a solicitor who erroneously believed that her client was a victim of Human Trafficking. I can only imagine how awkward it must have been when the interpreter went in and explained that it was all a big mix-up. I’ve worked with someone who was fighting a long, complicated, international custody battle with their foreign ex-spouse. You’d never believe how many times language and the law collide.

Perhaps you dream of working at the European Court of Human Rights. Perhaps you want to work in International Law and negotiate trade deals and international treaties for your country. It goes without saying that a foreign language would place you well ahead of your peers. The law is much more diverse than one might initially imagine…

Technology / Gaming

The world has become a very small place, largely due to technology. From Google to small mobile application developers and technology start-ups, everyone is now recruiting multilingual professionals.

Think about it… Most of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students you know probably don’t study French as well, do they? This means that there is a dearth of multilingual specialists in these fields.

This is problematic, as the very nature of technology is global. People in France do play World of WarCraft and Call of Duty. If you are interested in Technology or Gaming, a foreign language can open many doors for you to work abroad or even liaise with big international clients from your home country. At the very least, it makes your CV stand out from the crowd!

Advertising and Publicity

Have you ever heard of La vache qui rit? How about The Laughing Cow?

If you’re a cheese-lover, you will certainly remember having seen this brand on shelves at your local supermarket. You wouldn’t believe how many of the products you consume originate from distant parts of the globe.

Each time a product moves into a foreign market, each time its marketing strategy is changed, each time the labelling changes, teams of advertising and publicity specialists all over the world collaborate to ensure uniform global branding. They must respect the laws, policies, cultures and tastes of the target audience, while taking into account the specifics of the country of origin. It’s already a challenging profession, even before you throw foreign languages into the mix.

If you already speak a foreign language, even to a limited degree, it can place you leagues ahead of your colleagues when big foreign clients come knocking at your door…


As a translator and interpreter, doctors are some of my biggest clients. Not only do physicians frequently need to communicate quickly and effectively with patients from all backgrounds, but the medical profession is an increasingly mobile one! Doctors frequently attend medical conferences all over the world, and specialists must confer with their peers from abroad to manage major Public Health threats.

Keeping up-to-date with medical literature, understanding a patient’s medical history when all the records have been sent over by a hospital in Paris… the challenges are many. It’s so much bigger than just joining Doctors Without Borders and traveling to exotic corners of the world; an English doctor moving to Miami will quickly discover that many patients speak only French or Spanish and that a foreign language is absolutely essential!

Politics and Diplomacy

Maybe you have political aspirations. You don’t need a foreign language to serve the people of your own country, right?

But think about it; who represents us at meetings of the various UN bodies? Who is stationed in Tokyo, Paris or Abu Dhabi, looking after the British citizens residing there? Who gets the promotion or the party nomination when the stakes are high for International Relations?

Now, more than ever, the world needs multilingual statesmen and diplomats.

Subtitling and Localisation

Essentially, this falls under the field of Translation, but many imagine Translators as bookish folks who spend all their time tapping away at computers and reading texts in foreign languages. It can get so much more interesting than that!

In over five years living on the European continent, I quickly discovered something; my French friends had watched all of my favourite films. They had played at cinemas in Spain and Germany too… But how?

Enter the subtitlers. They understand the source language perfectly and make English-language entertainment accessible to folks all over the world. It does take some cultural and artistic proficiency; You have to know that if a French person says “I don’t have a radish”, it actually means he’s broke… and you definitely should not translate it exactly as he said it. But then again, that’s part of the fun of this job!

Military / National Security

I can’t tell you how many National Security secrets I have been privy to. I literally can’t tell you, I’ve signed numerous confidentiality agreements.

One thing that the ordinary civilian often doesn’t realise is that, by nature, National Security is International. A friend of mine was stationed in Germany for almost ALL of his career in the Royal Marines. When Britain negotiates the security of the English Channel, we are negotiating with our French-speaking neighbours! There are countless ways for you to use your foreign language skills if you work in this field!

So there you go! If you thought you couldn’t marry your passion for languages with your other professional ambitions, I hope you now know that it’s not only possible; it’s necessary!

On another note, after all my research, all my determination to prove that my languages were versatile and useful and all my years as a full-time linguist, I’ve discovered that I actually love teaching… But we’ll just keep that between us!

Joleen Carter French (general) Tutor (Rochester)

About The Author

I am a qualified linguist with almost 10 years' experience in tutoring at various levels. I love sharing my passion for languages with my students!

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