TheBigJosh
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I often am told that studying languages (my area of degree) is worthless, but why is considered so? They can be among some of the most challenging degrees going (awaits bites) so why the disrespect, is it because some cannot appreciate them? Or because of England's often poor attitude towards learning languages (the dreaded, everyone speaks English) just looking to gauge some opinions for a paper I am writing.
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sophia5892
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(Original post by TheBigJosh)
I often am told that studying languages (my area of degree) is worthless, but why is considered so? They can be among some of the most challenging degrees going (awaits bites) so why the disrespect, is it because some cannot appreciate them? Or because of England's often poor attitude towards learning languages (the dreaded, everyone speaks English) just looking to gauge some opinions for a paper I am writing.
Tar
I'd say it's general ignorance - I get a lot of people telling me I'm wasting my time because I could be self-studying at the same level and doing a "useful" degree. Personally I think anyone who believes you can achieve the same level of fluency through self-study alone as through a degree is a bit deluded. (Not saying a degree is the best way by any means - but it's damn more effective than trying to study alone alongside a full time degree in a different subject).

Plus that viewpoint completely ignores the cultural studies side of language degrees. I don't think everyone really realises how a language degree is structured - so they have this impression that we spend all our time doing nothing other than language. Which is of course not true. (For the majority - I do 4 languages so only 20 credits of my degree each year is non-language )

I also think linguists tend to play down their abilities - I never tell friends I'm fluent in anything other than English as I don't consider myself to be. To which I get the - you've been studying for 7 years and you're still not fluent?!?! What's the point?!?! But I can read books, watch news, have conversations easily, write essays - some people would consider that fluency.

And of course the everyone speaks English argument

I'm sure I could ramble on even longer but that's probably more than enough for you
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TheBigJosh
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(Original post by sophia5892)
I'd say it's general ignorance - I get a lot of people telling me I'm wasting my time because I could be self-studying at the same level and doing a "useful" degree. Personally I think anyone who believes you can achieve the same level of fluency through self-study alone as through a degree is a bit deluded. (Not saying a degree is the best way by any means - but it's damn more effective than trying to study alone alongside a full time degree in a different subject).

Plus that viewpoint completely ignores the cultural studies side of language degrees. I don't think everyone really realises how a language degree is structured - so they have this impression that we spend all our time doing nothing other than language. Which is of course not true. (For the majority - I do 4 languages so only 20 credits of my degree each year is non-language )

I also think linguists tend to play down their abilities - I never tell friends I'm fluent in anything other than English as I don't consider myself to be. To which I get the - you've been studying for 7 years and you're still not fluent?!?! What's the point?!?! But I can read books, watch news, have conversations easily, write essays - some people would consider that fluency.

And of course the everyone speaks English argument

I'm sure I could ramble on even longer but that's probably more than enough for you

I love your ramblings At last somebody who has something valid and not conceited to say!
What languages do you speak and how well?
I speak French at probably a 7/10 and Chinese at a 4.5/10 - my degree subjects- studied Chinese for 15 months so I'm happy with that
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Estrellaa
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I personally think that people aren't able to appreciate how difficult it is to learn a language and also, seem to presume that everyone speaks english! I know many people have said to me, why bother? everyone speaks english anyway? or the whole 'if you're coming to england speak english!'... although when we go to other countries we tend to speak our own language.

Anyway I think language degrees are pretty worthwhile and was looking to study one for a while but I was deterred by many people!
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sophia5892
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(Original post by TheBigJosh)
I love your ramblings At last somebody who has something valid and not conceited to say!
What languages do you speak and how well?
I speak French at probably a 7/10 and Chinese at a 4.5/10 - my degree subjects- studied Chinese for 15 months so I'm happy with that
I study French, German and Japanese equally for my degree - French and German were post-A Level, Japanese beginners.
But I spent my full YA in Japan...
So my understanding of Fr and Ger is very good - i can translate or read books no problems and I've got firsts for the exam conditions coursework I've done so far this year. But my speaking is rusty - I get my uni interpreting exam results on Friday so I'll reserve judgement on how rusty until then

My Japanese is.... conversational? Nowhere near as good as my French and German but I can get by with no issues. I failed JLPT 2 by four marks just before the summer, which is the standard most employers require, so I ought to be there by graduation.

Then I have a very rusty Italian A Level and I did Dutch in second year and I'm continuing it this year, but with the year off.... so yeh, very very basic. I understand a helluva lot more than I'm capable of producing. Like we're reading a book for the dutch class, which isn't too difficult to understand. No harder than my A Level French and German texts were at the time. But I definitely can't speak Dutch at A Level standard - it's the similarities to english and german which make the comprehension much easier
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Ronove
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(Original post by TheBigJosh)
I often am told that studying languages (my area of degree) is worthless, but why is considered so? They can be among some of the most challenging degrees going (awaits bites) so why the disrespect, is it because some cannot appreciate them? Or because of England's often poor attitude towards learning languages (the dreaded, everyone speaks English) just looking to gauge some opinions for a paper I am writing.
Tar
I'll completely ignore the language:content issue since it is quite a contentious one between you and I and someone else has mentioned it anyway.

I think a lot of it is because so many people (in the UK at least, not sure how it compares at the same level elsewhere) who don't take languages beyond GCSE think that they're 'good' at a language because they passed said GCSE and they expect that anyone who takes one at A2 must be 'fluent' by the end of it. I think these people genuinely can't grasp what else you might be learning by studying a language beyond that, given that there's clearly 'nothing' else to learn after A2. :rolleyes: 'You can order a coffee and read a newspaper article with relative ease, what else is there to learn?!'.

To be fair though, lower-level language teaching, especially GCSE, is so unbelievably pathetic and shallow that I think many people must think it just continues like that forever. They don't know what they're missing, is all I can say, I suppose.

I must say I find it very interesting when I see a bilingual person go on to study other languages at university. I know that Anatheme was one such person on here - she is French and decided to study Russian and Arabic at a UK university. She must have a very interesting take on it all.
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xmarilynx
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OP - I guess the danger is that you're in competition with people that have say a French dad and a degree in Engineering, or spent every summer in Spain and went on to study Economics. This is especially true in mainland Europe, where it is the norm to speak more than one language. Plus, as has already been pointed out, most people don't realise that a languages degree is basically a literature, history and politics degree in one!

I don't agree they're considered "useless" though - my language skills have always been positively received by employers when applying for internships and graduate schemes.

(Original post by Ronove)
I think a lot of it is because so many people (in the UK at least, not sure how it compares at the same level elsewhere) who don't take languages beyond GCSE think that they're 'good' at a language because they passed said GCSE and they expect that anyone who takes one at A2 must be 'fluent' by the end of it. I think these people genuinely can't grasp what else you might be learning by studying a language beyond that, given that there's clearly 'nothing' else to learn after A2. :rolleyes: 'You can order a coffee and read a newspaper article with relative ease, what else is there to learn?!'.

To be fair though, lower-level language teaching, especially GCSE, is so unbelievably pathetic and shallow that I think many people must think it just continues like that forever. They don't know what they're missing, is all I can say, I suppose.
That's a good point actually, I read about a guy who put on his CV that he spoke fluent French after getting an A at A Level then didn't speak it for three years during his degree. He got a bit of a shock when his interviewer started questioning him in French

To be fair I think if you only learn in a classroom situation without interacting with natives in real-life situations then I guess it's easy to get a false sense of confidence.
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Chlorophile
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The only people who call language degrees useless are ignorant people who you really shouldn't be listening to.
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michaelhaych
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(Original post by TheBigJosh)
I often am told that studying languages (my area of degree) is worthless, but why is considered so? They can be among some of the most challenging degrees going (awaits bites) so why the disrespect, is it because some cannot appreciate them? Or because of England's often poor attitude towards learning languages (the dreaded, everyone speaks English) just looking to gauge some opinions for a paper I am writing.
Tar
Difficulty does not equal value; many things are difficult (e.g. juggling bricks), that does not make them valuable

The truth is that languages are very useful when combined with something else such as business but offer little on their own; most jobs that would benefit from bilingual applicants are skilled and require a high degree of expertise in other fields that cannot be obtained without rigorous, in-depth study of another subject.

Languages are a side-dish, if you will.
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Snufkin
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I find it very strange that the OP is asking this question considering only a few days ago he said Russian was pointless and inferred that Italian was not going to get you a job. :curious:

(Original post by michaelhaych)
Difficulty does not equal value; many things are difficult (e.g. juggling bricks), that does not make them valuable

The truth is that languages are very useful when combined with something else such as business but offer little on their own; most jobs that would benefit from bilingual applicants are skilled and require a high degree of expertise in other fields that cannot be obtained without rigorous, in-depth study of another subject.

Languages are a side-dish, if you will.
And you know this how? It's almost comical the way so many science students on TSR actively, one might almost say wilfully disregard languages and the humanities in general The truth is you have no idea what you're talking about, all the evidence shows that languages are some of the most valued degrees amongst employers. Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen. Take Wittgenstein's advice.
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tengentoppa
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(Original post by TheBigJosh)
I often am told that studying languages (my area of degree) is worthless, but why is considered so? They can be among some of the most challenging degrees going (awaits bites) so why the disrespect, is it because some cannot appreciate them? Or because of England's often poor attitude towards learning languages (the dreaded, everyone speaks English) just looking to gauge some opinions for a paper I am writing.
Tar
Language degrees are, I would say, as useful as other arts degrees like History or English, and will be seen as such by employers. I would say the uni you attend is just as, if not more important, then subject choice.

With regards to employment, a French and Spanish degree from Oxford would definitely be seen as impressive. A language degree from London Met? Not so much.

Of course another issue is that some people study languages with, say, economics or law. For this reason it is sometimes viewed as an add-on rather than being viewed as worthy in its own right.

I study 2 languages at A-Level and find them both interesting and challenging, but instead of doing a language degree, I'm going to use my language skills to do Law with French Law. One of the reasons is that it is more employable.

Lastly, I hope you don't take our argument last night as indicative of me looking down on language degrees. I don't.
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Anatheme
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I think it also depends on what languages you're doing. Most people in the UK thinks French is useless or at least not particularly important and easily dismiss it in favour of languages that are seen as useful, ie. Arabic, Mandarin.

I find that as a rule, native speakers of English just simply don't realise how useful and needed foreign languages are. Not gonna complain, that means more jobs for us linguists
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username1305705
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(Original post by michaelhaych)
Difficulty does not equal value; many things are difficult (e.g. juggling bricks), that does not make them valuable

The truth is that languages are very useful when combined with something else such as business but offer little on their own; most jobs that would benefit from bilingual applicants are skilled and require a high degree of expertise in other fields that cannot be obtained without rigorous, in-depth study of another subject.

Languages are a side-dish, if you will.
Honestly, I am so fed up of this "hate" towards humanities subjects....
Languages are always useful - they are not a "side-dish", that is quite an "ignorant" comment if I may say so.
I find them extremely interesting and enriching - they give you the possibility to look at the world from different and new points of view, because if you're smart enough, you will be learning about the history, culture, etc. of the country you're interested in, and not only how to survive in it. A language is much more that simply knowing how to introduce yourself or knowing how to translate a discussion about Politics or Economics, etc., but I've realised that very few people understand this concept. I like to think that a language is a "key" that "unlocks" a unique area, be it big or small, and is the first step to feeling really a part, or "citizen", of the world.

I am bilingual myself, Italian and British, and couldn't be happier. I know from experience that I have a much more open mentality than other people of my age here. I've studied French, German and Latin at school, and am to this day very proud of my choice. Each literature has given me insight into different yet sometimes similar mentalities and sets of values, and studying the languages themselves has made me realise how complex and wonderful the entire world is.

Now, I am looking forward (hopefully) to doing my Scandinavian Studies degree, as it goes without saying that I find Scandi culture amazing, not only the beautiful languages.
I am sure that my passion and curiosity will enable me to live a very interesting life indeed - and, of course, I would owe it all to languages. :proud:
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Anatheme
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(Sorry in advance for what I suspect will be a tonne of typos)

(Original post by Ronove)
I must say I find it very interesting when I see a bilingual person go on to study other languages at university. I know that Anatheme was one such person on here - she is French and decided to study Russian and Arabic at a UK university. She must have a very interesting take on it all.
Weyyy, only just noticed this, haha. I only posted a very short reply above, but I can definitely expand on my views.

I can obviously only talk for the UK, but before I start, I'd just like to mention that I've worked on languages with school pupils at GCSE and A-Level levels, and it was particularly interesting experience because their take on language learning was very different from mine. As mentioned, I'm originally from France and moved to the UK to do my undergrad there. I've stayed, worked for a year as a librarian, and I'm currently doing an MA. Although I don't plan to go back to France anytime soon, I did, however, spend 16 years in school being taught things the French way.

I can't say I'm particularly fond of the way the French system works, but there's one thing it's good for, and that's languages. Don't get me wrong, the teaching isn't great, we could probably do with more variety, etc. but we HAVE to study at least two languages between the age of 10 and 18. Similarly, if you decide to go into further education, there will be languages, no matter what branch you're in: humanities, sciences, everyone can study languages. A friend of mine back home doing medicine is still studying English in her 5th year, and another doing Dentistry is doing German.

If you decide to do Politics/IR or Economics/Business/Management, etc. there's no way of avoiding languages. You'll have at least one, but it can go up to three foreign languages. While I have problems with the way languages are taught in class (be it in France or in the UK), I have to say that I admire the French system for not letting us forget languages. Someone made a point earlier about languages being a side dish, and as despicable as I find the idea, I can't say it's not true. To be truly employable, you must be good at something else than your languages. Luckily, a language degree in the UK means you have plenty of opportunities to gain new skills and learn things that aren't strictly language-related.

I was lucky enough to study History, Literature and Politics alongside my two languages, and while these subjects are too often labelled as useless, I've gained a lot from them, personally and professionally. Working in a library meant that I constantly relied on how much Russian lit or history I knew to help students and academics find things, now the little political background I gained during my degree helped me get a place onto one of the best programmes for War Studies in the world, but really, in both cases, what really helped me were my languages.

But to reiterate, I think the main issue with language degrees is the stigma attached to the languages studied. I've never been told my degree was useless, on the contrary, I tried dropping Arabic once and a tutor begged me to keep it because "it's incredibly useful". People don't bat an eyelid when I tell them what I want to do, because with Russian and Arabic, which are seen as useful languages, they just assume I'll get any job I want. The truth is, if I weren't specialising, I'd actually have more problems finding a job than someone who's done German or even Swedish (thankfully I have French to make things more even).

I couldn't tell the reason why some languages are more stigmatised than others. I assume it's because Europe seems quite cohesive and we're used to think that English is the lingua franca. It's really not, especially if we consider that there's far more German and French native speakers in Europe than there are English native speakers. Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, they all seem more important because we hear a lot about them on a regular basis, for political or economical reasons. People probably feel that because there's so far and we know so little about them, that makes them more useful.

I was shocked, however, when I got to work with GCSE and A-Level students to see how little they cared about languages. It's one of these subjects, alongside maths, for which people from Western countries assume that you need a gift for (there's an incredibly interesting article about this right here, and I definitely think it applies to languages.) The issue is the same in France, but unlike the UK, there seems to be some positive moves made in favour of learning languages, as opposed to allowing students to go through school without learning any other language.

At the end of the day, I think we're probably going through a phase where there's so many of us in education that it needs to be efficient. Languages are not efficient, they're a much more random learning process than is required to sit standardised tests that are poorly designed to truly assess someone's skills. It won't fit in units and chapters, and that's why people give up on them. That and the fact that globalisation is taking place at such a rapid place and in an era during which English is more or less the international language means that people don't see the point in making an effort to learn anything else. Too much efforts, too time-consuming, it's just simply not worth it.

(Original post by Samual)
And you know this how? It's almost comical the way so many science students on TSR actively, one might almost say wilfully disregard languages and the humanities in general The truth is you have no idea what you're talking about, all the evidence shows that languages are some of the most valued degrees amongst employers. Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen. Take Wittgenstein's advice.
(Original post by Heimdallr33)
Honestly, I am so fed up of this "hate" towards humanities subjects....
Languages are always useful - they are not a "side-dish", that is quite an "ignorant" comment if I may say so.
I find them extremely interesting and enriching - they give you the possibility to look at the world from different and new points of view, because if you're smart enough, you will be learning about the history, culture, etc. of the country you're interested in, and not only how to survive in it. A language is much more that simply knowing how to introduce yourself or knowing how to translate a discussion about Politics or Economics, etc., but I've realised that very few people understand this concept. I like to think that a language is a "key" that "unlocks" a unique area, be it big or small, and is the first step to feeling really a part, or "citizen", of the world.
In all honesty, they didn't say they were useless, simply that knowing another subject as well would be more beneficial. Of course languages are incredibly beneficial on a personal or professional level, but if you know nothing but a language, you won't get anywhere in life. Luckily, you do get to learn other things during a language degree that will allow you to be employable (and it would be incredibly stupid to think that a language degree, as opposed to languages, is a side dish).

A language degree is incredibly versatile because of the range of other things that comes under it. Be it history, politics, literature, business, etc., you have a great advantage in that not only are you specialised in an area, you also learn the language, meaning you're much more valuable to employers. It'd be delusional, however, to think that just knowing languages will land you a job, you need other skills because employers would prefer to spend as little time as possible training people.

(Original post by tengentoppa)
Language degrees are, I would say, as useful as other arts degrees like History or English, and will be seen as such by employers. I would say the uni you attend is just as, if not more important, then subject choice.

With regards to employment, a French and Spanish degree from Oxford would definitely be seen as impressive. A language degree from London Met? Not so much.

Of course another issue is that some people study languages with, say, economics or law. For this reason it is sometimes viewed as an add-on rather than being viewed as worthy in its own right.

I study 2 languages at A-Level and find them both interesting and challenging, but instead of doing a language degree, I'm going to use my language skills to do Law with French Law. One of the reasons is that it is more employable.

Lastly, I hope you don't take our argument last night as indicative of me looking down on language degrees. I don't.
The massive advantage we have over other humanities degrees is that ours is much more versatile. We don't just do history or literature, we do both. And more. Depending on your programme you can do business, you can do politics, you can do a large range of subjects that, actually, can be quite good to have a CV (and no, they're not Business and a Language, they're actual language degrees with a business module or two). Language degrees are definitely not considered the same as a History or English degree, far from it.

But yeah, I'm afraid I'm gonna generalise and classify you as one of TSR's many know-it-all-and-more because you clearly seem to think you do know it all and you haven't even completed your A-Levels. When you get to the stage where you're looking for a job, you'll realise how little your institution or even your grades matter. Your grades might make a difference if you're applying for a job that asks you for a particular set of GCSE or A-Level grades, but if you get the standard 2:1 at uni, no-one will bat an eyelid unless you go for something ridiculously competitive that everyone else wants to do (like finance or law). The rest of the world will not care, but it's not something you'll realise until you get out of the academic bubble.

And you'll also realise that an education is not the key to getting a job. There's more unemployed people than there are jobs, it's unlikely to change and even if you get the right grades and degree, there's no guarantee you'll get a job. The same way someone who has a completely different background from yours could get the job you thought you were perfect for and that they should not have been able to get because they didn't seem to have the right skills/education. It's a lottery out there, you can't assume that doing a specific degree is better than doing another degree or no degree at all, it doesn't work that way.

In the meantime, just don't make assumptions when you don't know what it's like. You've not been through university, you haven't even tried to get a full-time job, so spare us the *******s and focus on getting something useful out of your A-Levels.
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geoking
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Sweet baby Jesus whats up with the walls of text?

It boils down to one simple point - what job are you going to get with a language degree?

When assessing the value of a degree, that is all that matters.
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(Original post by geoking)
Sweet baby Jesus whats up with the walls of text?

It boils down to one simple point - what job are you going to get with a language degree?

When assessing the value of a degree, that is all that matters.
Because the problem is you can do whatever you want with a language degree. It really boils down to which language, and what skills you have on the side. And job prospects should certainly not be the only thing to matter when picking a degree…
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Because it seems to be a common opinion for people to have that if your degree doesn't lead directly to a job (i.e. Medicine, Dentistry, Law) then it's inferior or useless.

I've actually had people tell me that learning languages is useless because "you can just use Google translate". The ignorance is hilarious.
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(Original post by Heimdallr33)
Honestly, I am so fed up of this "hate" towards humanities subjects....
Languages are always useful - they are not a "side-dish", that is quite an "ignorant" comment if I may say so.
I find them extremely interesting and enriching - they give you the possibility to look at the world from different and new points of view, because if you're smart enough, you will be learning about the history, culture, etc. of the country you're interested in, and not only how to survive in it. A language is much more that simply knowing how to introduce yourself or knowing how to translate a discussion about Politics or Economics, etc., but I've realised that very few people understand this concept. I like to think that a language is a "key" that "unlocks" a unique area, be it big or small, and is the first step to feeling really a part, or "citizen", of the world.

I am bilingual myself, Italian and British, and couldn't be happier. I know from experience that I have a much more open mentality than other people of my age here. I've studied French, German and Latin at school, and am to this day very proud of my choice. Each literature has given me insight into different yet sometimes similar mentalities and sets of values, and studying the languages themselves has made me realise how complex and wonderful the entire world is.

Now, I am looking forward (hopefully) to doing my Scandinavian Studies degree, as it goes without saying that I find Scandi culture amazing, not only the beautiful languages.
I am sure that my passion and curiosity will enable me to live a very interesting life indeed - and, of course, I would owe it all to languages. :proud:
It was blatantly obvious that my point was related to the employment side of a language degree rather than any associated emotional fulfilment
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username1305705
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(Original post by michaelhaych)
It was blatantly obvious that my point was related to the employment side of a language degree rather than any associated emotional fulfilment
Sorry, I guess I got carried away :erm:
I still wouldn't call languages a side-dish though, especially when one chooses a language degree.
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geoking
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(Original post by Anatheme)
Because the problem is you can do whatever you want with a language degree. It really boils down to which language, and what skills you have on the side. And job prospects should certainly not be the only thing to matter when picking a degree…
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha .
Okay, go be a doctor. Or a chemical engineer. Or a surveyor. Or economist.

Come on, back to reality now, you are very, very limited with a language degree as it is generic and not meant for a specific job or career.

Yes job prospects are the ONLY thing that matters when you are paying over £30,000 for something. You enjoy German? Learn it as a hobby, but a degree is an investment in your future and career, not to progress you in your hobby.
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