What you need to know before studying a modern languages degree

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Anonymous #1
#1
Report Thread starter 4 months ago
#1
Hello,

I currently study Modern Languages, and I want to give any prospective ML applicants some insight into the degree before they apply.

I study at Durham, and to be honest, I'm not too keen on the degree. I love learning languages. I speak three language fluently, and am learning a few others to a lesser degree. I chose to study ML because of my passion for languages. I know that in a time where we're more connected than ever, learning a language is super important. However, I'd like to summarise my main point in this one sentence: major in something applicable to the real world, minor in something you like. That is, study something that opens up your career prospects, and take extra credits in what you love. I wish I had chosen Compsci or done linguistics at another university, as what I'm hoping to go into is a mix of both. This is the content of a generic BA in ML:
  • A language module (around a third of the yearly credits)
  • Culture modules (the remaining two thirds)

You see, what you learn in culture modules will not directly apply to the real world, unless you are set on becoming an academic in language studies. As enjoyable as it may be (e.g. I loved reading Flaubert's works), it's not going to teach you skills in the workplace or make you more employable. It's purely academic and not in any way related to the real world. That's the hard truth! It'd be better to do a course like:
  • Economics with a language
  • Politics with a language
  • Business with a language
  • Law and a language

As such, you'll have a really employable skill, and you'll be in a better boat than I'll be at the end of my degree. For me, the way to combat this was to do internships in new fields. I'm currently interning at an NLP company, and that's where my newfound interest in Compsci has come from.

On another note, your language classes will generally be short, and you'll be left to your own devices. Furthermore, there are lots of people who cannot speak the language well, and it may hinder your progress if you're always around people who cannot speak the language as well as you.

That's what I've got to say for now. Please be mindful before studying anything. Here's a breakdown of the costs:

Yearly tuition: £9,250
Maintenance loan: £3,158
Length of BA: 3 years
Total minimum debt to repay (without interest): £37,224
That's a chonky loan. Think before you study!
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sizzlesazzle
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#2
Report 4 months ago
#2
(Original post by Anonymous)
Hello,

I currently study Modern Languages, and I want to give any prospective ML applicants some insight into the degree before they apply.

I study at Durham, and to be honest, I'm not too keen on the degree. I love learning languages. I speak three language fluently, and am learning a few others to a lesser degree. I chose to study ML because of my passion for languages. I know that in a time where we're more connected than ever, learning a language is super important. However, I'd like to summarise my main point in this one sentence: major in something applicable to the real world, minor in something you like. That is, study something that opens up your career prospects, and take extra credits in what you love. I wish I had chosen Compsci or done linguistics at another university, as what I'm hoping to go into is a mix of both. This is the content of a generic BA in ML:
  • A language module (around a third of the yearly credits)
  • Culture modules (the remaining two thirds)

You see, what you learn in culture modules will not directly apply to the real world, unless you are set on becoming an academic in language studies. As enjoyable as it may be (e.g. I loved reading Flaubert's works), it's not going to teach you skills in the workplace or make you more employable. It's purely academic and not in any way related to the real world. That's the hard truth! It'd be better to do a course like:
  • Economics with a language
  • Politics with a language
  • Business with a language
  • Law and a language

As such, you'll have a really employable skill, and you'll be in a better boat than I'll be at the end of my degree. For me, the way to combat this was to do internships in new fields. I'm currently interning at an NLP company, and that's where my newfound interest in Compsci has come from.

On another note, your language classes will generally be short, and you'll be left to your own devices. Furthermore, there are lots of people who cannot speak the language well, and it may hinder your progress if you're always around people who cannot speak the language as well as you.

That's what I've got to say for now. Please be mindful before studying anything. Here's a breakdown of the costs:

Yearly tuition: £9,250
Maintenance loan: £3,158
Length of BA: 3 years
Total minimum debt to repay (without interest): £37,224
That's a chonky loan. Think before you study!
I really like this post! I graduated in 2020 with a BA in History and a Modern Language and I totally agree with everything you've said. I loved studying the language but I am so glad I also had History. History is where I learned the majority of my transferable employability skills.
One thing I would add to your post is that the small amount of contact hours (I had 7 hours TOTAL a week in second year) meant that I could do lots of other things. I volunteered in multiple places, did internships during term time, and had a job. It's this extra work experience that has allowed me to stand out in job applications and ultimately pursue my dream career. If I'd have studied a course with more contact hours then I would never have had these opportunities.
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hurts2hatelo
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#3
Report 3 months ago
#3
I think it all depends on your university choice, too. Personally I had zero interest in universities like Warwick, Cambridge, St Andrews, etc. because of their high focus on culture and literature rather than language.

I’m at Leeds and 80/120 credits are from my language modules.

I’m only in first year so I can’t say anything about employability or such, but I’d like to either go straight into translation or do a masters in applied translation and then find a job in the field. I already plan to take a class in translation in Japan on my year abroad and then another in final year too.
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artful_lounger
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#4
Report 3 months ago
#4
It's sad to see Durham doesn't teach the critical analysis required to understand the concept of "transferable skills". Also any trained monkey can write some code which is why CS degrees have had some of the worst grad prospects for the last 10 years (to the point that the government had to commission two inquiries into it).

If you can't connect the skills you're developing to the real world that is a personal, not institutional, failing. Likewise if you failed to get relevant work experience and did not actively make yourself employable during your studies that is on you - and at the end of the day if you leave university with nothing more than a piece of paper saying "bachelor's" on it you aren't very employable regardless of whether said piece of paper was for CS or languages or something else.
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JosephCiderBwoy
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#5
Report 3 months ago
#5
(Original post by artful_lounger)
It's sad to see Durham doesn't teach the critical analysis required to understand the concept of "transferable skills". Also any trained monkey can write some code which is why CS degrees have had some of the worst grad prospects for the last 10 years (to the point that the government had to commission two inquiries into it).

If you can't connect the skills you're developing to the real world that is a personal, not institutional, failing. Likewise if you failed to get relevant work experience and did not actively make yourself employable during your studies that is on you - and at the end of the day if you leave university with nothing more than a piece of paper saying "bachelor's" on it you aren't very employable regardless of whether said piece of paper was for CS or languages or something else.
I'm afraid studying queer lesbian theory doesn't make you employable, unfortunately. It's a shame you don't understand that a monkey cannot code or do a CS degree, and that you'd think to compare modern languages to CS. University is meant to make you employable. That's the whole point of studying statistics, mechanics, engineering, psychology etc. Unless you want a job solely in language-related jobs, like teaching, translation, interpreting or jobs at embassies, or go further afield into NLP or international relations, you shouldn't just do this degree willy nilly.
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Agata-Aleksandra
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#6
Report 2 months ago
#6
(Original post by Anonymous)
Hello,

I currently study Modern Languages, and I want to give any prospective ML applicants some insight into the degree before they apply.

I study at Durham, and to be honest, I'm not too keen on the degree. I love learning languages. I speak three language fluently, and am learning a few others to a lesser degree. I chose to study ML because of my passion for languages. I know that in a time where we're more connected than ever, learning a language is super important. However, I'd like to summarise my main point in this one sentence: major in something applicable to the real world, minor in something you like. That is, study something that opens up your career prospects, and take extra credits in what you love. I wish I had chosen Compsci or done linguistics at another university, as what I'm hoping to go into is a mix of both. This is the content of a generic BA in ML:
  • A language module (around a third of the yearly credits)
  • Culture modules (the remaining two thirds)

You see, what you learn in culture modules will not directly apply to the real world, unless you are set on becoming an academic in language studies. As enjoyable as it may be (e.g. I loved reading Flaubert's works), it's not going to teach you skills in the workplace or make you more employable. It's purely academic and not in any way related to the real world. That's the hard truth! It'd be better to do a course like:
  • Economics with a language
  • Politics with a language
  • Business with a language
  • Law and a language

As such, you'll have a really employable skill, and you'll be in a better boat than I'll be at the end of my degree. For me, the way to combat this was to do internships in new fields. I'm currently interning at an NLP company, and that's where my newfound interest in Compsci has come from.

On another note, your language classes will generally be short, and you'll be left to your own devices. Furthermore, there are lots of people who cannot speak the language well, and it may hinder your progress if you're always around people who cannot speak the language as well as you.

That's what I've got to say for now. Please be mindful before studying anything. Here's a breakdown of the costs:

Yearly tuition: £9,250
Maintenance loan: £3,158
Length of BA: 3 years
Total minimum debt to repay (without interest): £37,224
That's a chonky loan. Think before you study!
Hi! I’m currently applying to do a joint honours, specifically in french and English literature, and I was wondering if I could message with more questions about your experience? I’m currently really torn as i’d love to do a joint honours and develop my writing style and analysis more, hence the English lit (I’ve also applied to some unis for international politics), but I’m torn as I’d love to take a MFL degree and continue french as well as learn a new language, like Russian or Chinese mandarin. I was considering going down the joint honours route, then doing a law conversion course to go into human rights based law etc. Would MFL degrees be more detrimental to that than a joint honours with English or politics alongside a language? Would a language not help at all then? As I was under the impression that languages and language degrees are very employable and a valuable skill?
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