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    Hi,

    this is a question (or snide comment) that I tend to hear a lot when talking to new people about studying German and Spanish at university; why are you studying languages when everyone else studies English anyway, isn't it pointless?

    I do completely disagree and think that a languages degree is extremely valuable however in a job context I can never really give a good answer as to why. Why is it that me being English and studying other languages is worthwhile when there must be so many German and Spanish people studying English? The only thing I tend to come up with is that you cannot translate to English well if you are foreign and learn it as a second language, but thats as far as I get really.

    I'm interested to see what your views on this are
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    The way I see it, is that at the end of a language degree, you have a skill as well as an education.

    Also, wHen someone asks what I learnt from my course, hopefully my fluency in two foreign languages should speak for itself.
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    Well I think that, in terms of international businesses, companies like to buy things in their own language (e.g. German companies like to be sold to in German) although they're happy to sell in English. The English are notorious for having the whole 'everyone speaks English so I won't learn another language' attitude so you being able to speak even one foreign language to a high standard is useful and valuable (if, for example, your employer needs to deal with foreign countries but cannot speak the required language). Hmm I'm sure there are better reasons than that though.
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    Well, I want to learn Spanish purely because I want to know more than one language. Plus, sure, everyone does learn to speak English but it's not every day an English person decides to learn Spanish.
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    (Original post by Spanghew)
    hopefully my fluency in two foreign languages should speak for itself.

    Was that an intentional pun? If so, then might I suggest a slight improvement, by replacing 'itself' with 'themselves' perhaps?




    Hold on, I actually had something constructive to add as well. Many of the jobs in 'The City' are being filled up by foreigners, some of which are quite good, but many have only got their job because they speak whatever language it is that they use in the market they are dealing with, and are otherwise pretty useless. So merely viewing doing a foreign language degree as a route to a career as a tour rep or translator isn't looking at the bigger picture, that being there is more money outside of the UK than in it, and to be able to get it, you need to be able to speak their language...
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    (Original post by Stomm)
    Was that an intentional pun?
    No, it was one on those fabled unintentional puns, I'm afraid
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    If you wanted to work in Spain or Germany, doing a Spanish and German degree can assist you in doing this. If you want to work in the UK, it's just another degree (just like History, English etc.).
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    (Original post by Stomm)
    Was that an intentional pun? If so, then might I suggest a slight improvement, by replacing 'itself' with 'themselves' perhaps?




    Hold on, I actually had something constructive to add as well. Many of the jobs in 'The City' are being filled up by foreigners, some of which are quite good, but many have only got their job because they speak whatever language it is that they use in the market they are dealing with, and are otherwise pretty useless. So merely viewing doing a foreign language degree as a route to a career as a tour rep or translator isn't looking at the bigger picture, that being there is more money outside of the UK than in it, and to be able to get it, you need to be able to speak their language...
    I agree that it's a good point, but what would separate me from a German person who is fluent in English when applying for a job like that for example? Is it just that I am English and they aren't or is there no significance?
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    (Original post by afc1886)
    I agree that it's a good point, but what would separate me from a German person who is fluent in English when applying for a job like that for example? Is it just that I am English and they aren't or is there no significance?

    Well, say that we are talking about a London based job that deals with, for the sake of your example the German market (although Spain or Eastern Europe might be a better example). You will be working in English, but dealing with your customers, etc... in German, Spanish or whatever.

    So basically your day-to-day work is going to be that much easier if you are a native English speaker, especially when it comes to understanding contracts (which will be in English), getting on and ahead with your co-workers and management. That is unless of course said 2nd language English speaker that you are talking about is so fluent in English that they can understand it to the same level as a 25 year old native English speaker with a university education, in which case they are probably 45, and won't be going for the sort of jobs in question as they will be nearing the peak of their career, rather than a graduate level or other relatively junior position.



    Well, that's the way I see it anyway. Of course as an English speaker with a 2nd language you would probably be at a disadvantage when applying for jobs where your 2nd language is the primary language of business, unless there were exceptional circumstances. For example applying for work in Spain in an area where the majority of customers are ex-pat Brits you might do well, but applying for a job in Spain or say Mexico where you might have to deal with British or US customers in the UK or the US, you may well lose out to natives with English as a 2nd language, in the same way as the reverse over here.



    I hope that was at least partially clear? I know that I tend to waffle on somewhat when explaining myself...



    PS. to whoever neg-reped me for the 'itself' and 'themselves', it's a joke. Obviously the sentence would make no sense as it was actually intended, but it would make the unintentional pun slightly more amusing...
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    (Original post by Stomm)
    PS. to whoever neg-reped me for the 'itself' and 'themselves', it's a joke. Obviously the sentence would make no sense as it was actually intended, but it would make the unintentional pun slightly more amusing...
    Someone negged you for that? What a waste of good rep.

    (wasn't me, btw :p: )
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    The two are unrelated. A degree signifies a level of proficiency in a particular subject. Some subjects have more depth than others, which makes them more credible; the degrees where you learn an actual skill such as a foreign language are harder to quantify and more problematic because people do not see them as a skill in a normal sense - being able to write well is another example of an undervalued skill, which most people think they can do.
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    (Original post by afc1886)
    Hi,

    this is a question (or snide comment) that I tend to hear a lot when talking to new people about studying German and Spanish at university; why are you studying languages when everyone else studies English anyway, isn't it pointless?

    I do completely disagree and think that a languages degree is extremely valuable however in a job context I can never really give a good answer as to why. Why is it that me being English and studying other languages is worthwhile when there must be so many German and Spanish people studying English? The only thing I tend to come up with is that you cannot translate to English well if you are foreign and learn it as a second language, but thats as far as I get really.

    I'm interested to see what your views on this are
    The thing is there are quite a few German/Spanish people who speak English but not English people that speak Spanish or German. The fact that your native language is English gives you a huge advantage. Also, if you want to sell products abroad to other companies, teach lower level English or be considered an educated person outside of the UK, in other countries in Europe, another language is very very useful.
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    That's a very typical British comment and just shows how arrogant we are about learning other languages. It also explains why there's a national shortage of English native speakers who are translators of interpreters. I think in a job context it opens up way more doors than just studying English does.
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    I have a problem with this too- although I think mine is slightly different.
    I have qualms about the value of studying languages, purely from an academic point of view- and I think this doubt is quite widely spread.

    Even people who got an offer from Cambridge (the crucial thing about Cambridge being that it has a very rigorous and scrutinizing applications process where applicants are called upon much more to justify themselves and prove their interest)- give 'wanting to learn the language' as their reason for wanting to do it as a degree. Wanting to learn a language is all fine and well- but that doesn't constitute a reason to do a degree.

    I haven't found much evidence so far of how doing languages is as rigorous as studying literature, history, maths or science. I'm just saying- I am definitely interested in studying languages, I just find myself in a similar position to you in that I don't really know or can't explain why it might be a worthwhile degree subject.
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    (Original post by yellowwdaisy)
    I have a problem with this too- although I think mine is slightly different.
    I have qualms about the value of studying languages, purely from an academic point of view- and I think this doubt is quite widely spread.

    Even people who got an offer from Cambridge (the crucial thing about Cambridge being that it has a very rigorous and scrutinizing applications process where applicants are called upon much more to justify themselves and prove their interest)- give 'wanting to learn the language' as their reason for wanting to do it as a degree. Wanting to learn a language is all fine and well- but that doesn't constitute a reason to do a degree.

    I haven't found much evidence so far of how doing languages is as rigorous as studying literature, history, maths or science. I'm just saying- I am definitely interested in studying languages, I just find myself in a similar position to you in that I don't really know or can't explain why it might be a worthwhile degree subject.
    Please can you tell me why it isn't a worthwhile degree subject in comparison to literature/history? Surely you gain the same skills as a degree such as these plus fluency in two languages?

    And how are languages NOT academic?
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    (Original post by Jacinta)
    Please can you tell me why it isn't a worthwhile degree subject in comparison to literature/history? Surely you gain the same skills as a degree such as these plus fluency in two languages?

    And how are languages NOT academic?
    I didn't say that languages aren't academic. you seem to have misread my post. my exact point is that I have doubts I can't explain about whether languages is potentially as rigorous a degree as subjects like literature and history.

    I'll try and explain my thinking a little- but I don't think I'll get any further with this until I start my french & german course this October. All I can do now is speculate.

    Firstly, by far the best way to become fluent in a foreign language is to go and live in the country where it is spoken, and arguably attend a good language school for a certain period, and do everything you can to speak the language with native speakers. My experience is that however fluent I get, and however long I spend in the country, I start to forget the language and lose my fluency as soon as I come back to the UK. So I certainly take issue with oral fluency being examined.

    So from the point of view of what is most 'academically worthwhile', based on your argument, you might do much better to do a literature and history degree, and spend a year in whatever country you choose for a year in addition to that (which in a lot of universities would take up the same amount of time as doing a fl degree anyway). That way you would develop the skills you would in a lit/history degree further, and become fluent in one or two languages (depending on how long you spend abroad).

    Of course there are problems putting that theory into practice (money, existence of good language schools, time ect), but I think the theory still stands.

    I think I'm also very influenced by my past experience- and that may well change when I go to university. At school and in language schools, we had a lot of unstructured discussions in the target language which did nothing for our oral fluency or anything else, as well as practising comprehension, learning vocabulary and writing short pieces of writing where we were expected to give interesting opinions on things we knew nothing about (how to solve world poverty ect).

    On the other hand, in English, we had to read and understand very
    challenging literary texts (Shakespeare, Paradise Lost, Stoppard) and write good essays about them. We had to learn to think for ourselves in order to do this. And we were only called upon to give opinions on things we could be expected to know about (the texts we were studying, literary concerns).

    Even if the teaching is significantly better at university and the standard much higher, I just find it hard to imagine how the skills I described above could be done so differently that Languages is as rigorous a degree as English or History. As far as I know, the activities in both subjects at my university are roughly the same.

    Feel free to argue with me, but remember that I don't claim to know what I'm talking about here.
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    A lot of language degrees involve studying history and/or literature elements in the target language.
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    Insult them in whatever language you've learned.
 
 
 
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