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Friday, December 22, 2006 (read 821 times)
 

The Guardian: Is language a barrier for monolingual grads seeking work?

by Erin

The Education Guardian recently published a thought-provoking article about languages and jobs: Language barrier blocks British graduates.

The article quotes Bill Houston, director of the undergrad international business programme at the Newcastle Business School. Commenting on the competition he sees for business jobs, and current conversations in the UK over whether to require students to take a foreign language - at any point in their education - Mr Houston makes a strong case for the importance of a second language in a European job search:

"As the demand for business graduates with language skills increases, the supply of British students with such skills has fallen. German, Dutch and French graduates are filling the gap caused by the UK's language drain."

Later he adds:

"It is not uncommon for European business graduates to be fluent in two other languages. One of our German partners sends students to us for a business programme then to Spain for a Spanish language programme."

What do you think? Would requiring foreign language study earlier in a student's career help? (C'mon, German and Dutch readers, you know you start early on those second and third languages.)

The article reminds me of the shock of my first experience selecting a intern for the Marketing department at don Quijote. As an American, newly arrived to Europe, I was stunned by the CVs I received - yep, from Dutch and Belgian and German and Swedish and Polish and other European candidates. In their third or fourth year at university, these students had at least 3 languages under their belt, usually their native language, fluent English, and intermediate Spanish (with many holding their own in a 4th language, as well). Most had already lived abroad for some period of time, while learning one or more of those languages.

Let's see… among my interns at dQ we find: 2 Dutch business majors, both fairly strong in 3 languages, a Belgian marketeer strong in 5, a German journalism student with 2 plus a splash of Spanish, a brilliant Irish marketing grad who spoke, well, English… and an American who did the same.

I'm passionate about getting my paisanos - Americans - to live, work and travel abroad, if only briefly, but those intern's CVs and this article show me it'll be challenge.

What do you think? Have you seen language skills be important in a job search?

My answer is yes, obviously.


Keywords: work,university,study,students,spanish,news,jobs,business

Comments

1 » Erin (on Tuesday, January 30, 2007) said:

Thanks for the comment, Franko. I'm not sure I'd say Spaniards of all walks of life speak another language in Castilla Leon, but the number is growing. I think they are seeing the benefit/necessity; I have exactly no friends whose children are not learning English with the passionate support of their parents.

I´m just back from the States with 2 observations: one, that I can now speak Spanish just about anywhere in the US; two that a part of the highly educated population and just about all of non college educated Americans are convinced bilingual people have some secret lingo gene that made the second language pop into their heads fully learned.

I think you´re on to something when you mention the "concept of language learning" - I think the way we teach languages has everything to do with this! Learning Spanish was fun, challenging, eye opening, brain stretching and life changing for me. Now how do I get monolingual English speakers on both

2 » Franko Paul

I agree with what Mr. Houston says.

As an British graduate of Spanish, I have always been deeply aware of the general lack of multi-linguistic ability. We have been falling behind our European counterparts for decades. Go to Spain and many people from all walks of life will be able to speak English to you. Same thing in France and Italy. Many German and Dutch people will also be able to communicate in several other languages besides.

In the UK, I believe our whole concept of language learning is somewhat skewed: bilingualism is seen as something special that other people do. In other countries it is perceived as the norm.

3 » Erin (on Tuesday, January 30, 2007) said:

Thanks for the comment, Franko. I'm not sure I'd say Spaniards of all walks of life speak another language in Castilla Leon, but the number is growing. I think they are seeing the benefit/necessity; I have exactly no friends whose children are not learning English with the passionate support of their parents.

I´m just back from the States with 2 observations: one, that I can now speak Spanish just about anywhere in the US; two that a part of the highly educated population and just about all of non college educated Americans are convinced bilingual people have some secret lingo gene that made the second language pop into their heads fully learned.

I think you´re on to something when you mention the "concept of language learning" - I think the way we teach languages has everything to do with this! Learning Spanish was fun, challenging, eye opening, brain stretching and life changing for me. Now how do I get monolingual English speakers on both

4 » Franko Paul

I agree with what Mr. Houston says.

As an British graduate of Spanish, I have always been deeply aware of the general lack of multi-linguistic ability. We have been falling behind our European counterparts for decades. Go to Spain and many people from all walks of life will be able to speak English to you. Same thing in France and Italy. Many German and Dutch people will also be able to communicate in several other languages besides.

In the UK, I believe our whole concept of language learning is somewhat skewed: bilingualism is seen as something special that other people do. In other countries it is perceived as the norm.

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