When it comes down to it, only 6.5% of the world’s population are native English speakers and moreover, only 25% can speak the language. While English is definitely the language of business, being fluent, or having intermediate proficiency in another language will obviously be of benefit.
As the world gets smaller and more and more companies become multinationals, the need for people with language skills increases. Today's employers have a positive perception of graduates holding awards in modern languages. People who undertake such studies are likely to have spent periods of time abroad, gaining an insight into another culture, adapting to new surroundings and people, and working or studying with them. Employers in all sectors will value these skills and experiences.
The current economic environment in Ireland is highly suited to people who choose to study languages at 3rd level.
Firstly, the expansion of the EU has brought with it a large increase in the amount of information passing between Ireland and different member states. The EU has laws that offer protection and equality for all member state languages. This has further helped develop opportunities in the Irish translation sector.
Secondly, Ireland now has an international economy with a huge number of multinational companies located here. Ireland is seen as a gateway to the rest of Europe and has become an attractive location for major international companies to locate their EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) base. A significant number have now located their core operations in Ireland often with a focus on providing support to business and private customers across the EMEA region. These companies are seeking language skilled graduates to fill multilingual customer support or technical support roles, multilingual accounting and multilingual sales roles. A large number of call centres have set up in Ireland as a direct result of having the required language skills available locally.
Graduates who have combined a language with business, technology or science can easily find employment opportunities in a number of industry sectors.
There is strong demand for entrants with fluency in a European language, in particular for German, Spanish, French and Italian, as well as Norwegian, Swedish, Portuguese and Dutch.
There are also increasing opportunities for graduates fluent in a language relevant to an emerging market - the combination of a degree with and cultural awareness and fluency in Chinese, Russian or Arabic is much sought after by employers, as both indigenous Irish companies and multinationals, work to capitalise on overseas business opportunities in growing economies.
Careers in business, marketing and IT sectors, amongst others, are widely available for language graduates. Employers frequently cite a shortage of multilingual candidates in Ireland as a possible barrier to growth. For example, the Irish food export industry , which is responsible for delivering the best of Irish produce across the globe, aims to establish and grow a presence within markets such as China, Brazil, India and Russia. The need for multilingual graduates with business acumen in this sector is clear, with opportunities in many business areas including sales, marketing and logistics.
Careers in translation and interpretation continue to be available and remain a popular career path for many.
Ireland’s software localisation and IT sector is experiencing rapid growth, with a vast number of exciting career opportunities available for bilingual graduates. A software localisation specialist translates software from English to native languages and adapts software to reflect cultural sensitivities. Key skills for those considering a career in localisation are linguistic expertise, cultural awareness, communication skills and an avid interest in technology and business.
The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) continues to identify linguistic expertise as one of the key skills that is essential for our continued economic development.
Specialist language occupations
These include working as a translator, interpreter, language teacher or linguist. For the former three you will need an in-depth knowledge of one or more foreign languages. Linguists don't necessarily need to speak foreign languages but the ability to do so may be helpful in gaining employment in certain sectors.
Translators translate written material from one language to another. The kind of material involved may include product manuals, business reports, business correspondence, legal documents, websites, subtitles for films, song lyrics, and literature.
To be a translator you need the ability to write and express yourself very well in the target language, usually your native tongue, and a good knowledge of the source language(s), usually foreign languages.
Interpreters work with the spoken word at conferences, meetings, legal trials, hospitals and anywhere else that interpretation is needed. Many interpreters are self-employed and find clients themselves, and/or work for agencies, who find the clients and handle payments. There are also positions for interpreters in some large organisations, such as the United Nations, EU organisations and Government departments.
Language teaching and training
There are many paths into language teaching: some people do a degree in a subject that interests them, then acquire a postgraduate qualification in teaching. A significant number of language graduates still pursue the traditional route of second-level teaching. Others continue to study a language after graduating with a degree and go on to teach in a third level college or training body.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language refers to teaching English to students for whom it is not their mother tongue. Ireland is a leading world location for TEFL teaching. There are many language schools or summer camps operating in Ireland. Many young people, usually those with a Degree and a TEFL qualification take up this type of teaching throughout the world. They work within the state school system of a foreign country or in private language school.
Linguistics is the scientific study of language. Linguists study the nature and characteristics of human language. Linguists work for a range of organisations, including universities and colleges, high-tech companies, research institutions, consulting firms. There are a number of courses in Irish Universities that train people in this very specialist field.