It is amazing how far studying modern foreign languages at university can get you. Not only does it give you an opportunity to learn to write and speak the language(s) fluently, but it also offers the chance to explore a broad range of other mediums including literature, philology, film and translation.
The diversity of this degree makes it an enriching and rewarding choice, especially in an increasingly global world where additional language skills are essential for businesses to thrive.
With studying modern foreign languages now in high demand amongst employers, we look at some of the key aspects you should consider to decide whether this is the right choice for you.
As mentioned, studying modern foreign languages is not just about learning to speak and write the language fluently. Many programmes allow you to immerse yourself in the past and present cultures of that language. You will find yourself studying literary texts, watching foreign films as well as learning about the political landscape within that country.
Different degrees at different universities place different weight to each of these areas, so it is worth taking a closer look before applying as to which form of degree might be right for you.
As part of your degree it is likely that you will study more than one language. Many will select a language from the traditional range of European languages such as French, German, Italian and Spanish but will also look at studying Russian, Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, Czech. It is worth noting that you can start one language ‘ab initio’, not having spoken it before. A chance to perhaps study something that wasn’t offered at your school!
Your first two years and final year will be made up of modules in your chosen languages. But of course one of the main attractions is the opportunity to work or study abroad or combination of the two as part of your third year.
For many languages graduates the opportunity to study or work abroad during their third year is a highlight of the course. It gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture, takes you out of your comfort zone and is a unique opportunity to experience new things.
You can choose to study in a local university, take up a work placement or a combination of the two. So you might find yourselves working in Paris on the Champs Elysee for a multinational for 6 months and studying at University in the French protectorate of Reunion or the next 6 months.
Often, if you are studying two languages you will be able to work and study in two different countries appropriate for your chosen languages. Perhaps an internship in Madrid followed by studying in Padua? Studying in Bejing and working in Russia? The possibilities are endless!
Read more about the benefits of a ‘year in the field’ here.
Language skills are an attractive quality for almost any career and, in an increasing globalized world, can greatly enhance your employability. Employers know that learning a language develops invaluable and transferable skills to the working world including confidence, communication and interpersonal skills plus being able to work fluently in another language.
In terms of jobs directly related to studying modern foreign languages, there are many ranging from interpreter, teacher or translator. But by no means are you limited to these areas. An additional language and the deeper cultural understanding that comes from studying modern foreign languages is highly thought of in industries such as international business, tourism, trade, PR, communications, international relations, management… the list goes on.
In fact, marketing was the top job held by graduates in the UK who studied MFL with business a close second.
When looking at which languages to study, especially if you are considering starting a new language when you start your course, it is worth considering which languages are the most appealing to employers. For example, Mandarin and Arabic graduates are likely to find themselves in high demand. However, remember you will have to study this language for four years so better to pick one you enjoy!
A student’s perspective
“Learning languages opens up the world to you, communicating and understanding in someone else’s language means you have a different relationship with them.
Learning languages gives you analytical skills that other subjects don’t, you look for nuance and patterns to identify meaning or apply grammar which is applicable across life.
Hardly any of my contemporaries do a job that is directly linked with their degrees but speaking another language to a high level makes you stand out, especially in an international market.
Most international students speak at least 2 languages fluently (including English) so you really need to up the ante with your skills in an increasingly globalised world.”
Charlotte Hughes D’Aeth, MFL Student and Languages Teacher
- A Level: ABB – AAB depending on combinations
- IB: 34-36 points overall
- Having gained a prior qualification in a chosen language is preferred
- UK/EU students: £9,250
- International students: £16,230 – 19,197
As a four year course, it is worth considering the cost of your year abroad in addition to the fees. Funding can be available through Erasmus or directly from your university.