Language Studies at Undergrad Level: Scope and Options Available

Learning a foreign language is necessary to work effectively. Which languages must you go for? Which are the best places to study?

The study of a foreign language or two has ingrained in the modern Indian education system. It is now seen as an essential to succeed in a corporate career due to the multicultural nature of the business world. If really mastered, it can also prove to be a highly lucrative career as a translator. A lot of people also choose language studies at undergrad level itself because of a natural interest in the literature of some country or a general fondness. Other lot stumbles onto such courses due to lack of other options available. Overall, we break down what are the languages that ought to be pursued, what career options and from where can they be pursued. 

Language studies can be pursued in two different modes at the undergrad level. The first method is as a full time course for a three year graduation. This is highly specialized and few institutions are available for such options. The other more popular mode is a part time along with some major course from another college. Often the colleges offering the regular courses themselves offer language options alongside. 

Following are some of the most popular foreign language options pursued in India along with their future scope:

  • French: This is possibly the most popular foreign language studied in India. It gives major advantages all over the world as it is the Lingua France (language of mutual communication) across parts of Western, Central and North Africa, Indo-China, Western Europe and parts of the Caribbean and the South Pacific. In addition to being the main language in France which is one of the world’s largest economies, it is also  one of the languages in other developed nations such as Switzerland, Belgium and Canada. While first language speakers of French are comparatively lesser, it is the second most prominent language in the UN, and its grasp enables the person to communicate with a vast chunk of the world’s population. Given its image as being one of the sweetest of world’s languages is another reason for its enduring popularity. 
  • German: This is another extremely popular language to study given its importance in the business world. It is the language of choice among banking circles in Western and Central Europe. Germany itself is Europe’s top economy and on the continent’s mainland, it has the largest number of native speakers. Germany lacks colonial history, that the German does not have much of an appeal outside Europe. 
  • Spanish is a language that gives immense practical benefits and business power. It is the first language in more than twenty countries in Latin America including large ones such as Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Colombia and oil rich Venezuela. In addition Brazil and Portugal speak Portuguese which is quite similar a language. Spain itself is one of the larger economies of Europe. Overall, learning Spanish at this stage could prove to be a masterstroke. 
  • Mandarin (Chinese): China has several languages but the one spoken by the majority is Mandarin. This is one language which cannot be studied alongside others, but has to be given full time dedication. Main reason being the difference in script ,unlike French, German or other European languages which share the Roman script with English. In addition, the script is pictorial by nature with about a thousand characters making it almost impossible for anyone to master in short span of time. The hard-work though will pay off handsomely as Mandarin today is the most in-demand subject. China will soon overtake USA as the world’s largest economy and thus business ties need to be strong with the country. The country comparatively  weakness in the English language which precipitates a further requirement for language experts. Its comparative difficulty in mastering creates a further demand for those few who can excel. 
  • Italian: The scope is comparatively small with the only major market being Italy itself which is Europe’s 4th largest economy.  
  • Russian: The scope is moderate. Russia is extremely large and Russian is understood in parts across the former USSR as well as Easter Europe. English understanding is also quite low in the country. Russia is also a member of BRICS and has rich in oil resources. 
  • Portuguese: Another language with a moderate scope, Portuguese is the main language in Brazil. The country is vying for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council so its prestige might rise. Yet a working knowledge of Spanish could instead suffice.
  • Japanese: has good scope as Japan is one of the world’s largest economies and one of India’s main trading partners. The English understanding also being quite low, Japanese is essential for communication in the country. Japanese too has a pictorial script so a massive dedication is required to master the language. 
  • Persian: This has been a very important language in Medieval India and its influence can continue to be observed in various aspects. Its scope however has reduced with Iran itself being the only country where it is spoken in large numbers though, a working knowledge can help across Central Asia. 
  • Arabic: has massive scope as lot of Arabic speaking countries are extremely oil rich and have major business ties with us. Arabic is the main language across North Africa, the Levant and the Middle East. Grasp over the language will enable easy communication across countries such as UAE, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Oman, Qatar and Egypt. A lot of Muslims also study the language for religious purposes. 

The following are the best places to study these languages- either part time or full time: 

  • Department for Germanic & Romance Studies: This is the department of Delhi University which provides full 3 year undergraduate and subsequent Master’s programme to students in German and all Romance languages- French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian and Portuguese. 
  • In-Lingua is a professional body which provides training in basic spoken and written skills in French, German and Spanish. 
  • Goethe Centre: This is located inside the Max Mueller Bhawan in Delhi, built as a symbol of Indi-German cooperation. Today it is one of the most prominent landmarks, promoting German Art and Culture for all to see. Full-fledged as well as part-time courses are imparted here. 
  • Instituto Cervantes: This is the official centre set up by the Foreign Ministry of Spain in several countries of the globe. It offers both short-term basic spoken courses as well as long-term certifications which can get converted to diplomas on degrees on completing the full tenure up to three years.  
  • Alliance Françoise is the official centre set up by the French government for promotion of French as a language across the globe. In India it has centres all over the country. Similar to the above example, it has short term certification, as well as long term diplomas. In addition to such courses, the institute promotes French art and culture through periodically showcasing cinema or cultural forms of the country. 
  • Jamia Milia Islamia University: Arabic and Persian courses are offered here at both undergraduate as well as post graduate levels. 
  • Jawaharlal Nehru University: Some foreign languages are catered to at the JNU such as French, Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Persian and Russian. 

Thus, a student needs to be clear whether he/she wants to go for a part time course to accelerate education or go for a full-fledged one to immerse oneself into. The first can be used as an add-on during interviews and progress at work. The latter becomes the full-time profession useful for aspiring translators or academicians. 

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