Don’t mock language students, we should all be more like them

Their degree is probably more relevant than yours

It goes without saying: language is an important part of life. After all, we use it every day. Some people even take it upon themselves to learn a second language, or a third, or even a fourth. That’s why language degrees should be valued so highly, yet for some reason there are plenty out there who’ll look down on anyone studying them.

I expect a lot of this comes down to envy. We’ve all had those moments abroad when we embarrass ourselves in a vain attempt to speak the local lingo. Think how good it would be to have a proper conversation with someone in another language, rather than mistakenly asking “How do I get to the donkey?”. No wonder people get jealous of their bi- or tri-lingual peers.

Language learning is valuable because so few people in Britain can speak more than one. Post-graduation, the ability to speak other languages can open plenty of doors. Aside from the obvious employment destinations such as teaching, translating and interpreting and tourism, a language degree can also lead to a job within the media, in business and finance, in marketing or in the civil service.

A year abroad isn't all about hanging out by the pool

A year abroad isn’t all about hanging out by the pool

On top of employment, there’s also the chance to travel the world, meet new people and experience new cultures. The year abroad is more than an opportunity to get drunk, build up a sun tan, gain “Insta-fame” and blog about how you’ve “found yourself”. It’s a way to experience a new way of life. How else can you expect to truly learn a language, to the level a native would speak, without visiting the country itself?

Yes, language learning can be viewed as merely a life skill, but isn’t English a life skill too? Isn’t Maths a life skill? Universities run these degrees in order for you to take a skill and develop it to an exceptional standard. That way, you either have the opportunity to rise to the top of your profession, or you can teach others about these important attributes and inspire them to do so. They may seem like basic skills, but they can’t be that basic if the majority of us haven’t been able to master them.

The case for language learning is so much stronger than the argument against it. We need more people from our country to speak foreign languages, in order to expand our connections with others from all corners of the Earth. Our campus is full of so many people from so many different cultures and these degrees help us share experiences with them.

So, ignore the haters: language degrees aren’t bullshit or self-indulgent, they’re a way of communicating with the rest of the world and forming friendships which would otherwise never have been possible. The next time someone tries to tell you their degree is better and more relevant than studying French or Italian, remind them of the benefits of multilingualism.