Being a languages student means that everyone has you totally sussed out – supposedly. According to non-language students, if you study a language or two, there are only two career paths available to you AND you’re supposed to be fluent after two years. You’re joking, right? These myths urgently need to be addressed…
1. ‘Oh so you want to be a translator?’
If I had a fiver for every time I’ve heard this, well, let’s say I wouldn’t need this translating job that everyone has got me down for! Surprisingly enough, not every languages student wants to be a translator or interpreter. Sure, some of us do, but people must stop assuming that this is what every one of us is aiming for. In fact, I personally cannot think of one friend from my course that actually wants to get into this field after uni…
2. ‘Well if you don’t want to translate you must want to teach?’
No. No. No. There are other careers that language graduates get into, you know. Studying a foreign language opens up a whole world of opportunities, literally! Aside from the obvious career paths of translating and teaching, many of us will go on to work for international companies, become journalists, work in the travel industry or even join the diplomatic service. There truly is no end to the different careers that language graduates pursue after university. Someone who studies German for example is not pigeon-holed to it just because they study that language!
3. We are all totally fluent in a foreign language by the end of second year.
Even if you’ve been studying a particular language for years, fluency is extremely challenging. People who assume that you must be fluent by the second year of your degree can actually make you feel inadequate at times. Plus everyone is different and some are going to be more confident speaking a foreign language than others. This is worth bearing in mind the next time you are tempted to say, ‘Oh, so you must be fluent by now’.
4. We don’t all relish the opportunity to say something in the language(s) we study!
How many languages students have experienced the following conversation?
Stranger: What do you study?
Stranger: Say something in Spanish!
Oh my god please stop doing this to us. We’re not all show-offs that are desperate to boast our language skills in front of the entire Jesters smoking area. We don’t ask Physics undergrads to conduct an experiment or English students to recite a poem. Why is it different for us?
5. It’s not all just about grammar, you know!
Many non-languages student cannot get their head around what we actually spend our time studying. It’s not all just super dull grammar, I promise. Of course we have language seminars, but we also have the option to study literature, history, politics, linguistics and all kinds. There is such a great variety of modules at Southampton that give languages students the opportunity to shape their degree so that it is interesting, diverse and well-rounded.
Hopefully this has given you an insight to the daily frustrations us languages students are subject to! If you take one thing from this article, let it be that we really don’t want to start randomly talking at you in our respective language, especially on a night out, it is just super embarrassing and awkward and we will love you forever if you stop asking!