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Department of Modern Languages

Benefits of learning a language while in college and beyond

While in college:

According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, learning a foreign language supports overall academic achievement, improves cognitive and communicative abilities, and affects attitudes and beliefs about other cultures.[1] Learning another language will help you develop and enhance your communication skills both in English and in the target language. It will teach you to work with a diverse group of people and adapt to differing worldviews. Learning a language takes time, patience and practice, so it also teaches you to be organized and to set realistic goals.

In your future career:

Research by economists Albert Saiz and Elena Zoido also shows that the benefits from learning another language translate to the workplace: “individuals who speak a second language are more productive and earn higher wages.”[2] Their study suggests that the income of college graduates who speak German, Italian, Russian, or Chinese can be higher by 4%, with a difference of 2.7% for speakers of French and 1.7% for Spanish speakers. Specifically, they observe, “individuals in personal services, business support, and management positions are the ones who are more highly rewarded in the labor market for their foreign-language skills.”[3] iSeek, Minnesota's career, education and job resource, indicates that the most sought-after languages are “Spanish, German, French, Italian, Russian and Japanese, with a growing emphasis on Mandarin, given China's booming economy.”[4] 

What can you do with a second language?

You can travel and work in a different country. But what if you want to stay in the U.S.? Speaking another language is a valued skill when working in the following fields: 
  • Health care: nurses, paramedics, physician's assistants and home health aids
  • Hospitality: concierge, resort/hotel manager, desk clerk
  • Education: teacher, guidance counselor
  • Law enforcement: police officer, security guard, investigator, probation officer
  • Customer service: sales clerk, store supervisor, customer service representative
  • Social service: social worker (family, substance abuse), social work administration
  • Finance: teller, financial advisor, investment banker, accountant
  • Communication: translator, interpreter, public relations specialist, journalist, media relations officer
For more information on careers, contact Kansas State University Career and Employment Services.

[1] http://www.actfl.org/advocacy/what-the-research-shows

[2] Saiz, A., & Zoido, E. (2005). Listening to What the World Says: Bilingualism and Earnings in the United States. Review of Economics and Statistics, 87(3), 523-538.

[3] Saiz, A., & Zoido, E. (2005). Listening to What the World Says: Bilingualism and Earnings in the United States. Review of Economics and Statistics, 87(3), 523-538.

[4] How Being Bilingual Can Boost Your Career - ISEEK. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.iseek.org/news/fw/fw6715FutureWork.html