Having a second language to your name is an impressive notch on your CV, as well as a great way of having secret conversations about people without them realising. But if you want to put your skills to better use than teaching your mates foreign swear words at pre-drinks, you’re probably considering a graduate job (well done and welcome to adulthood).
Having a second language will open up a whole host of career options that others may not necessarily be able to access. Top of the list is the ability to work abroad more easily. Yes, anyone can up sticks and get a job in a foreign clime, but a lack of language skills can be a major barrier. If you have a fluency in another language, there’s no better way of putting it to use than completely immersing yourself in a foreign culture and living abroad.
Ok, so I know what you’re thinking, being a translator doesn’t necessarily involve moving abroad. Translating documents can be done pretty much anywhere, and can be quite a solitary practise. But that’s the beauty of the business; most translators work freelance, picking and choosing their own hours, with the freedom to travel wherever and whenever they wish.
You may have spent the past few years of your degree translating documents in exam conditions, but getting paid to do it is a whole different game. You could be working across a variety of different professions, from science to business, law to education. Pay varies widely from project to project, but usually it pays well. Competent translators, especially in certain languages, are in high demand. You’ll need a sharp attention to detail, and the ability to get to grips with challenging technical terms.
When you think of a tour guide you might imagine those people wandering around with an umbrella in the air trying to lead a group of camera-clutching tourists through a busy sightseeing spot. And although of course those people do exist, there are literally loads of unusual tour guide opportunities out there. You could be camping in the Sahara desert, guiding people through the mountains of China or teaching people about communist Russia.
You’ll need to be able to respond effectively to emergencies, manage the smooth running of events, communicate efficiently with guests, liaise with external companies and develop an specialist knowledge of a specific location or attraction.
The work often isn’t the most lucrative, with an average starting salary of £15,000-£20,000 plus board and lodging. The work is also largely seasonal, so you should expect a few quiet months but also long hours in busy periods. But to really immerse yourself in a foreign culture, with a fun, fast paced and people-orientated job, this is the perfect role.
You could work as an interpreter at global conferences, events or within big businesses, helping to provide effective communication between speakers of different languages. You’ll have to be able to think quickly and translate on the spot though. At some events you could be translating literally as someone speaks, with your words being broadcast through headsets to the audience.
It’s challenging stuff but the perfect way to put your language skills to good use, especially if you’re fluent in a language that’s considered rare. A lot of interpreters are freelance, but you could be earning £30-£60 an hour depending on the language in question and your experience, and there’ll be plenty of opportunity to travel.
Working as an English-language teacher abroad is one of the easier ways to get employment in a different country, with lots of schemes and programmes around to help you get that first role. You’ll be working in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign language) and there is a large demand the world-over for these services, whether it’s for young children or professional adults.
Your responsibilities will largely be the same as a typical teacher, involving lesson planning, creating resources, organising events and activities. Starting salaries range from £15,000-£25,000, but with a few years experience under your belt you could be moving up to around £40,000. And there’s nothing more rewarding that seeing your students’ language skills grow under your guidance.
Fancy taking to the world stage and solving some of the world’s biggest challenges as a diplomat? It’s a competitive business to get into, and can be incredibly challenging, but what could be more rewarding than working to change the course of history? You could be getting stuck into projects such as conflict resolution and counter terrorism, human rights issues or climate change. You’ll be using your language skills to improve communication between nations and drive change.
Salaries start at around £25,000 and can range up to £45,000 after substantial experience, and you’ll need to apply through the Civil Service, who will allocate you to an embassy abroad.
Airline cabin crew
Language skills aren’t necessary for a role as an airline cabin crew assistant, but will certainly boost your chances of securing a job. Although the role is hard work, with long hours and a high degree of professionalism expected, you’ll be able to jet set around the world and you often get free or heavily discounted flights for personal use.
As a cabin crew assistant you’ll have to deal with customers, ensuring their safety and comfort for the duration of the flight. For certain busy routes which attract a range of nationalities, having the language skills to be able to interact with people from different countries will be a great bonus. Salaries vary depending on the airline, but expect a starting salary of around £15,000-£20,000.
With fluency in a foreign language, the opportunities to work abroad are endless, and living and working in a foreign country is an incredible experience. Besides, if you’re keen to keep your language skills at a high standard (I’m sad to say my A* in GCSE French has boiled down to ‘Bonjour’ and ‘Au revoir’), working abroad is the perfect way to keep those language cogs well oiled.