Why study languages?

Are you thinking about taking languages at school or university but unsure about exactly what you will gain from studying this subject? Watch our short film below to hear students Tanya, Connor, Theo and Elizabeth explain why being multilingual is not just rewarding in itself but also useful for your future career.

The benefits of studying languages at university are almost infinite, and the below points highlight some key advantages:

Multilingualism is good for you

Language-learning activates the grey cells in the brain. This not only improves general intelligence and memory, but it can also reduce the effects of brain ageing. Multilingualism also develops the following transferable skills highly sought after by employers in today's global market:

  1. Decision-making
  2. Observation
  3. A sophisticated cultural awareness
  4. Critical thinking
  5. Effective oral and written communication in English and your other language(s)
  6. Open-mindedness
  7. Independence
  8. Resilient problem-solving
  9. Prioritising
  10. Willingness to accept new challenges

Different interests can be explored through the lens of language

There are many opportunities to study different topics in a languages degree, even if you do not opt for a Joint Honours programme with another subject you enjoy. In many Modern Languages programmes, your fluency in your target language(s) is complemented by a cultural awareness of your target culture in areas such as; literature, politics, film, history, business, art and gender studies.

At Birmingham, we have our very popular MyChoices webpage which filters over 350 different permutations according to your interests and abilities, so you can create your own flexible programme containing:

  • One, two or three languages and their cultures
  • One or two languages and their cultures alongside another subject you are interested in as a Joint Honours programme, or alongside a minor (one third of your degree) in translation or business management
  • A language as a minor subject alongside a major discipline

What makes Birmingham unique, however, is that teaching in our Modern Languages programmes incorporate cultural elements both in English and through the medium of the target language(s). This way of learning simultaneously develops a sophisticated cultural fluency alongside linguistic fluency. As a result, our students will be able to confidently hold enlightening and engaging conversations on important topics with native-speakers and future employers upon graduation.

Language degrees get you jobs

When it comes to international business expansion, intercultural challenges and digital globalisation: the growing importance of languages graduates cannot be underestimated. These are the languages that the British Council has identified as ‘the ten most important foreign languages for the UK’s future prosperity and global standing’:

  1. Spanish
  2. Arabic
  3. French
  4. Mandarin Chinese
  5. German
  6. Portuguese
  7. Italian
  8. Russian
  9. Turkish
  10. Japanese

The most recent “Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Survey” shows that University of Birmingham Modern Languages graduates are highly employable and go into a range of professions at renowned organisations. Many of our students also make the most of opportunities to expand their languages CV during their degree, through part-time work and global internships through our on-campus Careers Network.

It can take you anywhere and everywhere, including a Year Abroad

As students are completely immersed in another culture(s) on their Year Abroad, it is no surprise that their linguistic ability improves considerably. Transferable skills such as resilience, independence and confidence are significantly developed during this time, which employers particularly appreciate.

Many of our students reference their compulsory Year Abroad as the highlight of their degree. Birmingham's Year Abroad is unique and flexible per student, consisting of; teaching placements, university placements, short language-intensive vacation courses and/or work placements (either sourced or applied for). The amount of destinations a student visits reflects the amount of languages they are studying, but the amount of time spent on each placement varies from student to student.