What can you do with foreign language?

Dr. Ruth Sanders

By Dr. Ruth H. Sanders, Professor Emerita of German

What’s advanced study in German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, or Arabic good for? Answer: lots and lots of specialty careers (including, of course, teaching!). We think that you, our alumni, have had some experience in this area, and we’d like you to tell us what you have done with your GRAMELAC languages, so we can update our advice to our current students.

As Academic Adviser for German at Miami (years ago, don’t ask), here is some advice I gave to incoming students on this topic:

  1. First, figure out what kind of work you think you’d like to do. The many careers that demand excellent command of one or more foreign languages may also require other skills. GRAMELAC’s languages are particularly in demand in business and world politics, so it probably wouldn’t hurt to get some background in these areas.
  2. Business: Germany is currently the business driver of Europe; China is becoming a global business leader; Japan is leading in manufacturing. Both American and foreign-based firms like to hire specialists who know both these languages and English.
  3. Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs: the U.S. government hires language specialists to translate correspondence, read news articles, or interpret for conferences in languages of trouble spots in the world: that includes not just Russian, Chinese, Hebrew, and Arabic, but a host of other languages you may not have heard of, for which the Federal government offers intensive courses (Miami grad Cynthia Roberts took this route after a major in German). Your learning to a high level of any of the ‘difficult’ languages offered in GRAMELAC could make you an attractive candidate for such a position (for example, Russian students could learn Ukrainian fairly quickly).
  4. Graduate school: some excellent graduate programs include Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service; Tufts University Master in Foreign Affairs; and many others. Interested in interpretation (translation of spoken language in real time)? A specialized master’s degree in that is available, for example, from Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey.

Alumni, please write us at and tell us (and our current students) your success stories. We’ll print some of them in the next issue of this newsletter.