The benefits of a Modern Languages degree shouldn’t be underestimated.
Far from being the forgotten discipline in a STEM-obsessed world, the humanities are increasingly touted as the key to producing graduates that meet today’s job market needs.
Success in a globalised economy depends on whether one has the set of skills this epoch wants and needs. In a world driven by technology and the movement of ideas, people, and goods, being bilingual or multilingual is crucial when work takes place across geographical boundaries.
And as we head into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, soft skills such as effective communication and adaptability— key skills which can develop from studying languages— prime us to be agile participants and leaders in the global economy of the future.
These skills, valued by employers all over the world today, are what students stand to gain from a degree at the University of Bristol’s School of Modern Languages— one of the leading centres for language studies in England, UK.
According to Prospects UK, the UK’s biggest graduate careers website, “Studying a modern language degree will help you to become a good communicator (both orally and in writing), and will also give you the skills to effectively gather, assess and interpret information, lead and participate in discussions and groups, organise your workload to meet deadlines, develop opinions and propose ideas, and read pages of text and pick out the essential points.”
In short, studying languages can equip students with the skills to develop themselves in ways that could benefit both their professional and personal lives, and the University of Bristol is perhaps the best organisation in the country to foster that growth.
With this valuable skill set in hand, students will be prepared for jobs as professional translators, journalists, diplomats, or in international business trade. But the opportunities go far beyond, as a degree in Modern Languages equips students with transferable skills that put them in high demand across a range of industries.
Amber Bartlett, who holds a BA in French and German and an MA in Comparative Literatures and Cultures from the University of Bristol, said she credits the opportunities she had there for helping her get accepted into a competitive Higher Education Graduate Scheme.
She said: “The Scheme looks to take on adaptable, resilient and innovative graduates and the nature of a languages degree and the year abroad gave me plenty of examples for all of these!
“One of the transferable skills I use most in my professional and personal life is communication skills, particularly around presenting and being able to talk confidently about a huge variety of things in which you may not be a specialist. I also found it useful from the Year Abroad to understand a bit of what it is like to be the ‘other’ and to look at things from a range of viewpoints to interrogate your own assumptions and biases,” she explained.
Progressive studies in Modern Languages
For undergraduate learners, there’s the option to pursue a range of BA programmes with one, two, or three languages, as well as programmes with one language and another subject, such as English, History, International Business Management, Law, Politics, and more.
Through language-specific programmes, students at the School are given opportunities to develop their existing linguistic knowledge or to learn a new language while studying a wide range of topics on literary and visual culture, history, and society.
They don’t just receive a Modern Languages degree— they acquire interdisciplinary knowledge that gives them intercultural understanding on top of particular expertise in certain countries and cultures.
Along with undergraduate programmes, the School also offers graduate programmes for students to develop further expertise in their field.
The MA in Chinese-English Translation, for example, is a specialised programme where students can develop skills in various types of translation, in liaison interpreting, and in media localisation, along with transferable skills such as analytical thinking, research methods, and collaborative working.
International students in this programme can further improve their English and their knowledge of UK and international culture.
Optional units enable students to tailor their studies according to their professional goals, such as subtitling, CAT tools, video game localisation and interpreting for business.
Meanwhile, the MA Translation, a distance learning programme ideal for aspiring translators, combines language-specific practice with training in translation theory and translation technologies.
It is open to students offering Czech, French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish. Translation is predominantly into English.
Through interactive study in an online group led by a tutor, students engage in active discussion in a supportive community. If they need one-to-one assistance, students can easily reach out to tutors via Skype, phone or email.
Corrine Harries, who graduated from the programme in 2018, said, “The distance learning element of the course has prepared me for the home-based element of working as a freelance translator.
”As a freelancer you learn a lot from your peers and can be as active (or inactive) as you like in that community, the course very much reflects that but also emphasises that social networking is key to a career as a freelance translator.”
Providing knowledge in cultural studies and addressing local and global challenges
The School also offers a number of programmes that deepen students’ knowledge in cultural studies and explore how cultures forge societies.
For example, the MA in Comparative Literatures and Cultures provides a solid foundation in cultural theories as well as critical reading and research skills through a curriculum that spans the disciplines, national contexts and time periods.
This internationally well-regarded programme helps students understand the interactions and mutual influences between cultures, and how cultural and literary contexts shape the way we live.
The unique MA in Black Humanities takes an interdisciplinary approach, offering students the chance to delve into the Black Humanities through a critical engagement with stories, philosophy, literature and the arts relating to racialised identity in local and global Black and diasporic communities.
The course is supported by the Centre for Black Humanities, an international hub for pioneering research on topics from UK hip-hop to contemporary African literary activism, to memory and transatlantic slavery.
Students also benefit from studying in Bristol with its diverse cultural scene, where they can meet with arts practitioners and community activists and connect with local communities, discussing how the arts and humanities can tackle urgent questions about racism, care, and social justice.
Andrea Bullard, who will graduate from this programme next year, said, “The best thing about the MA Black Humanities program was the way the course was taught.”
“I had an array of instructors from different racial and regional backgrounds, so I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Black philosophy, art, music, history, and literature from the perspective of instructors who differ in race and culture.”
For a comprehensive degree in Modern Languages that equips you for the globalised workforce, the School of Modern Languages at the University of Bristol is the ideal place to be.