As a student with an interest in modern languages, I have considered whether to do a modern languages degree at university. If you’re anything like me, then you may have also considered whether this degree will be “good”. Of course, a “good” degree can look very different depending on who you ask but for me a “good” degree subject is one that you can make the most out of, one that could give you good career prospects and more importantly one that you enjoy.
In short, whether a modern language is a good degree will depend solely on you. If you are interested in modern languages and are willing to put in the effort to learn about both the language and the culture, then it should be great for you. Modern languages degrees can also increase your employability so based on my criteria of them being something you can make the most out, give you good career prospects and being something, you enjoy, 2 out of 3 boxes are instantly ticked. The 3rd is up to what you consider enjoyable.
Disclaimer: This article aims to provide an unbiased opinion but may sway in a particular direction. It is advised that you do your own research before deciding whether a modern language degree is right for you.
Continue reading for a more detailed answer based on my criteria of it being a degree that you can make the most out of, for your future and enjoyable. To do this, I will explore what is involved in a modern languages degree and more.
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What is a modern languages degree?
The term modern languages degree may make you think of a whole bunch of questions. These may be about various different things but most importantly about what you actually study in a modern languages degree. Knowing what a modern languages degree is all about can help us to figure out if it really is a good degree.
What do you study in a modern languages degree?
In the UK, a modern languages degree is exactly how it sounds. It is a degree where students study at least one modern language. Students may even be able to study up to 3 modern languages as part of their degree, but this will depend on the university.
For example, at the University of Bristol, you can study 1, 2 or 3 modern languages as part of your degrees, as you can see on their page here. However, at other universities, such as the University of Oxford, you may only be able to study one or two languages, as you can see on their page here.
While languages are the centre of the degree, a modern languages degree is about much more than just learning the language. While you will often have a choice of modules, during a modern language degree you will typically be able to learn about the culture and history of the place(s) your chosen language(s) is from.
This will enable you to enrich your understanding of the language itself, but it can also give you a deeper understanding of its speakers. As languages are all about communicating, understanding more about other cultures and histories could help you to do just that.
Other than diving into your chosen language’s history and culture, you may also be able to take a look at it linguistically. If you previously studied English language at school, you merely tipped the iceberg of what linguistics has to offer, especially when considering another language.
This could allow you to see the language you’re learning in a new light, which may even help you to learn it. However, it could also help you to learn more about the language and its rules.
What is a year abroad during a modern languages degree?
On top of being able to study a diverse range of topics related to the language, during a modern languages degree, you will typically study abroad. If you enjoy travelling, then this time abroad can definitely make the degree more enjoyable for you.
This trip is normally for an entire year during your degree, and it is called a year abroad. However, it may also be done throughout a single semester or at times at may even be skipped. To learn more about how it, it is best to look at a specific university’s information as it varies between them.
The additional of this year abroad is what make modern languages degrees typically 4 years rather than the typical 3. This is done as a sandwich year and will normally either be in the second or third year of your university studies. This is similar to a university placement year, which you can learn more about from this Think Student article.
There are 3 main options for what you can do on your year abroad, but it will depend on what languages you’re studying and what opportunities are available. These are studying at a university as an exchange student, taking a work placement of your own or volunteering with the British council and teaching English.
It is up to you to choose which option is best for you, but you may be able to get some help from the careers service at your university. As you have this option, it can help you to take more control of your university education. This can in turn help you to make the most of your modern languages degree.
For more information about a year abroad, check out this guide from the University of Sheffield, please only use this source as a rough guide as it will depend on each university. Also, look at this article by Oxford Scholastica to get even more details.
Why are foreign languages important?
A big part of figuring out if a modern languages degree is a good degree is also figuring out whether the languages themselves are important. On top of that, it is important to figure out why languages are important to see how getting a degree in modern languages can benefit you. Check out the following headings to learn more about if foreign languages are important and in what aspects.
Why are foreign languages important in the business world?
In this day and age, the world is more interconnected than ever before. Not only is this reflected via social media or your own leisure time, but it is also reflected in the workplace. With the increased connection to the rest of the world and new technologies making it easier with each day, multinational corporations are able to thrive much more easily than they could before.
As multinational corporations are globalised companies that have operations in more than one country, their separate operations will need to interact and communicate. This may be especially important if the countries, where business operations are carried out, speak different languages.
While they could communicate using translators and interpreters, employers may find it easier and more efficient to have multilingual employees as well. For more information about the rise in hiring multilingual employees, look at this article by SHRM. For more information about multinational corporations, check out this guide by Investopedia.
If you take a modern languages degree, there are a wide range of careers you can go into. From ones that are more directly associated with the degree, such as careers in translation, interpreting or language teaching to more loosely related ones, such as journalism or a career in business or finance.
However, due to the increased recognition of multilingualism in the business world, there may be more jobs opened up to you. In turn, you can increase your employability as a modern languages degree student. For more on how a language degree can increase your employability, check out this Think Student article.
Why are foreign languages important to your everyday life?
Not only are languages important to our careers and employability but they are also important in our everyday lives. This is in several ways. For one, with the increased connectivity due to social media, knowing another language can simply help you to fully connect with online content. This can help you to discover a whole new online community that you may even like more than the one you’re used to.
Also, learning a language is known to improve your brain power. This can come with a range of benefits, such as improving your memory to making you better at multi-tasking. These can come in handy in your everyday life, with shows just how useful modern languages are. For more on this, check out this article from Eton Institute.
Foreign languages are also important if you decide to go travelling to another country. If you go to a non-English speaking country, it’s probably best if you can speak at least a few basic sentences. This can help you to have much less stressful holiday and it can help you to be more prepared just in case.
What are the best universities for modern languages in the UK?
Going to one of the best universities can really help you to make the most out of your degree. This is regardless of whether the degree you decide to do is considered good or not. It can even be more so with modern languages as learning a language isn’t easy and hopefully with a higher ranked university, you will be able to learn much easier and stay motivated in your degree.
The best universities to study modern languages in the UK are the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge for 2022. This is based on the comparison tables from The Guardian which you can find more about by clicking on this article from The Guardian
Modern languages at the University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is one of the best universities in the world. It is arguably better than Harvard University in the USA, which you can learn more about in this Think Student article. Due to this, it’s really no surprise that it is one of the best universities to study modern languages in the UK.
At the University of Oxford, you can study quite a vast range of modern languages. From French to Modern Greek to Czech to Persian, there is quite a lot you can study in either the Modern Languages and Linguistics or the European and Middle Eastern Languages degree. As it is so prestigious, you will need to achieve AAA in your A-Levels to get into with one of these courses. You can learn more about these two great undergraduate degrees here and here.
Modern languages at the University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is another very prestigious university, so it is once again not a surprise that it ranks at the top for modern languages. The array of languages that you can study at the University of Cambridge is once again, pretty wide.
A slight difference with the University of Cambridge is that its European languages are in Modern and Medieval Languages and the only other languages you can study there are as a part of the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies degree. Both of these degrees require even more than Oxford with the entry requirements at A*AA. You can learn more about these two degrees here and here respectively.