Even as more and more students head abroad for jobs or higher studies, the massive advantage of knowing a foreign language is becoming increasingly apparent. For instance, last year, over 400 students enrolled for foreign language classes at Bangalore University's Department of Foreign Languages.
Significantly, the demand was not only for widely taught languages such as French and German. Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Chinese also received an equally enthusiastic response, resulting in each course being filled to its maximum capacity of 30 students. Furthermore, the Department has agreed on the need to increase the class capacity to 40 students in the coming year, to accommodate the increasing number of students wishing to join.
Director of the Institute of Foreign Languages and Culture (IFLaC), Bangalore, Sandy Mirpuri, agreed that the number of people attending foreign language classes is increasing exponentially each year. Out of the four European languages taught at IFLaC, Spanish and German are most in demand. “Spanish is spoken in so many places — Europe, North America and South America,” she said. She added that the opening up of the South American market has also contributed to the rise in demand for Spanish courses.
According to Ms. Mirpuri, German classes attract an equal amount of interest largely due to the number of Indian students and workers going to Germany every year. In order to get a transfer to Germany, candidates are required take a minimum of 100 hours of German, which is why many attend the courses.
Interestingly, Ms. Mirpuri also indicated that there is a sudden increase in the demand for Italian courses. This is due to several students now wanting to go to Italy to study fashion designing, car designing, or even culinary arts. Although IFLaC does not teach Japanese or Chinese, the demand for both is on the rise.
On the other hand, owner of the National Institute of Culture and Education, Sharan Suresh, said that there are very few students enrolled in the Institute's Japanese courses. According to him, French courses still receive the highest number of students, especially since French is taught as a second language in many schools and universities, and is relatively easy to learn. However, he said that regardless of what foreign language is studied, a student will always benefit from having that insight into another culture.
Just an add-on?
The growing interest in foreign languages aside, not many students take up a language as the major area of study. According to K. Eresi, Head of the Department of Foreign Languages at Bangalore University, most students look at these classes as “add-on courses,” secondary to their engineering, economics or what-have-you degree.
The thinking behind this is that multinational companies seeking Indian employees favour candidates with foreign language skills. For example, Japanese Professor at Bangalore University, Sushila Menon, said that a number of Japanese companies look to hire students with some background in Japanese. Prof. Eresi said students are often offered scholarships to go to various countries depending on the language they know.
In the case of Japanese, students who score well in the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) in at least the N3 level are eligible to study in Japan for six weeks, free of cost.
There is also no dearth of jobs. In addition to teaching, there is translating, a skill that is in high demand in multi-national corporations. According to Prof. Menon, a starting translating job can pay up to Rs. 7 lakh per year.
The three types of language qualifications offered at Bangalore University are Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma. Most students do the Certificate exams and those who develop a passion for the language go on to study further.
Faculty at the Department include not only skilled Indian linguists, but also a few professors from abroad. Under the Bangalore University's Memorandum of Understanding with the French and Italian Embassies, Japanese Foundation and Toyota Kirloskar Company, one teacher from the respective home country will be sent to teach at BU.
Each course costs Rs. 3,000 per academic year and has classes thrice a week. The Department also offers an M.A. in French and Japanese. There are weekend language courses for working executives as well.
Whether it is for employment or education, or simply for the love of the language, it is apparent that language skills are becoming invaluable in today's world.