We tend to assume that in this part of North Carolina everyone speaks English or Spanish, but there are 38 languages spoken by children in our public schools. There are more French and German owned businesses in NC (like Bosch-Siemens-Home Appliance B/S/H/ Group in New Bern at right) than Spanish or Chinese. North Carolina exports more to French speaking countries than it does to China. Employers tell universities that they can train workers in the specifics of the job, but they have trouble finding employees who can read about complex systems and understand them quickly, who write clearly, work collaboratively, and think outside the box. Our majors don't just become translators and teachers, they drive innovation at companies just like this.
Labor analysts tell us that every worker will have 8 or more job changes in a career and by about job #4, those who make it will be inventing their own job descriptions. So it isn't about matching one degree with one job. Nearly 2/3 of our students are double majors who add foreign languages to 32 other degree programs: Business marketing, management and economics (10%); Health, Allied Health and Biological Sciences (15%); Physical sciences and Engineering (7%); Social Services fields such as Sociology, Psychology, and Criminal Justice (21%); and the Humanities, History, and the Fine Arts (22%). Our Russian majors are military officers, double majors in Security Studies, and students of the ballet, literature and fine arts. Our Classics majors who read Homer and Plato in the original Greek and compose in Latin are among the best at understanding complex systems.
An undergraduate degree in Foreign Languages turns other majors into careers that can be practised internationally, that serve Hispanic communities in North Carolina, or enable more rapid promotion among the foreign owned businesses that employ over 200,000 workers in NC. Employers know that a student who can do what their peers do AND speak a second language AND understand foreign cultures is more likely to be that special employee with the imagination to help the company grow and change. Our 2nd majors are hired faster, at better pay, and have more rewarding careers. Read on...
In 2009, foreign owned companies employed 188,500 workers in NC, with the most foreign investment by German owned companies. English speaking countries produce 30% of the world's GDP. The language majors offered at ECU make you an attractive employee to businesses in countries that produce another 25% of the world's GDP. The State of North Carolina exports $7.6 Billion to French-speaking countries (28.3% including Canada!); $3.6 Billion in trade to Spanish-speaking countries (13.4%); $1.6 Billion to Japan (6%); $1.1 Billion to Germany (4.1%); $261 Million to Russia (1%) and $242 Million to Italy (0.9%).
Foreign Language education nearly doubles the market access opportunities available to ECU students.
In a 2006 report on employers' perspectives on the basic knowledge and applied skills of new entrants to the 21st century workforce, 21% of employers report that Foreign Languages are "very important basic skills for job success for new workforce entrants" (p.18). While knowledge of foreign languages is very important currently to only 11% of jobs, the report says that it is becoming a "new basic skill that will increase in importance in the next five years, more than any other, according to 63.3 percent of the employer respondents." (pp.10, 19, 49).
The number one deficiency among new college graduates entering the workforce, as rated by prospective employers, is in foreign languages (p. 34), followed in 2nd place by ability to write well and written communication generally. When asked to select which emerging content areas will be "most critical" in the near future, roughly half of the employer respondents select "Use of Non-English Languages as a Tool for Understanding Other Nations, Markets, and Cultures" (49.7 percent), and "Demonstrate Understanding of Global Markets and the Economic and Cultural Impacts of Globalization (52.9 percent)." (p.49)
(cont.) Randy Steinhoff of Quest Diagnostics indicates: "We have employees in Mexico, Belgium, the UK, and conduct business in several international markets directly or through joint ventures. Foreign languages are important in a global economy. In the past, we had not paid enough attention to this. Now, knowledge of foreign languages is in our leadership profile. We’re asking people what languages they speak.”
Annette Byrd of GlaxoSmithKline points out the advantages of knowing a foreign language: “We are a global company with many people working on global teams and traveling to other countries. If they speak another language when on a global team or attend a meeting in another country, they are so much further ahead of their colleagues who have no foreign language skills.” She also noted that in many GlaxoSmithKline facilities in other countries, the employees speak English since it is a required language in schools.
In contrast, the United States Department of Education indicates that fewer than 8 percent of U.S. undergraduates take a foreign language class in a given year, and fewer than 2 percent study abroad. Most colleges do not require much study of foreign languages, nor are foreign languages emphasized in U.S. elementary and secondary schools, unlike schools in other industrialized nations.
Any relationship with a non-English speaker — whether economic, political, diplomatic or social — requires mutual understanding. Understanding their language and culture will help you understand the way they speak, think and react to your words. Without the ability to communicate and understand a culture on its own terms, we remain outsiders and we miss things that are important. Foreign Language degrees provide deep cultural competence with knowledge of literature, art, history, poetry, music, theatre, religion, philosophy, and digital media. Cultural competence is the soft skill that is essential to building business relationships and client retention.
A 2009 report on "What Business Wants" says, "Knowledge of the culture of a country and region is just as important as knowledge of the language. This is an integral part of a skill set not only for global professionals, but for any successful professional operating in a U.S.-based multicultural market. As an example, a company with operations throughout Latin America reported the loss of a multi-million dollar deal because it was not represented by someone who knew the particular country and culture of the potential partner. The employee knew Spanish, but not the culture or the specific business context. The deal blew up and was lost. Lost deals resulting from lack of understanding of cultural traits, as well as lost time, productivity, and trust in business relationships hurt the bottom line. Many businesses have to rely on translations of documents or interpretations by third parties during business negotiations. As a result, they lose many of the nuances of the business culture and professional interactions. With the rise of globalization, more businesses need to be better informed about different religions and cultural symbolism, particularly concerning marketing campaigns."
In addition to providing vital second language and second culture knowledge, a foreign language degree also improves:
· critical reasoning
· the ability to understand new systems and complex bureaucracies
· creative problem-solving
· team-building and collaboration
· open-mindedness, tolerance and empathy
· verbal ability in speaking, writing, listening and reading
· understanding of colleagues from diverse backgrounds
· adaptability to rapidly changing situations.
The 2006 report, "What Business Wants: Language Needs in the 21st Century (2009) lists these applied skills as the top things employers are looking for.
For jobs in sales, marketing, and technical support, "usable" knowledge of a foreign language can add 10-15% to wages, and a wage advantage applies to other sectors as well, such as finance, manufacturing, import/export, and service. To communicate effectively in the workplace, the minimum education required is a minor or undergraduate major in foreign language. But you don't have to "just" major in foreign language: our students combine foreign language degrees with over 40 other degrees in the university, from business and biology to exercise sports physiology, K-12 education and criminal justice.
Foreign Language majors help ECU grads to earn more than peers with no usable ability in a second language.
English is the most commonly used language on the web, at 27.3%. But that leaves those without Foreign Language education blind to the remaining 72.7% of the web. The language majors offered at ECU provide students with access to an additional 22.6% of all websites, nearly doubling their ability to use online information. This trend will continue to accelerate because many of the languages offered at ECU are situated in regions with relatively low market penetration of the internet.
Foreign Language education gives ECU students a substantial advantage in access to online information, and this advantage will increase with time.
Foreign language learners travel more widely and easily and experience foreign places more enjoyably. They read the world’s literature without need for published translations. They watch foreign films without squinting at the subtitles. They meet and communicate with a broad array of people and build friendships across borders. Even within the diverse United States, they interact more successfully with their neighbors.
People who study foreign languages have richer lives.
Instruction is offered in Hispanic languages and the civilizations of Spain and the Americas. Degree Programs: Minor, BA concentrations in Hispanic Studies and Hispanic Studies Education, Graduate Certificate in Hispanic Studies; and graduate courses for the MA in International Studies. Courses in the literature and history of Hispanic culture from the Middle Ages to the modern world. Hispanic Studies majors are eligible for placement in a wide variety of excellent professional internships. The Department sponsors summer Study abroad programs in Granada, Spain and Córdoba, Argentina; Academic year study abroad is available through the NC exchange with Universidad de Cantabria in Santander, Spain. ECU also has direct exchanges with Universidad Nacional in Heredia, Costa Rica, and Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Ecuador. For more information see the Spanish Program Website.
Courses are offered in French language and civilization, and the literature of the French-speaking Americas and Africa. Degree Programs: Minor, BA concentrations in French and French Education, graduate courses for the MA in International Studies. The Department sponsors a summer Study abroad program in Paris, and there is an academic year NC Exchange in Paris as well. ECU has direct exchange agreements with Université François-Rabelais in Tours, France and with the Rennes International School of Business; and there are many more opportunities through ISEP. For more information see the French Program Website.
Instruction is offered in German language and civilization, and the German-speaking world from its beginnings to the post wall re-unification. Degree Programs: Minor, BA concentrations in German and German Education, graduate courses for the MA in International Studies. Courses on German literary masterpieces, society and culture, including German for business communication. Study abroad: the UNC system has agreements with the nine universities of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. For more information see the German Program Website.
Instruction is offered in Latin, classical Greek, and the culture of the ancient Mediterranean from pre-history to the fall of the Roman empire. Degree Programs: Minor, Multidisciplinary BA in Classics or BA in Classical Civilization. Courses on classical literature and civilization of Greece and Rome, including Mythology, Roman topography, Pompeian wallpainting, and Greek tragedy. Faculty from other departments offer classical history, art history, philosophy, religion, and medieval civilization through the Classical Studies interdisciplinary program.
Instruction is offered in Russian language and civilization from both historical and contemporary perspectives. Degree Programs: Minor, Multidisciplinary BA/BS in Russian Studies. Courses in Russian culture, 19th-120th century Russian literature, folklore, media, film, and literary criticism, including seminars on Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and Russian émigré culture. Classes in Russian history, economics, politics, fine arts, ballet and music are offered by faculty from other departments through the Russian Studies interdisciplinary program. Study abroad: ECU has a new study abroad program in Saint Petersburg.
Courses are offered in Japanese. Degree Programs: Asian Studies Minor. Faculty from other departments offer Asian history, art history, anthropology, and religion through the Asian Studies interdisciplinary program. Study abroad opportunities are available in many Asian countries. ECU has a direct exchange agreement with Osaka Kyoiku University in Japan and regularly offers a Kyoto summer study tour.
If we may answer questions or be of service, please contact us, -- Ben Fraser, Chair