College student in the U.S looking for career/major advice.
November 11, 2012 1:08 PM   Subscribe

E.U. - U.S. Dual Citizen here. What are some careers I can potentially do that take advantage of my dual citizenship and/or being bilingual or multilingual?

My parents are both Polish and I am a dual citizen of Poland and thus the E.U. I currently live in the U.S..

I do not know Polish or another language, but suppose I spend a few years learning Polish or another language while I finish college and thus become bi-lingual. I did learn Spanish in high school and could pick it up to be fluent in a year if I set myself that goal. I like learning languges, so I'm not adverse to learning more than one language.

What are some jobs I can possibly get being fluent in English and Polish (or another language) and having both citizenships? Jobs with American companies that do business with Europe or vis versa? Anyone have any specific examples? What fields would be good to go into in college? What would be a good college major to choose?

I have the option to study in Europe and gain more cultural understanding. I am familar with a lot of Polish culture through family and, even though I know it has changed dramatically, when I visited for 2 months in 1994.

I hear about people teaching English in Poland, is that something to look into or is the market flooded?

I still have to finish my undergrad (3-5 years) so what are some areas that have the potenial to grow in that time?
posted by eq21 to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What are you studying?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 1:25 PM on November 11, 2012

A related question was asked previously.
posted by vacapinta at 1:27 PM on November 11, 2012

It's not everyone's first choice career, but there is huge demand for multi-lingual support specialists here (Ireland.) Both Spanish and Polish would be employable.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:14 PM on November 11, 2012

What are your priorities? Are you looking for job security, high salary, a particular area of work, the opportunity to explore different cultures, the ability to live in Poland etc.? For example, teaching English is a wonderful way to work in different countries, but it's not great if you ever want a high income in your home country.

A lot of Americans would love to have EU citizenship in order to easily work and study in Europe. It might be useful to start thinking about which parts of Europe interest you most and focus your language-learning on them. I'm happy living in Poland, but it's not got the greatest climate and average salaries are still relatively low, so consider that before you decide to dedicate years to learning Polish.

If you do end up speaking multiple languages, that's a good way to boost a lot of careers (State Department, intelligence, multinational business), but it's not enough on its own. You might be better starting with your skills and interests and then using 'job where I can use my languages' to narrow down from there.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 3:00 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am multilingual. I am confident that other multilinguals will tell you the same thing but in general, speaking more than one language in and of itself does not do very much for marketing yourself in the job search. I have found it is usually a low-end secondary skill at best, and more often than not is a curiosity like a hobby might be. For example, I am a Japanese-speaking lawyer but I might use it once in a blue moon when reviewing a Japanese client's documents or communicating with them regarding a case issue. I've never had occasion to use my other languages. The language proficiency simply doesn't make me anymore marketable as a lawyer. It is the rare employer who will say, "oh, you speak X? Come aboard!"

Since foreign language proficiency is almost always a secondary skill, I would recommend that you focus your studies on what you think you might like to do. Pursue that, and then see if foreign language skills might serve as icing to the cake.

I am a huge advocate of multilingualism and studying foreign languages is my primary hobby. By all means, learn Polish so you can speak with your family members, Spanish so you can watch telenovelas, or Urdu for fun. However, if you want to learn a foreign language primarily as a work skill, you are likely to be disappointed.
posted by Tanizaki at 3:09 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I want to second everything that Tanizaki said above. I speak several languages, and it's usually nothing more than a curiosity. Busy Old Fool's advice is also spot-on.
posted by danceswithlight at 12:27 AM on November 12, 2012

Also seconding Tanizaki. I'm originally American, have dual French citizenship, speak French fluently, also speak a bit of Italian, Finnish, and a smattering of other languages (even have good reading & listening comprehension for Japanese), and the only profession for which it's helpful is translation. Even then, though, if you want an in-house translation job, the pay has become utterly terrible. A few months ago I saw a job ad for a trilingual Chinese (Wuhan dialect, not Mandarin) - French - English translator with a few years of experience, and the highest salary they were willing to offer, non-negotiable, was 1400 euros/month gross; that's just barely above French minimum wage. Last month I got excited when I saw a job offer for a translation project manager, they were looking for a native American English speaker, bilingual in French, hoping they had 10 years of experience with at least a couple years in project management... but the highest they'd go in salary, non-negotiable again, was 1800 euros/month gross. Ten years ago, someone with those qualifications and solid experience could have been hired at twice that salary. As for freelance translating, it's something you have to love to make a go of. The most successful freelance translators I know are all essentially in love with the languages they work in, and couldn't dream of doing anything else.

So yes indeed, focus your studies on what you want to do.
posted by fraula at 12:52 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I absolutely agree that a language itself will not get you anywhere, especially if you are not at native or near-native fluency. Not only are you competing against native speakers, but even more importantly, if you don't have core competency in a specific field/discipline/industry/job function, foreign language skills are of little value. So the advice is to focus on developing a core competency. Language learning is always personally rewarding and may even be professionally rewarding, but it should be a secondary thing for you in developing your career.
posted by Dansaman at 11:45 PM on December 1, 2012

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