When I hit forty it was time for me to take stock of my life. I had previously had a successful career in financial services, which came to an abrupt stop when I had my children. My priorities changed. The idea of travelling to London every day and leaving them behind was unimaginable, let alone the regular international business trips, so I didn’t return to work. I intended to take a short break from my career to raise them until I felt comfortable returning to the city. Eventually they were both at school, and after having thrown myself into the PTA for a few years, I became a parent governor at their primary school. This reawakened in me a desire to work with children, one which had been initially ignited years back through voluntary work I undertook in schools in South London. I realised I wanted to be part of this amazing profession. I wanted to feel fulfilled, challenged and play a small role in helping all children to be the best they can be, supporting them emotionally and academically. Having spoken to some of my “teacher friends” and after visiting some local secondary schools, I realised it was time to take the plunge! I have absolutely no regrets. The rewards have been immeasurable, and I have not questioned even once if I have made the right decision. I have met some wonderful people through the course, both fellow trainees and inspirational teachers, whilst learning a lot about myself.
We live in an increasingly globalised, multilingual world where foreign travel and business is the norm. Advancements in technology mean that we can speak and work with people across the world, but to do that we need to be able to communicate globally. It may sound clichéd but speaking a language other than your own really does open doors for you.
MFL studies give students the opportunity to experience different cultures in a way that enriches their lives, such as the chance to study or work abroad, travel opportunities and enabling them to experience things that speaking English alone would not. Not all of language study is learning the grammar and vocabulary. Another key element is getting to understand the differences between your own country and that of the countries where the language is spoken, developing an ability to see the world from a different perspective.
The benefits are many, ranging from being able to speak the native language when you go abroad to providing you with skills for your future career. Universities are incredibly international and keen to offer places to students who have studied a language even if they are going into a different specialist area. Understanding another culture and way of thinking or doing things can make you much more employable to a firm looking to do business there. Many jobs in the UK, such as roles in the NHS, police force and tourism need people who speak languages other than English to be able to communicate with people. Taking the time and effort to speak to someone in their own language goes a long way.
There are other academic advantages too. Learning a foreign language helps students to understand English grammar concepts and their own language. Furthermore, language skills can help with decoding and enhances mathematical skills. Both maths and language learning require abstract thought, use logical patterns to communicate meaningful information and have well-defined rules about how to represent that information.
Languages really can help you to stand out from the crowd.