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So how could I use both - foreign languages and engineering

  1. Feb 14, 2014 #1
    I've always liked languages, and engineering, and currently am in school to be an EE. My question is, apart from being that guy that translates manuals, what else is there for me, if I'd like to use my language skills, in my field of choice?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 14, 2014 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    You can liase between engineers from different countries in multinational projects.
  4. Feb 15, 2014 #3
    Would you recommend a language minor? Or is that something I could do if I just demonstrate a proficiency in?
  5. Feb 15, 2014 #4

    Simon Bridge

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    I would recommend becoming fluent - particularly in communicating technical subjects. It is unusual for a language minor course to help there.

    Spending time in the country where the language is native is the best this on your resume for the sort of work where you are in a multi-national environment. Such employers/opportunities are seldom impressed by paper qualifications. They want to know "can you talk to this guy?"

    If your language is French - consider taking a summer job (not vacation) in France. If you can get a technical job, all the better. See if there are exchange programs to French colleges and so on.

    A lot of detail will depend on the actual languages you are proficient in, and how good you are with the cultures associated with the language. Trivial example: the differences between US and UK English and culture can cause trouble and an engineer capable of working with teams on both sides of the Atlantic would be quite valuable. Someone immersed in both cultures would pick up nuances not so obvious to the everyday English speaker.

    I think what may help is to add a focus on the more administrative/leadership aspect of being an engineer - that will be more likely to get you considered as a liason. Pursue languages as a passion rather than as an academic goal - passion tends to stand out more in job interviews.

    Adjust this advise to your personal situation - I don't actually know you, for all I know you are a language prodigy :)
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2014
  6. Feb 16, 2014 #5
    Thank you, I never realized until recently my hobby could be used for something, my current language is French, ironically, I plan on learning the most common ones, as much as I might prefer to study Farsi or Tagalog (I like a challenge) it probably wouldn't help much with my goals. I don't know if I am a prodigy or not, just passionate about the subject.
  7. Feb 16, 2014 #6

    Simon Bridge

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    No worries - have fun.
  8. Feb 16, 2014 #7
    Thanks for the advice, I had thought of changing my major, but I think I'll stick with it.
  9. Feb 17, 2014 #8
    Languages with engineering?
    Learn Chinese.

    Especially if it's automotive, or consultancy.
  10. Feb 17, 2014 #9
    Would Japanese be a good bet as well?
  11. Feb 23, 2014 #10


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    I'm not sure that learning Chinese or Japanese would be all that helpful.

    In my area of work, integrated circuits, there are more than enough American engineers who are fluent in Chinese or Japanese. These people are usually immigrants or sometimes the children of immigrants. If you're in the United States, in my opinion you're better off with a language from a country whose speakers have not migrated to the United States recently in large numbers. French or German would be good choices (although, most French and German engineers I've met speak at least passable English).
  12. Feb 23, 2014 #11
    My idea was moving abroad, and working there, or working with an international team here.
  13. Feb 24, 2014 #12


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    I became an engineer specializing in radar and radar-guided missiles. After some years I "dropped out" to become a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). I served in both Korea and Iran. Upon arrival in country the new PCV undergoes 3 or 4 months of intensive language and cross-cultural training. Then, it's off to the "job site"...in my case, to teach electronics using the native language in technical (vocational) high schools. No doubt, it was a struggle at first, but after the first year it seemed natural. The second year solidifies and reinforces one's language skills. If the students gained anything from my service, then fine. I am the one who gained immensely: I am fluent in both Korean and Farsi! I have acted as a liaison engineer between my employers and those nations owing to my technical skills PLUS my language and cultural expertise. Contact Peace Corps and explore the possibilities.
  14. Feb 26, 2014 #13
    Once upon a time I worked for a global company selling electromechanical products. I went to their factory in the EU where my colleagues had to support customers from many locations. Sitting around the table at lunch, one of the other engineers carried on five different conversations in five different languages (EN, DE, FR, ES, IT).

    Eye-opening for a "provincial American". Working in the US where the economic market is so large just by itself, there is usually little motivation to learn anything other than English. Granted, the "Global language of Commerce" currently seems to be English. There's more need of multilingual folks in the EU. I suspect having proficiency in multiple Asian languages may be useful if one could find a gig somewhere over there.

    Generally speaking, the job experience above indicated that where ever technical products are sold globally, then proficiency in multiple languages would indeed be very useful in a customer applications engineering & support function.
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