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The greatest adventure: studying languages in a global world

World of languages

In our increasingly globalised world, we can communicate and connect with more people than ever before. But an increased ability to communicate requires a greater ability to understand the world around us and how we engage with cultures outside of our own. 

Studying a language is now more important than ever. A recent report by the British Council argues that to succeed in a competitive global environment, the workforce of tomorrow will require the skills to navigate a multilingual and culturally diverse workplace. But the UK’s foreign language capacity is not where it needs to be. 

Universities are at the forefront of preparing future generations for a new world. Here at Nottingham, we want to inspire the next generation of language learners, to show that language study is about more than learning words. It’s understanding pop culture, visual culture, films and media; it’s examining defining moments for our societies; it’s proposing solutions for conflict resolution; it’s expanding your horizons beyond the world you know. 

We asked three members of our University community to share why studying languages is so important in today’s world – and we want to hear your thoughts too. Tell us what you gained from your language degree and help us inspire the next generation to embark on the greatest adventure.   

Pierre-Alexis Mével
Assistant Professor in Translation Studies

“Globalisation often gets a bad rap because it has come to be seen as shorthand for the movement and trade of goods across the globe. What’s often left out is that globalisation is also about cultures coming into contact, and permanently impacting one another. These contacts are mediated by languages. Studying languages is so much more than what it says on the tin: yes, you get to learn a new language but you also get to understand this language in its cultural environment, through that culture’s history and customs, art, politics and intellectual traditions. You learn to understand what they say, but also, more importantly, what they mean. Globalisation does not just happen: it happens because cultures have things to share. Whether through intercultural communication, translation, interpreting or localisation, language learners make cultures and languages collide and collude, enriching one another in the process.” 

Damilola Ikeola
(American Studies and Latin American Studies, 2014)

“I spent the first half of my year abroad teaching in Colombia and the second half studying in Mexico. Working and teaching in these countries allowed me to become fully immersed – I felt like I was a local. I’d get the bus, go shopping and greet my neighbours like I was a true member of the community. Spending a year abroad not only significantly improved my language skills but gave me the opportunity to explore other cultures. I discovered how friendly and welcoming Colombians are and was fortunate to be among the caring and fun Mexicans. It also changed my understanding and perception of sensitives in how people speak and say things – different cultures have different attitudes towards different things.”

Juliet Kuo
(French and Contemporary Chinese Studies, 2016)

“When you live abroad you are faced with a number of challenges and obstacles which can be difficult enough to tackle in English, from trying to explain a leak in plumbing to your landlord in French or trying to explain visa complications to staff at an airport in Mandarin. Meeting new people everyday forces you to communicate in setting completely alien to you. Learning how to get by in a foreign country really is an achievement. In an increasingly global world, it’s important to understand and be comfortable with different cultures. Studying abroad equips you with skills that allow you to adapt to any situation.”

How has your language degree helped you in today’s world? Even if you’re not using the language you studied in your job or day-to-day life, we’d love to know how the skills and experiences you gained from your degree have benefitted you to help us inform and inspire prospective language students. 



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