According to Cnn.com, the hottest job skill is…translation. These kinds of articles are always a little problematic — just because “the hottest job skill is language translation,” doesn’t mean you should drop whatever educational plans you might have had to go running after language learning. I will always emphasize that you’re probably going to be better off pursuing a skill in which you have interest, and doing it exceedingly well, than you are pursuing something in which you have no interest, and doing it poorly.
However, it wouldn’t be prudent to ignore how important knowledge of a second language can be to your career.
A little bit of a personal digression: when I was in college, I went to a speaker, a superb comic book writer, who suggested that all us creative types in the audience should make sure that we pursue something that is an actual skill in addition to our creative interests. It wasn’t a good idea to go after purely creative pursuits, because those would be the most difficult to translate directly into a job, he said. Instead, double major, or major and minor, in something creative and something practical. Specifically, he pointed to the student who had brought him to campus to speech, and pointed out how he had talked this student into pursuing Russian language studies alongside creative writing. That way, the student could pursue work in translation if the creative writing didn’t pan out.
That’s the advice I want to pass along to you today, and that’s why this article is relevant. Having a highly practical, highly useful, and highly valuable skill can never hurt your career prospects, and even if you have another, much stronger interest? That skill may help put food on the table while you pursue the thing you really want to do.
If studying a foreign language, learning how to translate it with the best of them, and then pursuing a job as a translator will help you eat on your path to becoming an artist, or a fashion designer, or an author, or whatever you might really want to do, then go for it. Don’t do it if you’re going to be miserable, and don’t pick a language that’s going to leave you with migraines every night. But if it’s in you to pursue such a skill, to add that to the utility knife that is your knowledge, then you would only be aided by doing so.
This is true whether or not you have some other aim in mind, too. If you’re still not sure of what you want to do, then what this article is telling you is that having skill in a foreign language may give you the job that will then give you the time you need to find out what you really want. That’s not a bad thing, not at all.
So, no, I do not recommend running out to learn Korean first thing after reading this article, just because you hope to be hired by Apple. But I do suggest thinking about your educational pursuits, both in an ideal and practical way, and considering if pursuing a foreign language in your studies might just be the key that opens other doors.