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What Foreign Language is Best for a Career in Engineering?

written by: S Wood•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 12/16/2010

What foreign language is best for career in engineering is a question that many students in engineering undergraduate programs have. Let your short- and long-term career goals and personal interests guide your foreign language choice.

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    Best Foreign Language for an Engineering Career – What Should you Study?

    japanese text A question that might bother you in your engineering undergraduate program is, “What foreign language is best for career in engineering domains?" Should you study German, French or Dutch? Or, would it better to learn Spanish or Italian? Many of your classmates may have opted to learn Chinese. So, should you also go that route? Not necessarily. Keep in mind, to learn a foreign language takes time and effort. Make sure the language you choose takes your engineering career to the next level.

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    What Foreign Language is Best for Career in Engineering Fields - The Answer

    Select a foreign language to learn, in your engineering program, based on:

    - Your own interest in a foreign language you feel would also help in your engineering career

    - Your present and future career goals

    Here's a scenario:

    Short-term Goal: Study research publications in German in power electrical engineering to broaden your expertise in that field. Why German? It's because Germany is a pioneer in the field of power electrical engineering.

    Long-term Goal: Translate engineering research literature in German to English, as a profession.

    In your undergraduate program focus on one foreign language, because you’ve to handle other, intensive course load in engineering. After you graduate, should you wish to harness the job options that need training in multiple languages, learn at least one other language.

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    Career Avenues for Engineering Graduates with Strong Foreign Language Skills

    Here are the main career opportunities that seek engineering students or engineers with skills in one or more foreign languages:

    Work for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA): It recruits people with strong skills in a foreign language, such as Arabic. At the CIA, work opportunities exist for students and engineers with foreign language experience. The Agency even gives bonus for language expertise through its “Corporate Language Hiring Bonus Program."

    Seek International Employment: If you aspire to work in a foreign country, at least a basic knowledge of the language of that nation moves you closer to your goal. Not only you will be able to find a job and perform it better, but also engage in rich communication with your colleagues and with the world outside of the work.

    Explore Internship Prospects in Companies with Foreign Collaboration: Say you want to apply for an internship in a company, which has a technical partnership with a firm in Japan. With skills in Japanese, you automatically gain an edge over other applicants for the internship. Needless to say, with your performance, the company would create a permanent position for you. Or, when there is a job vacancy, you will be the forerunner to fill it. All thanks to your accomplishments and foreign language skills.

    Establish Strategic Business Units in another Country: When an engineering company with operations in several countries wants to setup a new office in an unrepresented country, they need people with solid foreign language training. If you are multilingual and are already an employee of that company, or want to seek a job in it, the company would prefer you to depute or hire.

    Work for a Translation Company: It is another job avenue for engineering graduates with a technical and foreign language background. With strong aptitude and interest also in writing, seek professional opportunities in companies that offer translation services.

    You can also work as a freelance translator. Where can you find such jobs? Checkout the job posts, among others, at freelance sites like and Discover translation work at these and other freelance sites under the work category title like “Writing and Translation."

    Transcribe Content: Develop the text content, for example, in English, from audio and video resources on engineering topics in a foreign language. Again, freelance sites are a source of such jobs.

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