It’s a sure value-add to their bio-data, and they hope to go places with it. Yes, knowledge of a foreign language has almost become an essential qualification for students to move up the ladder in a globalised scenario.

More and more students are evincing interest in learning a foreign language. The reason — knowledge of local languages is far from being adequate, whether for higher education or for job prospects in a globalised world.

Cutting across academic disciplines, students have started to realise the advantage of learning at least one foreign language in the recent years. For many, knowledge of a foreign language is an “extra asset,” especially when it comes to employment avenues.

While French is the most favourite for many students, languages including German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Russian also find several takers. A cross-section of senior academicians feel multi-lingual skills are imperative for students in the presentday scenario.

For Sanjeevkumar Sirnoorkar, a student of MBA Tourism at the Pondicherry University from Karnataka who has learnt basic French as part of the curriculum, it is always advantageous for students of tourism to learn one or two foreign languages, especially French and Japanese. “Take any tourism curriculum in any university in the country and one will find the importance of the two languages,” he says.

Fluent in a number of Indian languages, Sirnoorkar finds French to be a vibrant language and loves the intonation. “We are placed in tour operations, travel agencies and hotels. A lot of foreign tourists are visiting India. Though English is spoken widely, knowledge of a foreign language will facilitate better communication with them. If time permits, I would like to learn more languages,” he says.

Several students of engineering, medicine, tourism, international studies and social work are keen on learning a foreign language. “Besides French and German, Chinese and Japanese languages are gaining popularity now. Multi-lingual skills are the need of the hour,” believes Y. Venkata Rao, Reader in Tourism.

G. S. Sowmyan, a student who has learnt four levels of French, considers French and German essential for travel anywhere around the world.

According to Michel Houdayer, Director of Alliance Francaise-Pondicherry, knowledge of foreign languages is crucial to fetching job opportunities. “More and more companies including call centres, banking companies are looking for candidates with knowledge of French. It is definitely an extra asset. Even Indian students aiming to pursue higher studies in medicine and engineering in France are learning the language,” he says.

One of the primary reasons for students to learn French is their desire to broaden their career prospects, feels Marie Joelle Primoguet, Academic Director of Alliance Francaise.

It was the knowledge of a foreign language that fetched a job for S. Janardhanan, who is pursuing B.A. English through correspondence. “Knowing a foreign language definitely gives an edge over others. It enhances professional opportunities. But more than just knowing a foreign language, it is important to be fluent in it. I like to learn more foreign languages,” he says.

Vandana Shah, course coordinator at Emanci Language Institute, which offers courses in Spanish and German languages, thinks more students are heading towards learning foreign languages. “For instance, some students are learning German to go to Germany and also to get better jobs in companies located at Bangalore. It is indeed an additional advantage. If students are looking at jobs abroad, it is essential to learn the language of the place,” she says.

Any study in international relations calls for knowledge of foreign languages. As B. Mohanan, Head, Department of Politics and International Studies at Pondicherry University explains, “For example, knowledge of Chinese language is important for a student of international studies if he/she wants to focus on China. They can collect information directly, as often translation in English leads to loss of some information.”

Placement coordinators at educational institutions see the growing preference among companies for students with knowledge of a foreign language. “It is definitely looked as a weightage point in students. We receive companies who ask for students of commerce or management with French proficiency. Other European languages like Spanish and German are also preferred. Information Technology industries look for students with additional languages,” says a placement coordinator.

It is with the aim of training students in foreign languages, the Pondicherry University would be launching courses in French, Japanese, Russian, Korean and Chinese soon. “At a time of globalisation, employment avenues are spread across the world. Our youngsters should be competent in language skills,” says its vice-chancellor J.A.K. Tareen.

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