Careers in Languages: 5 Examples for Polyglots and Aspiring Polyglots

(Last Updated On: June 23, 2022)

Introduction

Language skills can form the basis of a great career, so if you’re already fluent in multiple languages, or you have a real passion for learning them — you’re in luck!

In this article I’ll go over 4 common language-related careers, that you can look into pursuing yourself, including the pros and cons of each.
Let’s dive in.

Typical Careers

A quick note: Language skills are incredibly sought after in the workplace around the world, so there are going to be 100s or 1000s of different positions that you could be a great candidate for.

However, the following careers are tailor-made for language enthusiasts, so we’re highlighting them here in the article.

Translator

Translating is the act of translating from language A to language B, and it could be everything from articles like this, to major book publications, tv show subtitles, or technical reports. Because you’re always translating FROM something, you’ll need excellent language skills in two different languages.

The job can be quite solitary, with a lot of work on a computer. Most translators are contractors which can offer high flexibility of when to work (as long as you meet the deadlines) and higher pay, but be limiting in other factors like office culture, social interaction, and benefits/perks and pension. No official certificate needed, but it’s advised to have some formal training in any case.

Interpreter

Interpreting, which is sometimes mixed up with translation, is the act of simultaneously translating the spoken word between two or more parties of a conversation, conference presentations, and much more. This role is more specialised than translator, because you need to be able to translate everything, very quickly, and keep a note of what the speaker is saying even when you are speaking as well.

The most well-known interpreting examples are from conferences or politics (like the European Union) but you can find interpreters in many places, like Medical institutions, big companies, and governments around the world. A freelance interpreter with highly desired language skills can command rates of $100s per hour. Typically, official interpreters are trained at a school or university setting for a while in specific languages before they start working.

Teacher

Teaching is a great way to pass on your knowledge, and with the internet connecting the entire world you’re not just limiting to teaching in language schools or schools nearby.

Teaching online offers a high degree of flexibility, and there’s excellent long-term opportunities by scaling up hourly rates, selling digital courses or learning materials.

I recommend teaching on italki (if your language is open) or Preply

Influencer / Content Creator

The final career idea for you today, is to become a content creator and/or influencer.
While I’m not personally a huge fan of the term influencer, it is undoubtedly what happens when you start building an audience with consistent content.

This can also be combined with some of the other careers mentioned earlier. For example, if you’re a teacher you can spend some of your non-teaching time recording lessons to put on YouTube and reach a much wider audience.

Or, alternatively you can even ask student’s permission to film lessons directly and upload edited versions of that.

To get started, pick what medium you’re most comfortable in. Is it the written word, video, or audio? Then you go all-in on one platform accordingly. I started doing blogging and podcasting, and the occasional video. This was because I was not comfortable on camera, nor did I have any editing skills.

And, finally – just create, create, create. Most people today consume, if you want to change your life you have to start being a creator rather than a consumer.

Other Career Paths

There are obviously millions of potential jobs out there, where language skills can come in handy or give you a distinct advantage.

Tourism, is one of these industries, but because there are literally 10,000 different jobs in the tourism industry, I have not included them in great detail here.

Some companies give bonuses and favourable employment terms if you know more than 1 language (airlines are an example of this) and there’s usually always a possibility of working with hospitality and tourism in one way or another if you have some skills.

Conclusion

There you have it – a few ideas for how anyone interested in languages can leverage their skills in their future careers, or start to build one from the ground up.

My final advice would be this: Think about how you want to spend your days at work, and then work backwards on how to get there. If you love translating, and the freedom that it provides, then look into specialising at that in university or even earlier if possible.

The same goes for interpretation. The sooner you can start building the skills necessary, the better qualified you will be in the end.

One thing is for sure though, language skills are never bad when it comes to building your career, and while you might not work directly in or with languages, you can still get amazing opportunities just because you bothered to put extra effort into your language studies.

Best of luck!

Kris Broholm

Kris is the founder of Actual Fluency, and has spent the last 8 years becoming an expert in language learning software, methods, and techniques.

Originally from Denmark, he now lives in Portugal and speaks 5+ languages at varying levels. His other interests are Wine, Online Marketing, and Travelling.