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Friday, August 15, 2008

Career in Indian Languages


  Language is the vehicle that permeates every aspect of life, and languagerelated careers are thriving with opportunity. With over 22 officially recognised languages, and over 2,000 dialects, India is fast gaining a reputation of being a major employer of language experts. While learning a foreign language such as Spanish, Russian and Japanese does open up several avenues, Indian languages are not far behind. The list is endless, and opportunities start from tour operators, online content writers, technical decoders, teachers, interpreters, translators, researchers and transcribers, to name a few. 


While a thorough understanding of the language(s) you wish to specialise in is a must, that is not enough in itself. Depending upon the kind of job you wish to take up, you should work on developing tertiary skills, which will enable you to gain an edge. For instance, interpreters need a thorough knowledge of the phonetics of a language,because they have to transfer spoken statements from one language to another. Translators, on the other hand, have to translate written documents,which needs excellent writing skills in languages.“ Essential traits include having a good command over both English and Indian languages, with excellent language sense and intuitions — mathematical orientation and logical thinking, with an adequate command over technology,”explains Udaya Narayana Singh,director,Central Institute of Indian Languages,adding,“Science and engineering graduates who come to linguistics have often done well, but someone with a knack for language and literature can also prove to be an asset.” Languages can be picked up via several means, based on one’s upbringing, environment and knack for learning.However, a good academic background is a must for increasing your employability. 
  “A Bachelor’s degree would be the minimum but a Master’s degree would be ideal. However, the level of proficiency required would also depend upon the nature of work one chooses to pursue. One may need additional skills, talent and knowledge depending upon the kind of work one takes up,” explains education counsellor Jayanti Ghose, while Salil Gupta, a content writer and reviewer for e-learning modules opines,“An MA or PhD in the language goes a long way in this field. Doing a formal course helps you to understand the nuances of the language, which you may have missed out when conversing informally.” 


Primarily, language experts find employment in five fields. These include general translation, technical translation, interpretation, transcription and teaching. 

Translation of books, novels, documents and so on, falls under the purview of general translation. Owing to differences in syntactical patterns among languages, translating can be a challenging task. Excellent writing skills and a strong vocabulary in at least two languages are essential to be a translator. 


With the entry of multinational companies across the country, professionals who can translate contracts, reports and other business documents are becoming a necessity. “You should specialise in a particular field to know the finer details while translating. Translation of Indian manuscripts is an upcoming area in technical translation,” informs Gupta. 


Unlike translation, interpretation is done on the spot. Thus, interpreters need to be completely familiar with the language. In addition, the interpreter must keep abreast of current affairs, as well as be proficient in technical jargon. As a result, most interpreters choose to specialise in a particular subject area. 


Transcription refers to the conversion of spoken language into written word. Legal and medical transcription are fast becoming lucrative options. “You can start off as an assistant at legal firms engaging in contract drafting, national and international agreements as well as in legal proceedings, for which you may specialise in language and law,” says Singh. 


Language teachers can work with regular schools, colleges or specialised language schools. Today there is a demand for teachers, not just in the linguistics department, but also in several related departments. Online, DTH and other net and satellite based teaching package preparations demand experienced teachers on a largescale, for the creation and conversion of e-content in Indian languages. Preparation of teaching materials such as books and educational CDs is also an option. 
  In addition to the above sectors, opportunities are opening up in varied fields such as tourist guides, researchers in large R&D institutions in the public sector, researchers interested in Indian history/ literature, speech therapists, language technologists in research and product development positions, and in various capacities in the mass communications industry. 
  Adding to the list Singh says, “Let’s not forget that India has 70,000 plus publishing houses, many of whom are interested in publication of knowledge-based 
books, literature, and translations. Language experts are rapidly hired as specialised editorial staff in publishing houses and also as freelancers undertaking editorial responsibilities from agencies engaged in production of books in Indian languages. Their job is to evaluate and edit translated texts besides acting as translators.” 


“With the growth in globalisation and multi-cultural/ multilingual organisational set ups, the demand for proficiency in languages will continue to be strong,” predicts Ghose. 
“Since ‘language’ has begun to be focused on by the government, AI and CS related outfits, research organisations, and the translation-industry, and since there are so many new avenues opening up as well as new largescale projects and programmes being undertaken, I think linguistics has tremendous potential,” says Singh. 
  Keeping up with the demand in the professional arena, academic institutions across the country offer several courses for those interested in this field.Today, linguistics is taught in 35 plus universities at the postgraduate and doctoral levels, and there are about a dozen universities where one could get this subject even at the undergraduate level. In addition, linguistics has also been introduced as an optional subject at the undergraduate level in the University of Delhi. It is also available in principle at the honours level. Many of these professional courses are now being offered either by the Ignou or through one of the open universities.The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) offers an MA in Education, which has a full paper on ‘Language, Mind, and Society’. These do not include the degrees one could get in the specialised institutions such as All India Institute of Speech and Hearing. Certain IITs, too, are offering degrees in areas that will overlap with or feed into ‘Language Technology’ 


Apart from the multitude of career opportunities that you can avail of, language education plays a critical role in mental development and knowledge production. Learning different languages enhances our communicative competence, supports multilingualism and contributes to the development of languages and cultural life. 
  Besides, by choosing to learn another Indian language, you can promote quality in language pedagogy and nurture tolerance for diversity. 


Delhi University 

Jawaharlal Nehru Institute 

Banaras Hindu University 

Aligarh Muslim University 

Hyderabad Central University 


Osmania University 

Maharaja Sayajirao University  

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