What are languages worth? That’s a difficult question to answer. In terms of personal time and effort, then probably a great deal. Research has also shown that people that can speak two languages are better at reasoning and that older people who can speak languages are better able to fight dementia. To put it one way, they are invaluable, both personally and financially to the economy. But what are the personal financial benefits of studying a language?
In the Economist Online, an article from 2014 revealed the percentage value of foreign languages in regards to their earning power. It is important to note that the figures given are calculated for the US.
According to the article, languages graduates in the US can expect to enjoy an average starting salary of $45,000, roughly £28,000. However an article by the BBC claims that the average starting salary for UK language graduates is actually £20,900.
So which is correct? Languages are not doing well in the UK. According a study by Cardiff University Business School, the lack of foreign language ability in the UK costs the British economy £48 billion a year. Languages , therefore, can therefore be said to be worth a great deal.
What’s most interesting about the article is the discussion the addition earning power of some languages over others . German, for example, generates a 3.8% bonus in salary in the US, worth $128,000 over forty years.
Due to its strong economy and trading power, the German language is considered more economically valuable in America in comparison to Spanish because of the high prevalence of native speakers.
German language learning has dropped drastically in the UK and the US in the last decade. This increases the value of German speakers – more incentives to become teachers and educate a new generation, greater value for German language combinations in translation.
Despite the obvious financial benefits, language learning is worth a lot on a human level too. The sense of achievement at making yourself understood in another language is unparalleled.
In order to support the economy, languages need to be supported more in schools, with more diverse opportunities offered to stimulate and engage students. Economics is important. But so too is personal development.