The possibilities are endless…

℗ State University of New York at Oswego – Personnel with language skills are needed in many different types and places of work. The demand is apparent in seven major areas:

  1. Business, Industry & Commerce
    Import-Export, Advertising, Banking & Finance, Engineering, Research, Translation
  2. Government & International Intelligence & Law Enforcement
    Foreign Service, Translation, Aid Agencies, Overseas Dependents’ Schools, Radio, U. S. Armed Forces
  3. Teaching
    Elementary & Secondary Schools, Colleges & Universities, Commercial & Government-Operated Schools, Overseas Dependents’ Schools, Peace Corps Locations
  4. Interpreting & Translation
    Free-Lance, Escort, Courtroom, Conference, Simultaneous & Consecutive
  5. Media
    Journalism, Radio & Television, Film, Publishing
  6. Travel & Tourism
    Transportation, Hotels & Motels, Excursions & Tours
  7. Services
    Health Professions, Social Work, Library Science, Service Organizations, Law & Law Enforcement, Volunteer Agencies


The types of companies needing management and sales personnel with foreign language skills cover the whole spectrum of the business world. In their operations, they find that foreign language proficiency is an enormous advantage, both in the United States and in their overseas offices, and lack of it a real handicap. International advertising is a highly specialized activity. Its prime purpose, of course, is to promote the sale of American products overseas. Since the latter are sold throughout the world, all of the major and some of the lesser languages are of importance. Positions for which companies find foreign language ability necessary or desirable include: Import-Export Agent, Marketing Coordinator, Overseas Personnel Manager, Copywriter, Purchasing Agent, Executive Assistant, Trade Analyst, Air Traffic Assistant, Buyer, Interpreter/Translator


As international business and industry expand, international banking and financial activity naturally follows. Today one fourth of all new direct investment goes abroad. This increased emphasis on the international financial market is accom panied by a growing need for foreign language skills. The variety of positions involved in this area include:

Senior Credit Analyst, Commercial Loan Officer, Administrative Assistant, Controller, Accountants/Auditors/Bookkeepers, Banking Correspondents, Finance Director, Bilingual Officers, Clerks & Tellers


Companies with overseas plants, those that manufacture machinery and equipment used abroad, American subsidiaries of foreign-based companies, manufacturers using foreign-made components in their U.S. operations – all are likely to need technical and engineering personnel with language proficiency. Job titles include:

Overseas Plant Manager, Engineer, Transport Equipment Specialist, Quality Control Supervisor, Computer Systems Designer, Production Supervisor, Laboratory Technician, Research Worker, Production Engineer, Technical Writer.


In the business world, the range of languages and fields is so vast that some employment agencies maintain permanent advertisements for bilingual secretaries and typists. The bilingual secretary has been described as a “stenographer, translator, and correspondent”, which seems to broaden the range of duties considerably beyond that of a person without language ability, and this surely explains the salary premium enjoyed by bilingual personnel. In addition to typist, stenographer, receptionist, and administrative secretary, the clerical fields open to bilingual personnel include some that might not be as readily apparent. For instance, a Washington, D.C. company sought a person fluent in Spanish and English to conduct telephone interviews. Switchboard operators, collection workers, and bookkeepers with language ability are also needed.


The Federal Government is the largest employer of Americans with foreign language skills, both in this country and abroad. Some agencies and departments have established “language essential” positions – but fewer than half are satisfactorily filled. This means greater opportunities for government employees with strong language capabilities. The following U.S. Government departments and agencies require personnel with language skills:

  • Department of State: The Department of State employs 15,000 Americans around the world. The Department has stated that in the field of foreign affairs, it is placing increased emphasis on the language capability of its Foreign Service: Officers who staff over 300 U.S. diplomatic and consular offices around the world, and serve in Washington, D.C. as well. They are assigned duties in the economic, business, political, and cultural areas, and serve as consular officers an~ in administrative positions. Overseas, they have extensive contact with foreigners, interpreting U.S. foreign policy, protecting the interests of Americans abroad, processing visas, and carrying on intelligence work.
  • Agency for International Development (AID): AID administers the majority of U.S. aid to over 60 countries. Positions include accountant, auditor, budget analyst, business analyst, information officer, loan officer and personnel specialist.
  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA): The CIA is the primary intelligence-gathering arm of the United States Government. It employs U.S. citizens with backgrounds in international relations, political science, economics, history,.geography, engineering, physics, and chemistry, as well as foreign languages.
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): The FBI employs linguists and also makes use of the language skills of its Special Agents who conduct foreign counterintelligence investigations within the U.S., and coordinate the domestic counterintelligence activities of other agencies in the intelligence community.
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): The DEA conducts domestic and international investigations of major drug traffickers, cooperating with Federal and local agencies as well as foreign governments. It provides special training in narcotic and dangerous drug control to U.S. and foreign law enforcement officers. DEA employs Americans fluent in the languages of the countries where they are assigned.
  • Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS): The INS is responsible for administering the laws relating to the admission, exclusion, deportation, and naturalization of aliens. Through its offices in the U.S. and abroad, it provides information to those seeking U.S. citizenship. INS personnel conduct investigations, detect violations of the immigration laws and determine the suitability of aliens to enter the U.S. They need a knowledge of the foreign language involved, together with the appropriate background in law enforce ment and related fields. Border Patrol Officers use Spanish and many other languages.
  • U.S. Customs Service: The Customs Service collects revenue from imports and administers customs and related laws. It works closely with international organizations and foreign customs services. Some personnel are stationed overseas, making use of German, French, Spanish, Chinese and other languages.
  • United States Information Agency (USIA): USIA employs over 2,000 persons with skills in some 50 languages at posts around the world. The agency maintains information offices and libraries in many countries, and operates the Voice of America radio network. Many positions are filled by Foreign Service Officers, and there are also non career openings in clerical, library, radio and administrative work. The Voice of America radio service broadcasts news, educational, entertain ment, and other programs in many languages. Candidates for VOA positions must have a college degree plus skills in communications, journalism, foreign affairs, government, and/or related social sciences. Fluency in the language is a must; a near-perfect accent (“native fluency”) and a good speaking voice are required for announcers. The work, in Washington and abroad, includes writing, editing, translating, reporting special events, evaluating material for broadcast use, and production.
  • Defense Intelligence Agency: The DIA employs economists, geologists, translators, engineers and meteor ologists in its intelligence-gathering work. In a recent newspaper advertisement the Agency sought Bilingual Research Technicians for diverse clerical and adminis trative duties: reviewing foreign newspapers and documents, translating, typing, preparing briefs and abstracts. Fluency was required.
  • National Security Agency: The NSA, which functions under the Department of Defense, employs research assistants, communications experts, and translators, all of whom must know foreign languages. This agency makes its appointments independently of civil service regulations.
  • United States Travel Service: The U.S. Travel Service is charged with promoting travel from foreign countries to the U.S. Employees of its six offices overseas must be fluent in the language of the country to which they are assigned, and possess appropriate experience and academic training in international sales and promotion including advertising, international economics, marketing and market research, business administration, and public relations.
  • Smithsonian Institution: Founded in 1846 for the “increase and diffusion of knowledge”, this institution publishes the results of studies, preserves over 78 million items of scientific, cultural and historical interest, and maintains exhibits devoted to American history, technology, and aeronautics. It also conducts educational programs and national and international cooperative research and training. Foreign language skills are useful in the Offices of International Activities, Folklife Programs, Museum Programs, International Exchange Service, and others.
  • Library of Congress: Personnel of the Library of Congress utilize foreign languages in a wide range of activities: acquisition, cataloging and classification, reference and research. The Library uses over 450 languages in connection with its more than 19 million books and pamphlets, the majority of which are in non-English languages.


In areas where large numbers of citizens do not speak English, local governments need employees with foreign language skills. The extent to which foreign languages are used depends on the ethnic makeup of the community. Some cities and states have offices of bilingual programs which carry out and oversee special programs for such groups. Social Workers, Counselors, Home Economists, and Education Specialists are often hired to serve Spanish-speaking residents. In New York City, a Police Officer will find Spanish highly useful — over 500 police officers enroll each semester in Spanish courses offered by the City University of New York.


The UN is the largest employer of language specialists – translators, editors, interpreters – in this country. Its purpose is to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, and to achieve international cooperation in solving economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian problems. It also employs professional economists, education specialists, financial analysts, public information officers, librarians, technical specialists in industry and agriculture, engineers and statisticians, and has a continuing need for clerical and secretarial staff, preferably bilingual.


Approximately 100,000 people in this country work in the field of foreign language teaching. Over two-thirds teach in Jr. & Sr. High Schools, and the rest in colleges and universities, elementary schools and commercial and government- operated language schools. The greatest number teach Spanish, followed by French, German, Latin, Chinese, Portuguese and Japanese. In addition, a substantial number teach English to those who speak other languages as their native tongue. The teaching of English to speakers of other languages also offers expanding opportunities for employment abroad in government, academic & volunteer,programs. Still others teach in bilingual education programs, usually at the elementary level where students whose native language is not English, and who follow a regular academic program in both their native language and English. A large number of bilingual preschool centers also have been established, employing bilingual teachers qualified in early childhood education.


Interpreters and translators make possible much of the international communi cation and exchange that takes place in the world. The two professions themselves are often confused — interpreting deals with oral communication, and translation with written materials. Professional translators and interpreters are employed everywhere in the world – by governments, international agencies, conferences, publishers and many other businesses and organizations. The largest employer of language specialists in this country is the United Nations, which has about 400 translators on its staff in New York. Recruitment is by annual competitive examination and interview.


Interpreters must make quick and continuous judgments about what is being said in the foreign (or “source”) language, and render it simultaneously or consecutively into the “target” language. There is little or no time to weigh alternatives. Simultaneous Interpretation is given idea by idea, or phrase by phrase, as the speaker continues to talk. This technique requires speed and fluency, and is made possible by the use of electronic equipment. Consecutive Interpretation the speaker and interpreter take turns speaking. A consecutive interpreter must have a good memory, and generally needs to take notes of what is said to be certain to give a complete rendering. Simultaneous interpretation is considered to be more difficult, since the interpreter has no time to make notes but must grasp facts and ideas immediately and accurately.

Conference Interpreters serve at international meetings, seminars and discussions. Some are employed as permanent staff members of government agencies and international organizations, while others are hired on a free-lance basis to work at specific conferences.

Free-Lance Conference Interpreting – In this field, experienced interpreters compete for the opportunity to interpret at international meetings on scientific, political, economic, and other subjects. The main languages used at international. conferences in the U.S. are English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Escort Interpreters accompany visiting delegations or individuals and interpret for them, generally in informal situations. There are more of them than conference interpreters because many more languages are in demand for escort interpreting. In the area of international business, they often accompany U.S. businessmen traveling abroad for negotiations.

Courtroom interpreters – Many cities maintain registries of courtroom interpreters who are called upon as the need arises. The greatest demand is in Spanish. At present, interpreters for the Federal courts are certified after passing an extremely rigorous examination in English and Spanish.


The translator is required to produce clear, accurate, and well-written renderings of foreign language texts, from general reports and speeches to literary works and highly technical subject matter. This work demands not only a thorough knowledge of the source language, but also the ability to deal with a wide range of materials and to grasp difficult ideas and concepts. Many translators specialize in such fields as finance, patents, life sciences, engineering, poetry and fiction, Bible translation, or children’s literature. As in interpreting, professional translators may work as free-lances or on the staffs of international agencies, government departments, publishing houses, and other businesses and organizations.


Journalism – Foreign languages are an important asset to employment in journalism. A significant number of newspapers have indicated that foreign language skills are needed in the profession, and that a knowledge of languages spoken by local ethnic the advertising and circulation departments find a knowledge of foreign languages useful in dealing with advertisers and readers.

Radio & Television – There are over 300 radio stations throughout the U.S. that broadcast programs in foreign languages – French, German, Italian, Spanish and many others with some stations producing language education programs. Language skills are needed by the program writers and announcers at these stations.

Film – Film production is one of the most international of the arts in which technical skill and artistic talent transcend national boundaries. Writers, performers, executives and technicians may need a foreign language in order to have a thorough knowledge of their subject, to communicate with the people being filmed, and with each other; to prepare scripts, or simply to get along in the foreign country where they are working.

Publishing – Positions as editor, editorial assistant, copywriter, proofreader, technical writer, salesperson, and secretarial worker are available in the field of publishing. Foreign language skills are useful for the staffs of many publishing houses, especially those that market their books abroad, or publish translations and foreign language textbooks.


Transportation Companies – Airlines, railroads, bus and ship lines need bilingual personnel to deal with foreign passengers and to serve Spanish-speaking or other ethnic groups within the United States. Job titles include: Flight Attendants, Reservation and Sales Agents, Flight Announcers, Information Clerks and Ground Hosts and hostesses.

Hotels and Motels – Desk clerks, telephone operators, information staff administrators, hosts and hostesses – all can provide better service to visitors from abroad and –enhance their employer’s reputation by knowing a foreign language. Hotels and convention centers are becoming more aware of these needs, especially in areas that receive many foreign visitors like N.Y. City, Niagara Falls, Disney World, Washington, D.C. and the West Coast.

Tourism – As the influx of foreign visitors to America continues, guided excursion tours will require personnel with language skills. Many such excursions and tours are now being sold as part of package arrangements for tourists from abroad, just as they are for American tourists traveling overseas. There is a need not only for people to accompany the foreign visitors, but also for bilingual guides on sightseeing excursions in cities and to tourist attractions, museum guides, and hosts and hostesses at resorts such as Disneyland, Williamsburg, and the many “theme parks” that have been developed.


Health Professions: Health professionals of all kinds – medical students, doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, therapists, medical researchers, hospital administrators, and health educators – are finding more and more that a knowledge of certain foreign languages is urgently needed in dealing with patients, especially in metropolitan areas where there are many ethnic minorities — people who are unable to speak English well enough to describe their symptoms or understand medical instructions. Many hospitals in the U.S. have hired bilingual personnel and utilized the services of volunteers to deal with these groups.

A college student in Hanover, New Hampshire volunteered to assist in the care of Spanish-speaking patients at a local hospital, and was soon given a permanent position in the patient services department.

Laboratory technicians and specialists in medical research need a reading knowledge of the languages in which research reports are written. Russian, German, and French are the most frequently used foreign languages for research material in the biological sciences. The long delays that are common in the published translation of such materials can seriously retard research in these highly specialized fields.

Social Work : Social workers assist individuals, families, groups, and communities in using social services to deal with problems such as poverty, unemployment, poor housing or illness. In cities where there are concentrations of minority groups and immigrants, social workers cone into contact with many people who do not speak English.

Library Science: The librarian may use foreign language skills in a variety of ways including book selection, classifying and cataloging, serving users who speak other languages, and working abroad in U.S. Government libraries, centers, and schools or those operated language, a librarian must know enough of the language to have a general idea of what the book is about.

Special Collections Librarians collect and organize books, pamphlets, manuscripts and other materials while Reference Librarians answer questions and suggest sources of information that may be useful. They both should know at least one foreign language, and preferably more than one, in order to have access to as wide a range of reference materials as possible.

Service Organization: Many social service organizations need people with foreign language ability, both in this country and abroad. The International Visitors Information Service (IVIS) maintains a booth at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. to provide information and language assistance to foreign visitors arriving there. Catholic Relief Services, the YMCA and YWCA, the Red Cross, and other charitable and service organizations sometimes need bilingual workers and volunteers to work with Hispanic and other ethnic groups. Often caseworkers must deal with people in emergency situations and comprehend their problems, which are complicated by a lack of language skills, as well as cultural misunderstandings.

Law & Law Enforcement: Over 600,000 Americans work as lawyers. Knowledge of a foreign language can be a direct, practical asset to the lawyer who works with members of the ethnic minority and immigrant groups, does legal aid work, or specializes in international law, maritime law, patent law, or international business. In these fields, lawyers who lack language skills may find themselves dependent on the services of translators and other intermediaries, which can be time-consuming, awkward for both lawyer and client, and in many cases expensive. In law enforcement, police officers investigate crimes, arrest suspects and direct traffic. They also have divisions that specialize in investigations of certain types of crimes, such as burglaries or homicides, or in other activities such as juvenile affairs. Depending on the ethnic makeup of a community, foreign language skills would be an extremely important advantage. Other police protection occupations include Sheriffs, State Police Officers and State Highway Patrol Officers.

Volunteer Agencies:

Peace Corps – Over 5,000 volunteers serve in 58 countries throughout the world to help developing nations meet their needs for trained personnel, and promote mutual understanding between Americans and the people of those countries. Peace Corps volunteers must know or be trained in the language of the country where they are assigned. VISTA – The VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program responds to needs identified by communities in the United States, providing full-time volunteers for projects sponsored by local nonprofit organizations. A knowledge of Spanish, French or Indian languages are needed for projects involving those ethnic groups.



Bilingual Educator; Foreign Language Teacher; Interpreters; Literary Researchers/Translators; Multi-Lingual Port Receptionist; Researcher; Scientific Translator or Interpreter ; Translators


Airlines: Flight Attendants, Ticket Agents, Ground Hosts/Hostesses ; Bilingual Secretaries; Exchange Program Coordinators; Foreign Correspondents; Freight Forwarders, Invoice ~l~clerks Foreign Collections ; Government: Advisory Groups, C.I.A. Specialists, Immigration & Customs Inspectors,; Intelligence, Foreign Service Officers, FBI Special Agents, Attaches’; Hotel & Motel: Front Desk, Switchboard, Reservationists, Restaurant Workers, Hosts &; Hostesses; International Research Teams; Librarian: Cataloging, References, Bibliographers

Missionaries; Peace Corps Volunteers; Textbook Publishers; Tour Guides; Travel Agents; Tutors


Agriculture; Architects; Art Dealers; Banking & Finance (International) Credit Analysts ; Fashion Buyers; Film Producers; Import/Export: Consumer goods, Technical & Transportation Equipment; Journalists: Editorial Staff & Advertising; Laboratory Technicians; Law: Legal Aid, International Business, International/Maritime/Corporate Law &; Ethnic Community Service; Medical: Doctors, Nurses, Aids & Technicians; Overseas Branches: Management, Sales Reps, Technical Maintenance & Expertise; Marketing & Advertising, Accounting & Audits; Overseas Investment Analysts: Real Estate Industry; Performing Arts: Singers, Actors, Musician, Police Officers, Publishing: Editors, Proofreaders, Book Dealers, Recording, Scientific & Social Research Engineering: Medical; Technical; Geological; Archaeological; Cultural – Anthropology, Sociology, Political Science, Economics International Relations, etc. Travel Companions, Vista Volunteers.