As the 20th century fades away, what can we expect of the era that will replace it? How best to play her cards as an American student at this point in time? What ought to be the emphasis of her education? Which careers should she investigate, and what specific skills must she acquire, in order to be best positioned to profit personally and professionally in the coming decades?
Of course, no one really knows. But it seems fairly certain that being multi-lingual is going to be hugely beneficial to any American professional or would be world-citizen in the first half of the 21st century. The trend toward the globalization of economies and the "mashing" of cultures is accelerating and expanding exponentially, as the internet continues to transform international commerce and communication. The end of the "age of English" may in fact be at hand. As new economic and political realities challenge the hegemony of English speaking nations, which languages are poised for ascendancy? Aside from obligatory Spanish, which foreign languages are likely to most greatly benefit Americans of the future? Mandarin? Hindi? Japanese? Russian? German?
Two "sleepers" worth considering are Indonesian and Arabic.
I've chosen to mention Indonesian not just because I'm married to an Indonesian national and speak some Indonesian myself, but because Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation and the fourth most populous nation overall, and is fast becoming "China's China" (the country to which China now outsources much of its own manufacturing). A country rich in natural resources (an OPEC member, etc.), Indonesia is set to become the next big economic player on the world stage, if only a way could be found to overcome the rampant, systemic corruption that so discourages foreign investment there.
Arabic, however, has more immediate drawing power. Those fluent in Standard Arabic can now attract starting salaries well above $100,000 per year, following the recent explosion in demand for Arabic translators. An article last year in Newsweek highlighted this hot new college course of study:
"'Once upon a time, studying Arabic would have placed a student squarely in the "What are you gonna do with that?" camp. But enrollment in U.S. college Arabic courses grew 92 percent between 1998 and 2002—and, spurred by 9/11 and the Iraq war, has probably doubled since then,' says Gerald Lampe, president of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic.
... Nawar Saddi, 23, received daily calls after posting his résumé on Monster.com. "Last year I was getting offers of $130,000," he says. "This year it's $180,000."
Read the entire article here.
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