Foreign Languages and Literature Advising Guide
What is a Major in Modern Languages and Literature?
A major in Modern Languages and Literature emphasizes intercultural communication—the sharing of information across different cultural and social groups—and understanding of other cultures through language. We focus not only on the structure of the language, but also on its associated cultures, including aspects of everyday life as well as literature and other artistic productions that define a society. The course of study includes instruction in language acquisition, exposure to and study of cultures, and examination of literary and other artistic traditions that have exerted a profound influence on the culture. Our curriculum integrates language study with culture and area studies, literature, linguistics, and other disciplines. In the context of humanistic learning, the curriculum in Foreign Languages and Literature creates meaningful connections among these various areas of study and develops students’ critical thinking skills. Competency in other languages is the key to understanding other cultures and, in turn, makes possible a deeper understanding of the student’s own culture and language.
Career Opportunities in Modern Languages and Literature
Students who study foreign languages and literatures are prepared to enter a wide variety of fields, and many continue on to graduate school or law school. Some career opportunities include:
- Business executive
- Communications specialist
- Event planner
- Foreign exchange specialist
- Foreign service officer
- Foreign study coordinator
- Hospitality industry specialist
- Hotel manager
- Human rights specialist
- Human rights associate
- Immigration and customs expert
- International global activist
- International lawyer
- International news writer/journalist
- International sales representative/manager
- International security specialist
- International trade specialists
- International student advisor
- Language specialist - military
- Marketing analyst
- Multiculturalism expert
- Museum and cultural arts personnel
- Philanthropic agency officer/manager
- Political analyst
- Program officers/managers for international non-profit organizations and non-governmental organizations
- Public relations careers
- Research analyst
- Software localization specialist
- Software consultant
- Foreign language teacher
- Teacher of English as a second language
- Travel and tourism
- Web developer or manager
Salary Trends in Modern Languages and Literature
Proficiency in a language leads to an enhanced employment opportunities in a variety of fields, both in the US and abroad. CareerBuilder.com’s 2020 hiring forecast showed that 39 percent of U.S. employers said they plan to hire bilingual candidates, and half said that if they had two equally qualified candidates, they would be more inclined to hire the bilingual one. Learning a language has been shown to add between 10–15% to your wage, according to language specialist recruitment agency Euro London. If you work for a corporation, you may earn a bonus based on your knowledge of specific languages. Average annual bonuses, as reported by The Economist:
- French — 2.3 percent bonus
- German — 3.8 percent bonus
- Spanish — 1.5 percent bonus
Interpreters and translators are among the top five fastest growing occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with opportunities expected to increase by 46% over the next 10 years.
Members of the U.S. military can earn up to $1,000 more per month if they are proficient in more than one language.
Knowledge of a foreign language can also increase your pay in business or law. Recently, 42% of employers at top law firms saw an increase in legal jobs requiring a second language.
High School Preparation
If possible, students should begin study of a foreign language and relevant courses in subjects such as English and World History. There are, however, no prerequisites required in order to enter the Modern Languages and Literature program besides admission to the University of South Alabama. Some of the languages included in our program are not offered at high schools and we provide the opportunity to explore them.
How to Major in Modern Languages and Literature
All majors complete 25 credit hours through the FLL core, which includes:
IS 100 Global Issues
LG 110 World Languages
LG 205 (W) Foreign Literature in Translation
EH 235 World Literature I
LG 480 (C) Senior Seminar
LG 394 or IST 300 Pre-Study Abroad (1 hr)
Study abroad: 9 credits
Students then complete 24 credit hours in one of the following concentrations: French, German, Russian or Spanish.
Over the last century, French has been the primary language in at least one territory or state on every inhabited continent. Today, over 130 million people in 44 countries claim French as their native language. French is the language of diplomacy, of fashion, of cuisine, and of many high-tech industries. It is one of the official languages of the European Union. Some important French-speaking enterprises are: Aventis (pharmaceuticals), Lazare-Frères (investment banking), Nestlé (chocolate!), and Perrier (soft drinks). The list is long in the world of fashion: Yves Saint-Laurent, Givenchy, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Lacroix, Gaultier, and many others.
The contributions of French artists and architects are recognized throughout the world. Millions of visitors (tourists and researchers) visit France's many museums each year. Two of the most famous are The Musée du Louvre and The Musée d'Orsay.
German is the most widely spoken language in Europe. It has the fourth strongest economy in the world, and is the third largest exporter worldwide. If you are able to speak German, you could earn $128,000 extra throughout your career. If you're looking for employment in the United States, knowing German can give you great advantages. German companies account for 700,000 jobs in the United States, and US companies have created approximately the same number of jobs in Germany. German is important for technical and scientific fields, and also offers a rich cultural heritage in literature, music, and the visual and performing arts.
With over 155 million native speakers, Russian is the eighth most spoken language in the world and is listed as an official language in eight countries. Russian is a rich language with a great and well-known literary history. Writers such as Chekhov, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy have not only shaped Russian culture but are world renowned for their works. Today, Russian is a very important language globally as Russia is a major player in both economics and politics. The US government has listed Russian as a critical language and Russian speakers are in high demand in both military and civilian agencies in the US government.
One of six official languages of the United Nations and -- along with English -- the official language of the Organization of American States, Spanish is spoken by over 350 million people worldwide (some 30 million in the United States). The official language of twenty nations, it has become a vibrant cultural source of expression in the United States -- to which increased media and marketing attention attest. In fact, Spanish was spoken in what is now United States territory a century before English was, and gave names to former Spanish colonial regions and cities such as Colorado and Los Angeles. The largest Spanish-speaking groups in the United States today are peoples of Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Dominican heritage. At all levels of public and private education, Spanish is the most widely-taught second language in the United States.
Minors for Students Majoring in Foreign Languages and Literature
Majors in Foreign Languages and Literature are required to complete a minor in a field other than Foreign Languages (21 credit hours) OR complete another language concentration (24 credit hours).
Special Programs, Co-ops, Internships
The Foreign Languages and Literature program sponsors several events related to the program, such as films and guest speakers, every semester.
Every semester, majors in Foreign Languages and Literature intern with the English Language Center. There are also other internship possibilities on campus, and at a variety of international organizations and companies. Students can also complete internships abroad.
Modern Languages and Literature Highlights
Students and alumni of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages students and alumni have won major fellowships from sources such as Fulbright, Gilman International Scholarship, Rotary International, and the German Academic Exchange Service.
Recent graduates have gone abroad to teach English, accepted commissions in the military, worked for state and federal governments, attended graduate school, law school, medical school, and business school; they are pursuing their dreams around the world.
Qualified students are inducted into Phi Sigma Iota, the Foreign Languages honor society.
What Skills Does Studying Modern Languages and Literature Develop?
Students majoring in Foreign Languages and Literature will develop their ability to communicate in a language other than English, and will gain knowledge of the language’s associated culture, including everyday customs and practices, as well as literary and other artistic creations that define the culture. A major in Foreign Languages and Literature prepares students to take their place as participants, leaders, and innovators in an increasingly interconnected world. Graduates possess critical reading and thinking skills sufficient to understand arguments, elicit hidden assumptions, articulate alternatives, recognize sources of bias, and summarize materials. They also have an increased intercultural sensitivity, including a heightened awareness of stereotypes and ethnocentrism. Students achieve at least intermediate proficiency (on the ACTFL scale) in the language they study. They also develop a deeper understanding and awareness of their native language and culture.
Study Abroad Opportunities
Majors in Modern Languages and Literature are required to earn nine credits studying abroad. The Department offers the following programs for French: faculty-led summer and independent semester programs in Dijon; for German: Universität Passau in Germany and University of Cologne in Germany; for Russian: faculty-led program in Moscow, Russia; for Spanish: faculty-led program in Spain. and Argentina. Other faculty-led programs are offered during the summer for all languages. In addition, the University of South Alabama has affiliations with numerous institutions, all over the world, making it easy for students to find the program that best suits their needs.
Studying abroad is an exciting and meaningful experience that will contribute to your academic and personal development. Participating on a study abroad program can be one of the most profound decisions of your college life, and can lead to many new and interesting opportunities. It can help develop your critical thinking skills, sense of independence, and confidence. When you depart on your study abroad program, you will go with excitement, trepidation, and uncertainty about the world and your place in it. When you return home, your deep connection and affection for your host culture will be overwhelming, and will only be matched by a newfound respect and appreciation for your home.
Study abroad is the opportunity for USA students to spend time in a different country while earning credit towards your degree through taking classes, interning, volunteering, and more. There are many different types of study abroad available to you at USA. They include faculty-led programs, international exchange programs, and direct-enroll and affiliate programs.
Students on faculty-led programs will travel as a group led by USA professors and take classes in various locations. All courses taken on these programs are USA courses and offer USA credits that will apply to your degree. International Exchange programs are partnerships with specific universities around the world with which USA has a special, reciprocal relationship. Students enroll directly at the host university, and students from the host university attend USA. USA affiliate programs allow students to enroll at a partner university or program through a third-party provider. GPA requirements vary by program.
You should think of the Study Abroad Office as a one-stop shop for information related to your study abroad experience. The Study Abroad (http://www.southalabama.edu/studyabroad/) team is excited to assist you as you navigate through the process of choosing a program, and will help you from the advising stage until you return from your program. You can get started by coming to meet with an advisor during Walk-In Advising hours. During an advising session, you can gain general information about the many programs available, how the application process works at USA and general guidance on where to begin.
Be sure to visit the OIE Study Abroad website at http://www.southalabama.edu/studyabroad/ to begin your research. The website contains information on how to get started, financing your program, and a comprehensive list of pre-approved study abroad programs and partners. While researching a passport or visa programs, consider the following: eligibility requirements, location, course offerings, and costs. You should also meet with your faculty advisor for assistance in selecting a program based on courses related to your degree.
Studying abroad can be one of the highlights of your university career, giving you wonderful and challenging experiences that will allow you to grow both academically and professionally. Where will you study abroad?
Following an academic plan will help you stay on track to graduate in four years.
To view a sample academic plan, please see below. Degree plans provide only a suggested schedule; make sure to meet with your academic advisor to find the actual schedule that is right for you.
For additional degree information, visit the undergraduate bulletin.
For More Information
Please contact Dr. Eleanor ter Horst, Chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (251) 461-1527 -- or stop by Humanities Building North, Room 324.
You can find us on campus at:
Department of Modern and Classical Languages
Humanities Building North, Room 322
5991 USA Drive, N.
Mobile, AL 36688