Languages & College Major

Sarah Bowman

Sarah Bowman, Studied Arts and Humanities at University of Waterloo


I had one undergraduate classmate at the University of Waterloo in about 2002 whose goal was to learn 20 languages. I forget what her career goal was; perhaps to work for the United Nations HQ. I think she was on an Independent Studies Program designed just for her because not too many students would aim to learn that many languages. So my question for you is: What kind of languages do like want to learn and what career interests have you got?

To the best of my knowledge, academia divides languages into two main categories: ancient languages like ancient Greek, Latin, and Hebrew for the study of ancient texts; and modern languages like German, Spanish, and Mandarin depending on a student’s interest and career goals. A career in the study of ancient texts normally leads to academic work, professorship, if one is fortunate enough to get a position. Many careers opportunities exist in modern languages, teaching being one of them.

I rather think you should change your question to ask: What career should I choose to utilize my love for languages? And then decide what kind of languages you are interested in learning. For example, if you want to become a diplomat for your English-speaking nation in a Latin American country, you might be well-advised to learn Spanish and/or Portuguese, and perhaps any dialects spoken in the area where you are stationed. Your guidance counsellor should be able to help, as well as the head of the departments of your university.


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