H+ Symposium Highlights Market Value of Language Study

PROVO, Utah (January 30, 2014)–“We are in the middle of a revolution.” That’s what

Hans Fenstermacher
, CEO of
Global and Localization Associations
, told a select group of
industry, government and academic leaders at a Humanities+ symposium
held at Brigham Young University. And for students in the
College of Humanities, this type of revolution is good news.
Fenstermacher was referring to society’s growing use of social
media and information technology, and how language is the new oil –
language runs everything. As international communication increases, so
does the demand for language skills, and students
in the College of Humanities, particularly those pursuing foreign
languages, are showing that they can meet those demands.
The symposium reflects a joint initiative sponsored by the College of Humanities and the
Humanities Center.

Tony Brown
, Associate Professor of Russian and symposium organizer,
wanted to organize a conference to discuss how to bridge the humanities
with industry, government and other fields.
“Why not coordinate what
we’re doing here in the humanities with engineering, for example, and
give our students the best of both worlds,” Brown said.
For Brown, the symposium
was all about determining the market value of studying a foreign
language and finding a way to present that to the rest of the world. He
said that right now, the humanities can only assume, relying largely on
anecdotal evidence
to understand outside demands. “We had to start somewhere,” Brown said.
The symposium was that
starting point – where leaders of industry, government and academia
could determine the market value of what is learned in the humanities,
particularly the value of advanced level foreign language skills. “Once
we identify specific
skills that employers want from students,” Brown said, “we can build
curricula that meet industry demands.” By doing so, the humanities
benefit industry, which in turn, fuels interest back into the
humanities.
As Dave Waddell, Assistant
Dean in the College, put it, the symposium “opened the door wider on
humanities and the world of work.”
This symposium, Waddell said, “informed us, as deans and administrators, of the conversation and the need for languages.”
The symposium’s
conversations are significant for students within the College. Brown
noted that “students were the driving force for organizing this
symposium because, ultimately, they stand to benefit from a symbiotic
relationship between the humanities
and the professional world.”
Ray Clifford, Director of
BYU’s Center for Language Studies,
said that the symposium emphasized this need for a bridge between
humanities and the professional world. He encourages students to “find a
way to enhance their
marketability by demonstrating how their experiences in the humanities
have given them the skills that are needed in today’s society.”
The symposium underscored a
growing need for proficient foreign language skills. Brown reiterated
that for students, “A humanities education, particularly with an
emphasis in foreign languages, gives one a competitive advantage when
applying to professional
schools and to any number of jobs in the private and public sectors.”
The symposium is not the only initiative the College has supported to help students achieve their professional
goals. Humanities+ provides internship, study abroad and career opportunities. The Center for Language Studies offers
Language Certificates
to document students’ second language proficiency, not just for
humanities majors, but for all BYU students. “There are more than enough
opportunities to
learn language and cultural competencies if students want it,” Waddell
said. The College of Humanities, he continued, “is actively invested in
the future of the students. And that’s what this symposium was about.”
Presentations from the symposium will be available soon on the College of Humanities YouTube channel – visit
www.youtube.com/byuhumanities.
–Stephanie Bahr Bentley BA’ English ’14

Speak up! Let us know what you think.