Our Language Resource Podcast has six video highlights from our Global Career Opportunities & Languages forum held at George Washington University, in collaboration with the National Museum of Language and ACTFL. Hear language experts from NSA, NVTC, Dept. of State, NSEP, and the Dept. of Commerce tell about language careers in their areas.
Give your students real-life examples of "what you can do with foreign language." In the following interviews, NCLRC reporters ask professionals questions about their careers, their language background, and how knowing another language helped them to succeed.
You can download and print the interviews to use them with your students, click on the profession of your choice to download the interview. See an interview sample here.
List of Professionals:
International Finance Expert
Computer-Assisted Language Learning Specialist and LRC Director
Early Childhood Educator
Coordinator, Japan-in-a-Suitcase Program
Applied Linguist, FBI
Director of Travel Industry Sales
Economist at the World Bank
International Development NGO Director
Liability Claims Consultant
NCLRC Senior Research Associate
Public Affairs Specialist
Public Health Worker
Tour Director and Event Planner
United States Foreign Service Officer
Computer-Assisted Language Learning Specialist and LRC Director
Name: Takeshi Sengiku
Profession: Computer-Assisted Language Learning Specialist; Language Resource Center Director
Number of years in this line of work: ___
Native Language: Japanese
Other Language(s): Spanish, English, Bulgarian, Northwest Native American languages
1) What languages do you know? How did you learn them?
Japanese is my native language. I speak Kyoto dialect. English is my second language. I have been learning English since the 7th grade and continue learning it even now. In the Japanese school, I learned English through the traditional grammar teaching method. After I came to the university in US, I started learning English through more or less ‘immersion’ approach.
In the university, I studied Spanish for two years and Bulgarian for one year. I studied Spanish so that I can talk to Mexican people in a coffee shop. I studied Bulgarian because I wanted to learn a language in Slavic language family.
Depending on how you define ‘know’, I have been exposed to various languages in the university. I was Linguistics major for my undergraduate. The linguistic professors used various language data in their classes. So, I know of many languages and some of their characteristics.
Also, I was interested in language revitalization/preservation when I was a student in the university. I worked (and still am involved in) in the institute called Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI) for the language revitalization/preservation of Northwest Native American languages in Oregon. So I know of these languages a little bit as well.
2) What is your profession?
I consider myself to be in the field of Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL).
My positions are Director of Language Resource Center, Lecturer in Asian Studies Department, and Coordinator for SILP Arabic language program
3) Describe a "typical" day as a (your job) .How do you use your languages in your work?
My main responsibility is to maintain the Language Resource Center, which includes controlling the budget, computer troubleshooting, interacting with faculty to talk about any ideas/projects to make the students’ language learning process effective and efficient using technology, setting up the technology workshop for students and/or faculty…etc
Since I am lecturer in the Asian Studies Department, I teach Japanese sometimes. When I am not teaching, I will work on some projects for Japanese.
4) What do you enjoy about it?
I certainly enjoy interacting with faculty to discuss effective and efficient language learning process with or without technology. Even just talking about the languages makes me happy, too.
5) Do you think in more than one language? Under what circumstances?
No, I don’t. I feel I always think in my native language – the Kyoto dialect in Japanese, especially if it’s a complicated topic. However, converting my thoughts in Japanese to English has been getting faster and faster in some occasions.
So, my thinking process is undertaken in my native language. Through the process, I will understand the main concept/topic of what I would like to say/write. Then I will start constructing sentences/utterances in English, although some of the English sentences can come up in my head without much thinking in Japanese.
6) What do you think helped you the most in mastering the foreign/second language(s)?
[Besides all these linguistic categories of language learning]
Considering my own experience living here in US, I think there are three things which I found very important for second language acquisition.
1 self-monitoring skills (analytical skills to understand how one learns language, to find weakness/strength, and establish one’s own strategies to enhance learning language…etc)
2 curiosity (which leads one’s motivation to be higher)
3 have opinion to say on a given topic
To communicate in advanced level of language proficiency, these three factors are essential.
[Things that I should have done, when I learned foreign languages]
Keep your diary on
1 what you like/dislike in the classroom
2 how you are learning foreign languages
3 how you would teach something you don’t like in the classroom to make it better, if you were a teacher.
4 the stories that you experienced, regarding cross-cultural language differences
I assure you that this diary will be priceless when you work in the field of language.
One last thing – I believe I can’t speak/write foreign language well unless I speak/write my native language well. Unless I improve the skills to construct the argument, to explain a complicated concept, and summarize my opinion in my native language, it will be difficult for me to archive the proficiency level of the second language that I am learning. I found my native language to be important to the second language learning in this aspect.
7) What opportunities have knowing another language provided in your career that you may not have had otherwise?
Certainly learning/knowing English gave me the opportunity to come study at University in US, go to graduate school, and to be able to work in US.
8) What language are you studying now?
(If you’re not studying another language answer this question: If you had the time to learn another language now, what language would it be? Why?)
(If I had the time to learn languages) I would like to learn Ainu language (an indigenous language spoken in Japan). I would like to learn how to speak it as well as to be able to see it from a linguistic perspective. For my pure linguistic interest, I would like to learn more about my own dialect (the Kyoto dialect) as well as Japanese.
9) How do you think your life would have turned out if you had never learned another language?
It would have turned out to be very boring. I would not have had any friends, colleagues, advisors, and teachers that I have now. I would not have learned about any cross-cultural differences among US as well as between US and Japan. I feel that I learned a lot more on my own culture, since I came to US, which is a significant experience and would not have had if I didn’t learn English.
10) In your opinion, are there more career opportunities for people who speak two or more languages?
Certainly. For any disciplines, you have a great advantage over anybody if you speak foreign languages in your field. I think you have a greater advantage if you can write/read and do presentations at a professional level.
11) What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t a Director of the Language Resource Center?
Hopefully, I’d be working with something to do with language – linguist, teacher, interpreter, translator, language textbook publishing company, and language software company…etc
12) What advice would you give to somebody who wants to have a job like yours?
Are there any specific languages they should learn?
In my opinion, my job is to become a bridge between two separate fields (foreign language division and technology division). Any languages you learned would be useful for language side. If you have technology skills as well as pedagogical aspect of language learning, you would do a good job in my position.
13) Anything else you’d like to add?
Language is so interesting and considered to be one of the unique characteristics in human beings, yet it still creates cross-cultural differences among us. A person on TV once said "language is what unites us together. At the same time, it is what makes us different from one another". I understand it through my own experience of learning languages.
I have always been interested in the language even before I learned English as second language. It might be something to do with the area where I come from in Japan. Thinking of language - why people say things the way they say, why people laugh at what others say (jokes in comedy show as well as in daily conversation) - makes me so excited. These curiosities made me who I am, drew me into this field, and got me where I am at.
So keep your eyes and ears open to whatever you are interested in.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity for the interview.
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