Eroica Monserrate, 19, is practising her Guten tags and rehearsing her Auf Wiedersehens. That’s just basic ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in German. The Sophia College student began studying the language in February.
“I chose to study German because I eventually plan to go to Germany to study psychology. Germany is the home of the subject.”
While French has always been the first pick among foreign languages for college students, lately, they have been opting for other languages such as Portuguese, Italian and Japanese.
“I think it’s because of global exposure that students are studying more languages,” added Monserrate. “Earlier, going abroad usually meant going to the UK or the USA but now there are a lot of opportunities in Europe and China.”
Away from European languages, Aditi Moghe, a third-year student at St. Xavier’s College, is learning Japanese. “I chose Japanese four years ago because there was an epidemic of people learning French. Nowadays, people are studying foreign languages not just for fun but with real goals in mind. I guess it helps on their CVs because it’s still not that common a skill. For example, they can club learning languages with joining the Indian Foreign Service,” she said.
“The number of people taking the standard Japanese proficiency test has increased. Before 2008, Mumbai wasn’t an exam centre. But the increasing demand has now made Mumbai a test centre. In 2008, around 980 people took the test and last year there were about 1100,” said Sarita Sundaram, president of the Japanese Language Teachers’ Association, Mumbai.
Multi-lingual skills are the new vogue. Abhishek Pandit, 21, has learnt French and Japanese, and taught himself Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic. “I did it for the sake of doing new things. When I started with French it felt like I suddenly had access to a whole new world and culture. I feel like I can connect with a larger part of the world now,” said Pandit. Pandit’s knowledge of Mandarin came to use when he went on an internship to Taiwan to teach English. “I’m opting for development economics, so knowing foreign languages will probably help there as well,” he added.
Last year, St. Xavier’s College had a Portuguese course for its students, in an arrangement with the Brazilian Embassy. “Portuguese had always fascinated me because I’m an Goan, and because I’d never done any other foreign languages, so I was excited when I heard about the course,” said Karina Rapose, 19. “The classes were an hour long and we had a teacher from the embassy, and it was fun. I just learnt the basics.”
Elaine Barreto, like Pandit, used her language skills abroad. She learnt Italian and in 2008 went to work in Italy. During her stay there, she studied world culture. Now back in Mumbai, she works as an Italian translator at a publishing house. “People study foreign languages because the likelihood of staying in India or any English-speaking country all your life is lower now. The world is becoming microscopic,” said Barreto.