Department of World Languages and Literatures

World Changers Major in World Languages

Chair of the Department of World Languages and Literatures (WLL) Dr. Dayna Oscherwitz writes about the importance of the study of language in a globalized society and how students can use the major to build careers in a variety of settings.

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 56 seconds

Language study is the key to success in an increasingly globalized workplace. Proficiency in a language not only gives students the ability to communicate with people in multiple nations across the globe, but it also gives them an understanding for how they think, how they see the world, what they value, and what they believe.

Most major universities give students the opportunity to develop advanced communication and cultural awareness through a major or minor in a particular language. The SMU World Languages and Literatures major, however, is unique in that it allows students to develop advanced proficiency in two different languages and cultures, making them at home in multiple regions of the world and giving them a decisive edge in the job market.

A 2014 report in The Economist tallied the economic advantages of having second language proficiency, and based on those findings, a student with a World Languages and Literatures major who specializes in French and German could boost his or her earnings an average of $205,000 over the course of a career. Those who combine a commonly taught language with a less commonly taught one (Spanish and Arabic or French and Chinese, for example) could boost those earnings even beyond that. 

It is for those reasons and many others—including a love of languages, an appreciation for other cultures, and a will to travel—that increasing numbers of SMU students are opting for the World Languages and Literatures major. Students often combine the World Languages and Literatures major with another major such as Marketing, Accounting, Economics, International Studies, or Human Rights.

SMU graduates in World Languages and Literatures have gone on to top law schools and coveted positions in multinational corporations. Marica Mattioli, ’08, paired Finance with a World Languages and Literatures major in Italian and French, and she quickly found a position with Goldman-Sachs, where she is currently a Vice President. James Weidenfeller, ’13, translated his double major in Economics and World Languages and Literatures with French and Spanish into a position as a Business Analyst working for Value Retail in Madrid, Spain. The World Languages and Literatures major is truly the degree of choice for those who plan to embrace the world in order to change it. 

For more information about the WLL department and all of the options available to students, please visit the department’s homepage