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Study language courses in Australia

Field of Study: Language Course Information

Learning a second or third language opens up your eyes to a whole new world. If you are interested in languages but don’t have the desire to learn another one, a foreign language is not the only path you can take. Many courses are available in English, linguistics, applied linguistics, interpreting and translating, which all look at human language in very different ways.

For more information about careers and education in this field, visit the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations, Australian Linguistic Society and National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters websites.

If you are interested in the general studies of language and culture, you may also wish to browse the offerings in communications and humanities and social sciences.

Browse Language courses by state

VET study in languages

Courses, majors and specialisations in Language

In the VET sector, it's not at all difficult to find a course that interests you. There is a lot on offer, ranging from certificate I–IV as well as diplomas in languages including Arabic, French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Vietnamese... and the list just goes on.

Overall, VET certificates and diplomas will focus more on the practical side of language study rather than theories and culture. In most, the aim is to acquire language skills. Many are designed for those working in specific roles or industries.

From certificate III upwards, you will also find courses that are focused on developing a career or occupation that relates to languages, like teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Interpreting and translation courses are only available at advanced diploma level.

Where to study Language courses

Although language courses are available at TAFE institutes and some private providers around the country, not all languages will be offered at each institution. Some, like Arabic, will be hard to find (others, like French and Italian, won't be). Interpreting and translation courses are only available at selected campuses, but ESL and TESOL courses are widely available.

To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.

Career opportunities in Language field

Many language courses in the VET sector are designed for people who already work in government or industries in which language skills are necessary or useful for career development.

However, VET courses in the languages field can also lead to occupations that are uniquely and directly related to language skills. For example, you could learn how to teach ESL to newly arrived migrants. Or you could become a qualified language interpreter or learn AUSLAN (sign language) in order to translate for the deaf.

See the Career Search for more information about your career options.

Undergraduate study in languages

Courses, majors and specialisations in Language

The following are just some of the majors you can study in this field:

  • Aboriginal languages

  • Arabic

  • Chinese (Mandarin)

  • Community languages

  • French

  • German

  • Latin

  • Linguistics

  • Spanish

  • Translating and interpreting

Many of those who line up to do a language degree already have a good grounding in a foreign language from school, though increasing numbers of universities now accept the raw beginner. Beginners might do a special intensive course in first year or over the summer break before joining the mainstream course at the start of the next semester.

Courses cover specialisations in a wide range of languages, although most languages have only a small number of students and are offered at only a few campuses, so you will have to keep an open mind about where you go to study. A number of languages, including several Asian languages such as Hindi, have been of concern to language experts in recent times, with the range of courses and their student numbers sadly depleted.

The best language courses study the history, culture and even the economics of the societies in which the languages are used, as well as the languages themselves. There are also other things to keep in mind when looking for a language course. Are native speakers freely available? Do they run study tours or summer schools in other countries or have other ways of teaching language in context? Do they subsidise trips to study in other countries (which may be essential for advanced learning)?

If you want more than language skills, another option is to combine language studies through a double degree with something like engineering, business, law, hospitality and tourism or education. If it includes an Asian language, you will be in demand in the employment market. Think about where you may like to take your language, both in terms of personal fulfilment and career, and ensure that the subjects and opportunities offered by the institution match what you’re looking for.

The Australian Government has introduced a number of initiatives in recent years to encourage Australians to embrace their ties within the Asia-Pacific region, including the AsiaBound Grants Program and the New Colombo Plan, which provide assistance for students to complete study in Asia. The government has also highlighted the need to increase opportunities to study the languages and cultures of key regional neighbours. In response, institutions will aim to introduce more opportunities to study Asian languages at tertiary level, especially Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Indonesian and Japanese.

The Australian Curriculum has seen English being taught as a stand-alone subject up to Year 10 in every school across the country. The second phase of the roll-out follows on with an emphasis on languages. The language curriculum also includes the Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages, which aims to bring native Australian languages to national attention and help to fulfil the government’s aim to close the gap in Indigenous education. For younger students, the federal government has made an effort to increase language participation from an early age, with initiatives such as the Early Learning Languages Australia trial, which sees preschool children take part in interactive language study. It is hoped that exposing students to language study during their schooling years will have a flow-on effect, with more students continuing the study of languages into university.

Where to study Language courses

Since language studies are often found in the most common of all degrees (the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Business), they are readily available at campuses throughout the country — both at universities and private higher education providers. The options are broad and the task of finding your niche can be an exciting challenge.

See Degree costs and loans for more information about paying for your degree.

To find out how each institution performs in your field of study, see our Ratings section.

Career opportunities in Language field

According to the 2014 national Course Experience Questionnaire survey, language graduates were very happy with how they were taught and their overall experience, but only moderately happy with the skills they gained. Competition is tough for those entering the workforce, with 47 per cent of graduates still looking for work several months after completing their studies. A large proportion (38 per cent) of language graduates went on to complete further study. Starting salaries were average at $51,538.

See the Career Search for more information about your career options.

Postgraduate study in languages

Courses, majors and specialisations in Language

Some distinctions might help you to map out this field. The first distinction is between research programs (which account for the smaller proportion of a small student cohort) and coursework programs. Coursework programs are divided into a few different groups. There are those in which a language is learned, those that cover linguistics and related cultural phenomena, and those that train graduates for specialised professions like interpreting and translating.

The coursework options divide yet again into those that take beginners and those that don’t. Programs that train professionals in translation and interpreting often don’t. These days, many of the programs that teach other languages do tend to take beginners. These are popular with people who need to use a language other than English in the normal course of their work, as well as with those who are just interested. Applied linguistics programs might be useful for teachers.

Many languages are taught in Australia, but the numbers of students enrolled are small. Some of the Asian languages in particular have been of concern to language experts in recent times, with programs and student numbers dwindling.

Where to study Language courses

Although this depends on what you are looking to study, you should find courses readily available at a wide range of universities and private higher education providers. Depending on the type of language course, be sure to investigate whether native speakers are freely available and the availability of study tours or opportunities to study for an extended period in other countries. If you are thinking of completing a research degree, check out the specifics, especially the strengths and weaknesses of possible supervisors.

Career opportunities in Language field

According to the national Course Experience Questionnaire, recent postgraduates were very satisfied with their overall experience and the teaching quality of courses. Job prospects were not favourable however, with 30 per cent of graduates still looking for work four months after graduation. Of those who did find work, salaries were below average compared with other fields, at $68,055 per year.

See the Career Search for more information about your career options.

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