Demand Increases for Modern Language Professors

According to the Modern Language Association (MLA), there will probably be more full-time jobs in 2012-13 in the U.S. for foreign-language professors than for those with doctorates in English for the first time in almost 20 years.

The prediction is part of an update on the job market released by the MLA ahead of its annual meeting, starting January 3 in Boston. It is based on the MLA's Job Information List, which is widely regarded as one of the best gauges of humanities hiring in U.S. academe.

The projection is that the number of academic jobs in foreign languages in 2012-13 will rise to 1,246, up 10.5% from last year. In English, the number of vacant positions is expected to drop to 1,191, down 3.6%. Positions in English have leveled off after two years of increases, according to the update, while foreign-language positions — which had also increased in the previous two years — are still growing.

The MLA says that the expected growth suggests that colleges "recognize the importance of multilingualism in students' education." Despite the growth in foreign-language listings, the number of jobs has still shrunk by about one-fourth from a peak in 2007-8 of 1,680. That shortfall can be explained by colleges' shuttering or consolidating foreign-language programs in the wake of recession-related budget cuts. Meanwhile, English jobs are 34.8 below a 2007-8 peak of 1,826.

The MLA warns that recent hiring trends may affect its predictions. In the last three years, more than half of the job vacancies on the Job Information List have been announced after January 1 so the number of listings predicted could shift by the end of the 2012-13 academic year.

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