This is a broad question. However, I think there's more to it than meets the eye. Yes, I do speak multiple languages fluently due to my studies, but I never thought much about it until now.

In America, it seems academic jobs are very competitive and only the very best PhD students from the top universities can gain a "tenure track" position. For instance, in my field of philosophy, it seems that only the best students went anywhere. It is very competitive to get a postdoctoral fellowship and even harder to get a tenure track position.

Recently, however, I noticed that you don't need to necessarily be a part of the philosophy department to teach philosophy. I knew, for instance, a postdoctoral fellow in the Spanish department who studied philosophy yet he was given a post-doctoral fellowship as a Spanish instructor and I think he continued to become an assistant professor. He studied philosophy in Spanish and gained a PhD in the field. Yet he was still able to teach philosophy in Spanish and publish his books about philosophy in Spanish. Since he taught the 301+ courses most of his students had no issue with the philosophical content of the lessons.

My observation is that sometimes different departments won't talk to others. Like the philosophy department won't talk to the Spanish department. In the Spanish-speaking world, people were familiar with his work and read him. Hence, he did not need to be part of the philosophy department to write and teach philosophy at university.

What do you think?

  • Please consider before posting an answer that this is a question tagged "philosophy".
    – xLeitix
    May 9 at 10:46

2 Answers 2


I studied in Germany and Sweden. My impression is that in Europe, it is often not required to speak the national/official language but listed "as an asset". It helps with students but also in academic cooperation. Some of my teachers and professors publish in multiple languages (sometimes the same paper), it opens up a wider network of cooperation.

Some disciplines tend to (still) get published in the respective national language whereas others are almost English-only. So you should check that before for the spectific country you want to go to.


While language ability is unlikely to be the major consideration for most jobs in a non language-department environment, it can be a positive factor in some cases. It can matter at the margin if it comes to a coin-toss between qualified applicants.

I think, however, that it is most likely useful at the lower tier of institution, such as community colleges (in the US). This is due to the heterogeneity of student backgrounds at such places.

Many of the countries you name are multi-lingual either formally or just accidentally. Many languages are spoken in the US, for example and not all are European. There are clusters of immigrants in many places, say Somalis in Minnesota. French, of course, is highly valued in Canada.

It isn't that a person needs to be able to teach a course in the non-dominant language, but it is helpful when answering questions of students who are not yet fluent in that language.

Taking a wider view, being multi-lingual also opens the door to an easier time of building collaborative networks across borders.

However, your success will likely depend on your fluency in the "language" of your chosen field; i.e. mathematics, philosophy, physics, ... rather than in a human communication language.

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