Double major in a language?

Hi all,

I'm an undergrad at a target school trying to break into the buy-side straight out of college. I am currently pursuing a very technical major (like chemistry, physics, mathematics) with a minor in finance.

I also quite enjoy learning Spanish and am more-or-less fluent from having lived in a Spanish speaking country for a year (otherwise, I have no cultural/ethnic connection to the language). I am considering adding Spanish as a second major (I already have completed enough courses to get the minor if I declare it). If you were looking at my resume, would having Spanish as a second major be a positive in any way? Does having two majors show that I can handle a lot, even if one of them is a non technical major? At the very least I think it would be viewed as interesting, but maybe it's purely a negative thing (begging the question why I didn't do a second major in computer science or economics or something if I had the space in my schedule). Any advice would be great, thanks!

Comments (12)

2mo 
PrivateTechquity 🚀GME+BBBY🚀, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Bro, 100% do it if you can maintain good grades in your other subjects. Being bi-lingual means you can look at more opportunities than someone who's monolingual whether it's working in public equities or PE/VC. Personally, I'm working on my own Spanish skills now because I've seen good tailwinds and some exciting opportunities in LATAM. Once I have a bit more experience under my belt and more money in my pocket, I may very well move down there for a few years to try my luck. Plus, Hispanic women are 🔥🔥🔥

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  • Analyst 2 in AM - Equities
2mo 

As someone who was a CS/History double major, my history major has served me far far more in finance than my CS major did. While the quant skills and pattern recognition were great skills to acquire, the sheer ability to read through large amounts of information quickly and identify themes and reading/writing skills have been far more useful. 

Secondly, people really throw around that they are "fluent" in a language with very little weight behind it. Just to keep it very real with you, (as someone who is a native speaker in Hindi/Urdu and Spanish (both parents south asian but I grew up in Spain (ages 2-15) so my Spanish is just as good as my other languages), you have fluency and then you have native speaker fluency. Unless you grew up surrounded by a particular language, it is very difficult to get to the native speaker level fluency in any language and for the local speakers, it is quite easy to pick up on your accents etc. Majoring in a language gives you a massive boost if you are interested in it to get closer to that mark (plus living in an area to pick up slang, phrases, pronunciations etc in order to actually develop a dialect/accent closer to how natives speak out). Especially a language like Spanish which is so widely spoken and is much easier to learn than Hindu/urdu and mandarin which are the other two big world languages. 

  • Analyst 2 in AM - Equities
2mo 

Nope. French as cool as it sounds, its use as a primary language is quite limited as most speakers worldwide have it as a second language. English, Mandarin, Hindi/Urdu are the three most spoken languages on the planet followed by Spanish. 

Knowing fluent french is pretty cool though if you can get to that level especially if you want to move to Europe where a lot of people know it as a secondary language (Spain, England, Italy etc.)

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
2mo 

If you ever want to work in European Private Equity then having a second European language is normally a requirement, English monolinguals tend to struggle here

  • Intern in IB - Restr
2mo 

What about learning French? Similarly useful as Spanish?

2mo 
jackwestjr, what's your opinion? Comment below:

So, I did this at college (albeit it was Chinese) and have many thoughts on the topic. 

Before I share my thoughts, I'd point you to a great episode that Freakonomics did on learning foreign languages. The conclusion was that for non-english speakers, the single highest ROI thing you can learn (out of absolutely anything) was english (in terms of long-run impact on lifetime earnings). However, for english speakers, learning a foreign language was generally the lowest ROI thing you could learn (as languages are incredibly time consuming to learn). 

In many respects, this echoes my experience. I spent 4ish years learning Mandarin and got to a B2/C1 level after a brutal amount of work. In doing so, I learnt a great deal about the world, culture and Asia, but it was of little benefit for my broader career (I now work in Asset Management). A major issue here was that in business, the vast majority of people involved in cross-border China / Ex-China trade and investment speak better English than I ever spoke Mandarin. Perhaps more importantly, Onshore companies generally want to do business with ethnically Chinese individuals.

However, you're in somewhat of a different situation. I think more than anything else, if Spanish is something you really enjoy, then you should go ahead and do it. There's no point picking up an arbitrary major if you don't care about it and/or aren't passionate about it.

From a recruiting standpoint, some recruiters may find it interesting and some may not. Either way, it may win you some brownie points and/or open up networking opportunities with other Spanish speakers in the industry.

From a professional standpoint, there are plenty of interesting opportunities for Spanish speakers (particularly in Fixed Income), but it generally requires fluency. This comes with the caveat that most of the investors I've met that specialize in LatAm / Spanish speaking countries tended to be from the region.

2mo 
Deo et Patriae, what's your opinion? Comment below:

jackwestjr

So, I did this at college (albeit it was Chinese) and have many thoughts on the topic. 

Before I share my thoughts, I'd point you to a great episode that Freakonomics did on learning foreign languages. The conclusion was that for non-english speakers, the single highest ROI thing you can learn (out of absolutely anything) was english (in terms of long-run impact on lifetime earnings). However, for english speakers, learning a foreign language was generally the lowest ROI thing you could learn (as languages are incredibly time consuming to learn). 

In many respects, this echoes my experience. I spent 4ish years learning Mandarin and got to a B2/C1 level after a brutal amount of work. In doing so, I learnt a great deal about the world, culture and Asia, but it was of little benefit for my broader career (I now work in Asset Management). A major issue here was that in business, the vast majority of people involved in cross-border China / Ex-China trade and investment speak better English than I ever spoke Mandarin. Perhaps more importantly, Onshore companies generally want to do business with ethnically Chinese individuals.

However, you're in somewhat of a different situation. I think more than anything else, if Spanish is something you really enjoy, then you should go ahead and do it. There's no point picking up an arbitrary major if you don't care about it and/or aren't passionate about it.

From a recruiting standpoint, some recruiters may find it interesting and some may not. Either way, it may win you some brownie points and/or open up networking opportunities with other Spanish speakers in the industry.

From a professional standpoint, there are plenty of interesting opportunities for Spanish speakers (particularly in Fixed Income), but it generally requires fluency. This comes with the caveat that most of the investors I've met that specialize in LatAm / Spanish speaking countries tended to be from the region.

Underrated comment. As a White guy who is native-level fluency in two of the highest difficulty languages - Category IV according to US Foreign Service Institute (see thread here), I agree that the ROI is simply not there. I was lucky in that I learned those languages as a young child - couldn't imagine how painful it would be to learn them as an adult. I still enjoy learning languages for fun, but I wouldn't bother if my main goal were to get some return on my "investment" or increase my earning potential

2mo 
mrharveyspecter, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It definitely won't be viewed as a negative. I think the points above are good ones about ROI and thinking about how knowing that 2nd language will serve you. If you were starting from scratch and were asking about taking on a double major just because you thought it would advance you professionally, then I would advise against it. Given that you have an interest in it and you already have a good level of proficiency in it, I don't see any reason not to pursue it. Spanish is a great language, it opens up a ton of the world to you. 

Also, putting aside your goal of getting into finance, college/university should be about learning. The more perspective you can get on the world in general, the better. It also just makes your more interesting, which I do think will help with your career in the long run. If I'm in an interview with a string of kids all of whom are Finance/Econ/Comp Sci etc double majors and have a kid come in who's Comp Sci and Spanish, that's kind of interesting, I toss out a "hablas espanol" our convo switches to Spanish for a bit, that's way more impactful than just showing you're a hardo triple major grinder.

Last thing, LATAM is a massively growing economy, lots of opportunities down there for business. Lastly, as [PrivateTechquity 🚀GME+BBBY🚀] said, Latinas are fire, if you're an American who can speak Spanish, you'll have a great time.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
1mo 

Will have no impact whatsoever on your ability to get a job (Did it myself), low ROI, spend that time networking, studying technicals or just having fun and making memories 

1mo 
Dear Extent, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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