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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

MLAC Alumni Stories

A degree in Modern Languages and Cultures from Durham can lead to all kinds of careers, places and experiences. Here are some stories from alumni who have made the most of the knowledge and skills they developed here.

“A languages degree is so versatile and flexible and is one of the top subjects for getting a job. The skills you learn in language and cultural modules, as well as on the year abroad, definitely put language graduates at a real advantage. ”

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June Abbott

Translating for the UN in Geneva, New York and Santiago (Chile)

"Being able to communicate effectively in another language while working or travelling abroad is an invaluable skill that is sadly underrated in the UK."

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Jonathan Agar

Investment banking, management consulting and financial restructuring in London and all over Europe

"A lot of what I've been doing has been triggered by the way the national professions in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and other countries think in their own silos, whereas I’m identifying ways of using the best of each."

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David Annear

Teaching Modern Languages and becoming a Catholic priest

"One acquires a practical skill in languages that is always useful, even in unlikely circumstances like mine."

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Claire Best

Working in the film and television industry in Los Angeles as a producer and talent agent

"We do business with each other because we build trust. To build trust you have to understand the other person’s viewpoint and if you understand their language then you have a much greater ability to achieve that trust."

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H-J Colston

Business development in Beijing, and co-founding and developing an organisation in London to promote understanding of and business links with China

"Companies are finding it increasingly difficult to attract, hire and, most importantly, retain employees with China-related skills."

Nick Isard

Nick Isard

Setting up a translation company in Sevilla and publishing a best-selling book

"Amongst the many transferable skills I acquired, I think the most valuable one and the one which has served me best was learning to think critically."

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James Lee

From teaching English in Sweden to becoming the first Ombudsman for UN Funds and Programmes

"None of this could have happened without the very special grounding I had in Durham, which helped me to explore my language skills, engage with people from different ethnic and social backgrounds, and bear in mind that sharing knowledge is the greatest gift one can have."


Checking translations of patents, arranging transportation of lab samples across Europe, working for a tour operator and freelance translating

"I’m certain that the many doors already open and beckoning to modern languages graduates today will only increase in number in the future."

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Helen E. Mundler

An academic career in France, together with translating and creative writing

"Foreign languages not only open doors to other worlds, but are in themselves other worlds in which all sorts of intellectual and emotional voyages are possible."

Janet Pitt

Translating for the European Parliament and becoming Director General for Translation

"How impoverished we would be, culturally, linguistically and, I would say, also economically, if we renounced any effort to enter into the worlds – the history, culture, politics, mind-set and so on – represented by other languages."

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Emma May Price

Translating and translation project management for an estate agency in Valencia

"I’ve constantly called upon the lessons I learnt during my MA, which were instilled in me through the right balance of theoretical and practical assignments, thought-provoking and relevant to any aspiring translator."


Building up a bank's German operations and founding an investment management firm

"Although my languages were not directly relevant when I started work after leaving university, ultimately they determined my career path and gave me a valuable competitive edge."

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Tony Williams

Subtitling in London and translating in Madrid, Salamanca, Lisbon and Santiago de Chile

"Language careers can take you in exciting and unexpected directions."

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Sophie Wright

Organising specialist cultural tours to France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Latin America, as well as classical music concerts

"I've learned a great deal not just about the travel industry but also about art and culture... It's an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling job."