Prentiss Riddle: Language

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Seeking gripping reads on language and language careers

My 16-going-on-17-year-old niece is having a high school romance with foreign languages (French, Spanish and Latin so far). She's looking at colleges (probably bound for UT Austin, not a bad choice for language study, but also dreaming about a scholarship to a big ivy league school in the sky) and considering majors that would let her focus on a language or ten.

Does anyone have any advice for a budding applied linguist? Are there any sources which suggest what language or languages might be in high demand 6+ years out? Any synergistic skills or double majors you'd suggest picking up which would give one a shot at the big bucks but still let one make full use of those language skills? I've urged her to travel on other people's dime as early and often as possible (i.e., apply for every study abroad scholarship she can squeeze into her schedule). Any other skill- and career-building tips you can think of?

Secondarily, I'm also looking for a couple of good, fun, readable books on language and languages to give her for her birthday. I've already bought a copy of Pinker's The Language Instinct for the Chomsky/cogsci angle, but Pinker disdains historical, literary and cultural detail. (I've never understood that -- to me that's like an ornithologist being so focused on migratory behavior and neuroanatomy as to profess an active dislike of birdsongs and colorful plumage.) I'm looking for color commentary, like the delightful but now hopelessly outdated books by Mario Pei I devoured when I was her age.

P.S. Tongue-in-cheek answers welcome (e.g., "Pashto and small arms skills will be in demand for the foreseeable future") but as a protective uncle I'm more likely to pass on the serious ones. And online resources would interest me but probably not her as she's in a luddite phase at the moment. :-)

language 2002.08.15 link
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