Ever wonder why you must sit through nearly a whole hour of Spanish class a day? Ever feel like learning French just isn’t worth the stress? Ever wonder why you’re required to have two full years of language just to be considered for colleges? Believe me, there’s a reason.
For starters, we need to start considering ourselves lucky to even have foreign language offered at our school, let alone three different ones. Based on a study done by the Center for Applied Linguistics, 58% of middle schools and 91% of high schools across the nation offer these classes to their students today; these numbers may prove that over half of American schools teach language, but there are still the ones that do not. If the other 42% of American middle school students or 9% of high school students want to learn language, they have to go to some outside source to do so. We as teenagers are fortunate to have both the convenience and the consistency of attending high school language classes every single day, allowing us to learn everything from vocabulary to verb conjugations to foreign literature within our pre-existing curriculum. It is best to learn language while still young, so we are extra lucky in this aspect as well.
Languages, believe it or not, enrich the brain. I’m sure you’ve heard that you have different hemispheres of your brain, one being responsible for mainly visual and spatial learning while the other focuses on the logic thought processes – thus, learning languages. The left side of the brain contains some of the parietal lobe, temporal lobe, and occipital lobe, altogether making up a sort of “control center” for its language-learning side. This means that every time you write down a sentence in Latin or conjugate a verb in Spanish, you are increasing your memory and attention span. By strengthening the logical side of your brain, you can actually improve in other school subjects as well, such as math. Not only is this true, but once you learn one language, your brain is much more adapted to this style of processing information and you therefore have a far easier time learning even more languages if you so desire. Essentially, if you learn French now in school and want to learn Spanish later in life, you’ll have a much easier time with this than someone who has never been taught a foreign language before.
Most people like the idea of traveling, right? Here’s another aspect where language helps; 22 countries across the world speak Spanish and 16 French, many of which are popular tourist locations. This means that if you ever go to these countries, you’ll actually know what the people are saying and be able to understand what’s going on around you! Sure, language dictionaries and google translate exist, but isn’t the cultural experience in itself enough? Think about it: by learning language, you can also immerse yourself in so much foreign culture that may otherwise be closed off to you. For example, you could possibly get a pen-pal in the language you are learning in school, or at least be able to visit other countries with a little more ease and less confusion! You also gain enough knowledge to truly appreciate the literature, films, etc. of other countries that just may not have the same effect if put in English subtitles.
Learning a foreign language now will actually help you down the road, too. Since learning second languages appears to be a decreasing value for many English-speakers, many more jobs are open in fields that both specialize in language and do not. Being a translator is the obvious one, but there is much more than that: for example, if you want to be a doctor or work somewhere in a hospital, it may be easier for you to get a position if you are bilingual or even multilingual, because you may be one of a small few who has the ability to assist foreign patients. Plus, there’s certainly a success factor that comes with learning languages – don’t you think it would feel awesome to say you know six languages? According to the General Social Survey, 25% of Americans report being able to speak a second language. Wouldn’t you pride yourself on being apart of that percentage? Obviously, learning one or even two in high school cannot make you fluent in multiple, but it can definitely spark interest and teach you enough so that you are fairly comfortable with at least one by the time you graduate.
We are very fortunate to have such great language opportunities at our school, so take advantage of them! Even if you despise the foreign language you take, be appreciative for the value and significance behind it – clearly, we learn them for a good reason.