A Necessary Course
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Our country has become much more globally-inclined in the past decade yet high school graduates continue to “lack knowledge of a foreign language. …52.7% of Europeans… [and] only 9.3% of Americans are fluent in both their native tongue and another language” (“Why learn”). Besides extending businesses to other parts of the world, foreigners are migrating to the United States. Knowing at least one other language, besides English, would allow Americans to be capable of communicating with newcomers and to establish business partnerships with other countries. Two years of foreign language should be required to graduate from high school due to the benefits it provides to the youth in today’s society; whether they plan to continue their education or enter the workforce right away.
Foreign language courses prompt students to gain transfer skills by associating the information obtained in the foreign language class to other learning experiences they may come across later on. In the language course, unique learning methods such as; skits, songs, and games will be used to try to understand new words and concepts. Those students enrolled in those courses are able to continue to apply those learning methods to other subjects. It is noted that foreign language students develop listening and memory skills, as well (“Why learn”). However, many allege that two years of foreign language is not enough to grasp a language, completely. Some students might be able to memorize a couple of phrases, but they are not able to compose their own due to their limitations in the language. Foreign language courses are not enough for a student to learn the language fluently (Putnam). Yet, two years of the same foreign language should be sufficient for a student to grasp background knowledge of the language and obtain additional benefits. Through foreign language courses, students practice comprehension, problem-solving, and reasoning skills (“Why learn”). Students are able to increase their abilities in their native language too. “…Each additional year of foreign language… [causes] scores on college and graduate school entrance exams such as the SATs [and] ACTs,… [to] improve incrementally” (“Why learn”). In addition, a new language provides students with background knowledge that might be helpful in the future, regardless of the subject being studied. Foreign language students are building strong background knowledge on root words, suffixes, as well as prefixes (“Why learn”). For example, a student who took Latin for two years will have less difficulty learning Latin root words for a science course in college. Therefore, a student in a language classroom might be learning more than the language and culture itself.
There are jobs that require their employees to know more than one language due to the necessity to communicate with clients from other parts of the world. Or, even with immigrants living in the United States who are in need of translation. Actually, “only 5.6 % of the world’s total population speaks English as a primary language” (“Why learn”). Yet, there are countless languages all over the world. For this reason, many suggest that it is best for individuals to learn a foreign language once it is required at their jobsite. In this manner, they will study the language that is the most applicable for their job at that given time. It is nearly impossible to assist with every existing language. But, knowing at least one foreign language can make a great impact on a large portion of society. Language can establish the unity among humans needed to make significant changes in the world. Although, disputes might not be completely eliminated, the ability to understand others’ view points and the influences on their opinions is crucial to prevent misunderstandings and conflicts between countries. Plus, knowing the way others think and act is what this country needs in order to progress. If people with such skill are our country’s business leaders, they will be more apt to establish better relationships and more successful business agreements with other countries to sell and produce U.S. products.
The amount of diversity in this country, especially since English is not the official U.S. language, businesses know that it is critical for them to provide translation services to their customers in order for their business to become successful. In fact, studying a foreign language offers many opportunities in obtaining employment along with a noteworthy salary (“The Benefits”). However, some students argue that foreign language is irrelevant to the careers and job fields that they are interested in; thus, they should not be required to take any foreign language courses. High school alumni, also consider the barrier that this requirement may impose, to their advancement in courses that would better aid their career choice. Meaning, they feel like the foreign language requirement would be a waste of time based on the career they want to pursue. Or, perhaps, there are other skills, besides knowing a foreign language that would better suit their, desired, future profession. Nonetheless, employers prefer those with knowledge in a foreign language rather than a monolingual person, with the same qualities. Even the federal government is trying to appeal to increasing salaries in the public health and safety departments, where language comprehension is “a matter of live [sic] or death” (“The Benefits”).
Learning a foreign language opens the opportunity to view the world in distinct ways. Being aware of the language and culture will allow them to integrate into the new culture in a less drastic manner. Due to the exposure of a new language, a new culture is perceived and a new point of view is experienced by the learner. Given that, there are students who insist that enrolling in a foreign language immersion program such as; study abroad, exceeds the foreign language requirement. However, being exposed to the language and culture previously facilitates the adaptation process for an individual immersing into such a program. Through the discovery of a new language, students realize that there are different opinions and lifestyles besides their own, as well. Therefore, students should be able to analyze their own lifestyle as they compare their culture to another (“Why learn”). By learning a new language, students build self-awareness and create their own identity as members of their own community, as well. Teens would have greater self-awareness and a stronger sense of respect for who they are simply by having a basic understanding of another language and culture, as it would be if two years of foreign language was required in high schools throughout the nation.
Plus, possessing knowledge in at least one foreign language adds to an individual’s value in society. A two-year, foreign language high school requirement would benefit students and society, alike. Students would have a stronger sense of being and respect to their community. Also, they would be more educated and competent with other members of society; nonetheless, improving various aspects of an individual’s life significantly. Due to all the benefits available, it is unexcusable to ignore the importance of learning about other languages and cultures. The desire to become open-minded and aware of other communities should continue to be enforced in the education system in the United States.
“Why learn languages?” World Languages and Culture. Vistawide, 2009. Web. 12 Nov. 2009.
“The Benefits Of Learning A Foreign Language.” ESL Teachers Board. 2008. Web. 12 Nov.
Putnam, Jonathan. “Foreign language should not be required for high school.” The Signal: The
Georgia State University Student Newspaper. Georgia State University, 10 Oct. 2009.
Web. 12 Nov. 2009.
“Align High School Standards with Demands of College and the Workplace.” Case for Action.
Achieve, 2009. Web. 12 Nov. 2009.
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