Should students be required to take foreign language?


Carly Stern, Staff Reporter

A common question asked by many parents and students when entering high school is whether or not to take foreign language. What makes taking a foreign language class so beneficial? There are many factors that should be considered when a student is trying to decide whether or not to take foreign language class. But in reality, it only has a bright side.
Knowing a second language is rewarding and allows people to get a better understanding of their own culture and language. Vernon Hills High School offers four different language options: Spanish, French, German, and Chinese. This gives students the opportunity to choose a language that interests them. Although many students are exposed to Spanish as young as elementary school, there is always the opportunity to switch languages once they enter high school.
Many kids start by taking one language, find it to be too difficult, and then drop out of language completely. However, it is important that the student would consider trying an entirely new language, because getting a fresh start may be just what they need.
Having a second language under your belt also helps you when applying for college. In high school students even have the opportunity to earn honors and AP credits for taking the advanced classes of language. “When I was applying for college this past fall, so many colleges looked to see how many years of language you took in high school,” said Izzy Cirone (12). “I think it gave me an edge versus other students knowing I have been taking Spanish since 7th grade.” Often, students just take the bare minimum of two years in order to get into some colleges. With taking up to 3 or 4 years of a language in high school you will be able to get into some of the more competitive colleges.
Taking a language is different than learning any other subject. Students are taught and expected to do many different things, and they have to use a different part of your brain. “I think with taking a language class you have to take a lot of risks,” said Mrs. Kasel, VHHS French teacher. “It gets you set to be uncomfortable, or rather more comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” In class you do a lot of partner work and are expected to participate. Doing both of these things makes learning a language easier and more fun. The teachers here at VHHS do a really good job of using a communicative approach to use the language and not over-analyze it. “It’s certainly still grammar, sentence structure, and a good foundation of vocabulary, but our teachers here make it very participatory, said Mrs. Kasel. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to learn a language. Anyone can do it they just have to try.”
It is proven that a person who knows two or more languages are more often hired in the workforce than someone who doesn’t; businesses are always looking for people who know a second language. According to an MIT study, people who know two or more languages earn an average of $128,000 more in their lifetime than people who don’t.
Learning a second language can give you a better understanding of your mother tongue. “A foreign language helps you analyze your own world. When you learn about another culture (system), you are able to look at your own culture and compare. This is a powerful tool for you to think critically about your own culture and the world,” said Mr. Kerth, VHHS German teacher. Connecting grammar from your first to second language can give you a better understanding of both languages without even knowing it.
People may not think having a second language can be beneficial other than for school and learning purposes, but many people use their second language on a daily basis. Whether it is helping someone out in the grocery store, answering phone calls, or giving directions, being able to communicate with someone using their first language gives them a sense of comfort and pride. “Learning a second language allows you to share experiences and be more comfortable around each other. It’s a good way to connect with other people too,” said Mrs. Steffens, head of the VHHS language department. “When you learn a language that another person knows it gives them a better appreciation for you and that can be very rewarding.” Knowing a second language also gives you the opportunity for easier and more memorable travel. When going to countries such as France and Spain, being able to communicate with the people who live there makes for a better trip. Learning these languages will allow you to have a better travel experience.
Many students here at VHHS continue taking language in college, and some even study it as a minor or even a double major. Studying a language in college gives you so many opportunities to study abroad and really get a better understanding of the language you’re studying and the culture that goes with it. Overall, studying a language should be required to take in high school because of all the benefits it can provide for you in the long run.