World Language Should Be 4-Year Requirement


Sofie Blaj, Staff Writer

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Students in the Acalanes Union High School District only need to complete 2 years of 1 foreign language to graduate, with the option to substitute foreign language classes with Career Tech classes, like Engineering Design or Wood Tech, to meet this requirement.

The district should require more years of a foreign language.

According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of the countries in Europe require students to learn a foreign language starting at 6 years old. In the United States, the expectation for citizens to develop multilingual fluency, sadly, does not exist.

The Pew Research Center also noted that only 20% of United States citizens are currently learning a foreign language, compared to 92% of Europeans.

European countries may place a heavier emphasis on the importance of learning new languages because of tourism, but it also demonstrates Europe’s commitment to diversity.

The United States also benefits from tourism and certainly is comprised of a diverse population.  Why then is it so far behind when it comes to promoting multilingualism?

Perhaps it is the lack of interest in foreign travel on the park of most Americans. A Forbes infographic showed that only 42% of Americans have a passport, while 77% of Europeans are in possession of a passport.

This is rather alarming. It is a symptom of a growing isolationist and nationalist ideology.  Other symptoms include the lack of appreciation for the contributions of minority groups to our national identity, or the recent string of hate crimes motivated by racism.

An article published by Auburn University said, “The study of foreign languages teaches and encourages respect for other peoples: it fosters an understanding of the interrelation of language and human nature.”

Learning another language allows 1 to empathize and understand those of different nationalities, but it also provides a series of cognitive benefits. According to The Atlantic, “Multilinguals tend to score better on standardized tests, especially in math, reading, and vocabulary; they are better at remembering lists or sequences, likely from learning grammatical rules and vocabulary; they are more perceptive to their surroundings and therefore better at focusing in on important information while weeding out misleading information.”

According to a Medical Xpress article by the Newcastle University staff, learning language as a young person can postpone dementia. A study from the University of Chicago said that learning a new language improves decision making ability. You can’t deny the amount of benefits that foreign languages bring.

Thus, students would greatly benefit from an increased emphasis on foreign language instruction.

An article by Trinity University illustrates the growing importance of being multilingual to the growing economy and business world. “Communicating directly with new clients and companies in their native language is one of the first steps to founding a lasting, stable international business relationship,” it said.

Not only do new languages provide cognitive gains, but they also prepare us for international careers. Just by knowing another language, we can further our relationship with people overseas. By speaking another person’s language, we can convey that we have respect for them.

The district should require 4 years of language classes to graduate. It’s time to meet others halfway, as it appears that more foreign citizens speak English than Americans speak foreign languages.