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Should Students Be Required to Learn a Foreign Language to Graduate?

by Marie Anderson

Many states require high school students to earn credits in a foreign language to graduate, and many colleges also include foreign languages in their degree plans. Schools have these requirements because of the many benefits of learning another language.

Academic Importance

Learning another language assists in the development of critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving and memory, per the Connecticut State Department of Education. A 2007 publication cited several studies showing that students who study a foreign language have higher scores on standardized tests in math, reading and social studies, as well as college entrance exams like the ACT and SAT. English-speakers who learn a second language typically also have better listening skills and a greater understanding of their native language.

Understanding Diversity

Studying a second language also affords the opportunity to be immersed in another culture, learning not only the language but also its heritage, history and traditions. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages claims that learning another language increases a student's understanding of diversity and leads to more positive attitudes and a greater sense of respect for people of other cultures. It also opens up the way for new experiences like being able to watch and understand foreign films or travel to new nations and converse in the native language.

Job Opportunities

As our world becomes more globalized and diverse, being able to speak more than one language becomes an invaluable skill and opens up more career choices and advancement opportunities. Being able to list that you are bilingual on a resume will set you apart from the competition and give you an advantage in the job market. Many employers in the business, education, health care, government, hospitality, law enforcement or marketing fields look for applicants who can speak other languages.

Choosing a Language to Study

Language experts Martha Abbott and Ken Stewart offer some tips on language study in an article on the cognitive benefits of learning languages. They claim that while it is never too late to start learning another language, starting earlier is better. Students do not have to stop at just two languages, as many languages offer a transition to learning others. Abbott and Stewart suggest choosing a language based on interests, such as family history or what peers are learning and both cited consistency as an important factor, that students should see it through and become lifelong learners.

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