Should students be required to take foreign languages?

Here at CHS, students are given the opportunity to prepare themselves for the world ahead, and for this reason, language programs are a huge help to develop necessary life skills. Included in these choices are American Sign Language, Spanish, Spanish for Heritage Speakers, French and Chinese. All of these options have four or five different levels to prepare students to use the language in daily life.

No matter what your interest may be, whether it’s to travel the world or simply have another language in your arsenal, there is a language for just about anyone. With this in mind, however, another question arises: Should it be a requirement for students to spend two years in a foreign language class, even if they don’t have plans to use what they learn anywhere but on campus?

Using their learned talents for a purpose, there are actually students who take their newly-acquired second tongue to streets outside of the classroom. Senior Adam Mahady, for example, takes joy in talking with members of his French host family, with whom he spends time during his trips in the summer.

There is a definite purpose for Mahady to have taken an AP French class, but the same does not apply to all students, especially those with no specific need for knowledge of the language.

Some students say that it would be a better use of time if they had not spent time in a language course at all, but instead had partaken in something that further sparks their interest. Supporting this theory, many students drop their language class as soon as the requirement is met. So is it really a benefit to have taken the class in the first place?

All of the material learned will just flow out of their minds in a matter of time anyway, especially if they are not actively using the skill. Schools around the nation have adopted this same idea and have decided to discard the two-year requirement.

The states that have ended, or possibly never even started, the requirement of a foreign language include Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Minnesota and others that provide some flexibility.

For many, however, the benefits of taking a language far outweigh the downside of the time loss because it betters their communication abilities. No matter what language will be used in communication, studying a foreign language can actually improve one’s understanding of one’s own first language.

As stated by Kenji Hakuta of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, language learners have a higher sense of problem solving, thinking skills and cognitive flexibility.

Jim Cummins of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education also adds that those involved in language learning develop a higher understanding of language as a whole, therefore making it easier to continue excelling in their known or growing languages.

According to foreign language curriculum specialist Helena Curtain, studies have actually shown that taking a foreign language course improves cognitive skills and overall academic performance. It is also no surprise that being multilingual will surely improve one’s chances of obtaining a job later in life, as there is a large variety of people and languages in America.

Whether a language course should be mandatory for high school graduation is a question that has many sides and can be interpreted in different ways.

If students feel inclined to expand their knowledge of linguistics, then they should be able to do so freely, and not just because they are forced to do so. On the other hand, if a student has no interest in learning another language, then he or she should not have graduation privileges revoked for not doing something that won’t be a benefit in the long run anyway.
-Lennie Rodriguez