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Why Should College Students Learn a Foreign Language?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Alabama chapter.


    With the drastic rise in technology and travel, our society is inevitably becoming increasingly global every day. Communication between diverse regions is easier and more frequent than ever before. Our generation follows people and pages across the world on social media, while companies sell and trade their goods in countries that were previously difficult to reach. After two French language courses and speaking with advisors and professors, I am personally considering adding a French minor to my degree. One of the most important concepts I have learned during my time at college is that foreign language is key to navigating our globalized society.

    Having experience with a foreign language automatically makes you a more global addition to the workforce. Even just one or two core language courses can open doors for any young adult’s career. Spending a handful of months learning a new language makes a potential employee more culturally conscious, and this is a skill that never fails to be useful. Imagine a company is doing any type of business with a different dialect. An employer is going to want someone who can greet the potential customer, someone who has even minimal knowledge of customs and courtesies, and someone who is not going to apply stereotypes to the customer. Learning any language makes you more respectful of the cultural differences of all regions. Not to mention, learning a language improves overall communication skills–a necessity in any career. According to usnews.com, those fluent in a foreign language can earn an additional 10% to 15% annually. Employers are clearly seeking young people with a global view, and speaking more than one language definitely checks that box.

    Additionally, besides the obvious career and financial benefits, there are personal advantages to learning a new language. I spoke with Maud Barthès, a doctoral candidate at The University of Alabama in the Department of Modern Languages and Classics. Ms. Barthès, a native French speaker, studies the language of her home country in a different, predominantly English-speaking nation. She remembers taking English classes during her early adolescent years, as was required in her education. It is no surprise that someone with long-term experience living in a culture quite different than that of her native language would feel so strongly about the importance of language to young people. “College is about your gray areas” explains Ms. Barthes. She feels that society polarizes itself–it is “us” versus “them.” Language teaches us respectfulness and openness towards others, especially during our undergraduate years. It allows us to engage and connect with those different than ourselves. She feels that language does more than teaching us vocab and grammar: it has the power to build bridges.

Not everyone has the resources or desire to major or minor in a foreign language, but it is an incredibly beneficial option for earning core credits. Foreign language classes can be extremely entertaining. Class time may consist of watching short films, interacting with others (I’ve met tons of amazing friends through my French classes because their focus on engaging), and participating in creative and self-led projects. Of all of the courses I’ve taken, my french classes have given me some of the most real-world skills. The lives of young people today can be enriched tremendously by learning the language and culture of others.

Cites: Chau, Lisa. “Why You Should Learn Another Language.” Usnews.com. 29 January , 2014. Accessed 7 November 2018.

Alabama Contributor