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

Language, whether communicated through speech, writing or gesture is an innate ability every one of us is capable of exercising. Language unites all human beings regardless of gender, race, religion, disability, and age. We use it to converse, to inform, to protest, to encourage, to defend and so much more. However by sticking to the single language we grow up learning, we limit the possibilities our methods of communication can achieve. Our developing years in childhood are prime for learning a second language because the brain has not ripened and therefore can still be nourished with new information. Foreign language should be required in all U.S. public schools starting in the first grade because younger children have the capacity to learn language easier than adults, it will better prepare students for future study and work, and can make children more racially tolerant than their monolingual peers.


Having elementary school students learn a second language will better prepare them for when they need to meet the foreign language requirement in high school and possibly decrease the amount of time needed to learn the language. Most competitive colleges require at least three years of foreign language in highschool and some require you to continue studying a language in college. However, some students graduate without the ability to last a conversation speaking the language they spent learning for more than half of high school. In an article from Scientific American, a  psychology professor at Boston College conducted a study on the time it takes for someone to become fluent in another language and concluded that in order to be completely fluent, learning must start by the age of 10. That is not to say there is no point in learning another language if we are over 20. Rather, one would be unlikely able to master grammar or sound like a native speaker. Already, students who learn a second language via immersion where they are surrounded by the language 90% of the time are significantly more fluent than those who learn in a class. According to an article on Public School Review, children in elementary school show better mental flexibility, more creativity, divergent thinking skills, and improved listening and memory skills, making it easier for them to process a language compared to adults. Introducing foreign language at an earlier age will increase a child’s likelihood to achieve proficiency which is why it is crucial that we adjust the education system to better accommodate for the ideal conditions needed to easily learn a second language. 


Not only will this requirement better prepare students for high school, it will also open up more job opportunities and put us on the path to being a globally engaged citizen in the future. As the number of people you can communicate with grows, more opportunities open, especially in the workforce. According to the British Chamber of Commerce, “over 60% of corporations who want to do business in a foreign country don’t do so because they don’t have enough multilingual employees.” Bigger companies tend to have business relations with international companies and therefore are more eager to hire those who can speak more than just English. If you are in higher demand, you may also earn higher pay. The same source reported that being able to speak a foreign language can increase the typical wage between 10 and 15 percent, and up to 10 percent in upper-level positions. By learning Spanish you would be able to speak to 414 million people that also speak Spanish whom perhaps you couldn’t communicate with before, whether for career purposes, to communicate with others in a foreign speaking country, or even to help a non-English speaker navigate their way in one of America’s big cities. Regardless of where and when in your life you use your extra set of language skills, you will accumulate experience that influences your perspective and interactions with the people you meet. 


Another benefit of learning a second language early in childhood is that bilingual students are known to be more racially tolerant than their monolingual peers. While growing up, our parents’ conversations on politics, religion, race, and values are most often the same ones we hold true to until we enter highschool and create our own unique perspective on these topics. Public elementary schools could potentially foster generations of kids who grow up to be advocates for racial equality on both local and global scales by starting the foreign language requirement all students must eventually fulfill, just a few years earlier. Psychologist Jean Piaget said that younger children tend to be more open minded and more enthusiastic about other cultures. Therefore introducing foreign language learning at an earlier age will help students develop a more positive, tolerant attitude toward the culture of the language they are studying and help them incorporate these global concepts into their “realm of understanding” at a young age. 


Perhaps this information will inspire you to revisit the language you learned in highschool and pursue it with hopes that you can achieve the same possibilities that learning a foreign language can offer to you. If this crucial adjustment isn’t made by the time you have first graders of your own, you may be determined to find a way to expose your child into a foreign language. By recognizing the economic, social, and personal values of learning a foreign language, we can all become more globally engaged citizens who can offer our skills through work, service, and interaction.

Works Cited

Chau, Lisa. “Why You Should Learn Another Language.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 29 Jan. 2014, www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/economic-intelligence/2014/01/29/the-busine…

Career Profiles. Career Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language. 0AD, www.careerprofiles.info/career-benefits-of-foreign-language.html. 

Chen, Grace. Benefits of Foreign Language Education. 22 June 2008, www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/benefits-of-foreign-language-education. 

Smith, Dana G. “At What Age Does Our Ability to Learn a New Language Like a Native Speaker Disappear?” Scientific American, Scientific American, 4 May 2018, www.scientificamerican.com/article/at-what-age-does-our-ability-to-learn…


Freshman at LMU from Oahu. Photography, yoga, and alternative music enthusiast with a passion for writing.
Rylie Walsh is a recent graduate of Loyola Marymount University, where she earned her degree in Communication Studies and English! She was President of Her Campus LMU for the 2021-22 school year and is also a Her Campus National Writer. When she's not reading, writing, or working, you can find her hanging out with friends, SoulCycling, or enjoying her all time favorite dessert: a Pressed freeze.