One of my favorite memories from my time in high school was when I took a course in Spanish. My teacher was a wonderful lady who was originally from Columbia and provided her students with knowledge of the culture, dialect, and the best ways to communicate through her language. My experience of learning a foreign language was eye-opening, exciting, and rewarding.
Even now, I can still recall many of the words or phrases that were learned so many years ago. I gained respect for another culture and felt I could bring something of value to a conversation if ever the opportunity arose to communicate with someone in the language. All of these benefits and so many more support the need to study foreign languages in school.
What do Foreign Language Classes Typically Look Like in Schools?
Foreign language classes are typically taken during the high school years. In most areas in the United States, the most common languages of study are Spanish and French; however, it is not uncommon to find schools that offer courses in German or Latin! The general makeup of a foreign language class consists of learning basic words and phrases that are used in everyday conversation. The goal is to teach students enough language to carry on a brief yet concise conversation.
Due to the nature of high school courses, teachers are generally short on time and may be unable to dive deeper into a language. Foreign language courses at this level are very beneficial in allowing students to experience a new language and determine whether or not they would like to pursue it more intently during their college years or through an additional foreign language course if their school offers it.
What are the Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language?
Foreign languages are normally studied during a student’s high school years, but unfortunately, this is not the most optimal time to introduce a foreign language. It is more beneficial to teach a foreign language while a student is still relatively young and in elementary school, or even younger!
If students begin studying a new language at a younger age, they are more likely to become fluent in the language due to increased exposure to it. Additionally, those students can more greatly benefit from the numerous advantages of learning a foreign language; however, exposure to a foreign language at any age can also provide several benefits.
Below are some of the most important benefits of studying a foreign language while in school.
Stretches Your Brain
Through learning a new language, you are essentially expanding your brain! Students of all ages have to connect what they know and do not know to “connect the dots” of the new information they are receiving. Acquiring the necessary knowledge needed to learn a new language requires students to recognize complex patterns and use critical thinking skills. These skills continue to be beneficial throughout a child’s education, and they help expand the thinking abilities of the brain.
Strengthens Memory Skills
When students learn a foreign language, they are, in essence, sharpening their memory skills. Memory skills are crucial throughout a child’s development; students are constantly committing new knowledge to memory knowledge during their academic years. This is especially true for young children as they are continually expanding their language skills and vocabulary, so it is much easier for them to commit any previously unknown knowledge to their memory.
Their brains are much more flexible and open to new information; thus, this further supports the need to begin a foreign language at a younger age. However, students at any age can strengthen their memory skills through studying a new language, and the benefits of doing so can carry over into other subject areas in helping them to remember important facts and necessary information.
Cultivates Respect for Other Cultures
Through learning a foreign language, students gain a new perspective of other cultures. Specifically, students develop a respect for others who come from diverse backgrounds with which they are unfamiliar. This respect stems from obtaining a better understanding of their culture through the study of their language. Through this, students develop an appreciation for other cultures, and they can connect with others on a deeper level and communicate with others in their familiar language! Both of these advantages might not have been possible if it were not for studying of the language.
Opens Up Professional Opportunities
As students progress in acquiring a foreign language, they begin to develop a proficiency in the language over time. Students begin to speak the language more fluently and may even eventually qualify as being bilingual. This serves as a huge benefit to those students as many future employers (as students enter the workforce) desperately need students who can speak more than one language fluently to better serve customers and businesses. Being bilingual can open up special job opportunities that may otherwise be considered unavailable or unattainable.
By learning a foreign language, students are better prepared to soar academically, work well with others, and understand the differences amongst their peers. These benefits are at the disposal of students of all ages as they open up their minds to new learning opportunities.