PRO/CON: Should Colleges Require a Foreign Language?

PRO/CON: Should Colleges Require a Foreign Language?

August 12, 2022

PRO: Colleges Should Require Foreign Language

The reason why colleges should require at least one year of a foreign language program is because learning a new language expands the world view. Although learning a new language requires a familiarity to the language with one’s own and a bit of time to learn, starting a new language can even help one struggling with English comprehension.

According to the AACLL (American Academy’s Commission on Language Learning), a research study showed that
a “second language helps students tackle the nuances and complexities of their first language.” Although the study mentioned was done from 2012-2015 and studied 5th grade students enrolled in dual-immersive language classes until the 8th grade, the study shows that incorporating a second language into a curriculum can have positive benefits.

College is about getting as much life experience that you possibly can to help fur- ther your goals in life. By learning another language in college, although at an older age, this extra skill is valuable and is seen as an asset to big companies. According to the AACLL, several job studies show that from 2012-2015, companies sought more bilingual applicants. The study shows that “one in five job postings from some of New Jersey’s largest employers (including Bank of America, H&R Block, State Farm Insurance Companies, and Crossmark, Inc.) sought bilingual employees.”

By offering a language program, col- leges also give students with low credits an opportunity to bring them up without depending on filler classes. A language such as Spanish is easy to learn and has
a rich history attached. By crediting language classes higher at a two-credit class, more students will find interest in taking them. Also, offering a wide range of languages such as Japanese, German, or even Farsi (an ancient Persian dialect still spoken today in modern-day Iran) opens
a student’s mindfulness and tolerance to diverse cultures other than theirs.

Even though college is stressful enough, I believe that even learning the alphabet and grammar of another language is still helpful. By requiring college students

to take one year of a foreign language program, students develop better critical thinking skills and also learn vital communication skills. By learning another language, you are also learning a different culture full of customs and history wait- ing to be understood. Learning another language means more than being bilingual but being multicultural, which is a priceless life affiliation to have.

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CON: Colleges Should Not Require Foreign Language

While learning a foreign language can help provide students a well-rounded education, is it practical to begin learning a new language in college?

Currently, a majority of higher education institutions in the U.S. require students to take a certain amount of foreign language classes in order to graduate.

However, some wonder, is it time to do away with this requirement?

“Learning another language takes time and dedication; it’s hard, and if you don’t want to do it, you’re probably not going to. Therefore, students who aren’t interested, don’t see it as relevant, or aren’t good at it will probably view the required classes as a waste of time,” said a New York Times article.

Disinterest isn’t the only issue with required foreign language classes. Student loan debt is another major concern for students, with each year observing a steady increase in student debt.

“Currently, student loan debt at graduation is an estimated $31,100,” says Education Data Initiative.

Students shouldn’t have to pay for classes that they don’t plan on actively en- gaging in. At Ferrum, every student in the Boone Honors Program is required to take a foreign language through the 202 level. If the student begins at the 101 level, then that amounts to 12 credit hours.

The question is: If a student doesn’t plan on using a foreign language in their future, why should they waste time and rack up debt?

Not only is debt a key drawback, but so is the practicality of starting to learn a foreign language while in college.

at learning a second language up until the age of 18…But the study also showed that it is best to start by age 10 if you want to achieve the grammatical fluency of a native speaker,” says Scientific American.

Studies continually show that the most effective time to start learning a new language is during the brain’s developmental stages. By the time students reach typical college age (18-24) they are past the optimal language learning capacity.

If any of your parents took foreign language courses in college, ask them if they still remember the language. I know mine certainly don’t.

Learning a foreign language can provide many benefits and opportunities for students. But it’s not for everyone.

The facts speak for themselves. It’s time that college institutions seriously con- sider whether requiring foreign language courses is truly beneficial for the students, or if it’s just adding onto the ever-growing mountain of student loan debt.

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