Should Students Be Required to Take a Foreign Language?

Raleigh Kuipers, Writer

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Many students wonder why they are required to take a foreign language. They wonder how it is going to help them later in life. Why does the state force them to take a foreign language when they could be taking a fun elective? Studies have been done on the benefits of bilingualism. Many studies also prove that people don’t have to be fully bilingual to experience these benefits.

A person does not need to be completely fluent to earn the benefits of bilingualism, just as a person does not need to be an Olympic-class athlete to gain the physical benefits of a good diet and exercise,” wrote Michael Prywes in this article on bilingualism.

For starters, knowing a second language can help in future careers. Being able to communicate with more people, it would be possible to do double the work a monolingual person could, making bilinguals a valuable asset to companies. Additionally, The Economist reported that those who speak English and Spanish earn a salary 1.5% higher than average, and people who speak German earn 3.8% more.

Knowing a second language can also improve mental health. It is essentially a brain workout. Research has also suggested that knowing a second language can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by over four years.

Many studies have proven bilinguals are more creative and better problem solvers than monolinguals. Learning a second language boosts both memory and attention span. It has also been reported that bilingualism increases the number of neural pathways in the brain and boosts vocabulary and understanding of grammatical structure in a person’s native language.

Bilingualism also helps students appreciate diversity and respect other cultures. In a school like Northern, where we have such a diverse student body, it is even more important to be able to understand and respect each other.

Knowing a second language sets students up for a bright future by giving them important skills and increasing their confidence. It prepares them to face greater challenges in life and to solve bigger problems. Students should be required to take a foreign language not just because it looks good on their diploma, but because it will improve their future.

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