Written by: Nabeel Chollampat
Within the current climate of valued skills and talents, communication still remains a fundamental aspect of society. People often lose sight of the importance of social interaction, however, because they don’t accord it the necessary attention. If students were to list their classes by their own standards of importance, world language would not, in most cases, rank near the top. Foreign languages, however, benefit students more than they care to believe. World language classes are a necessary aspect of modern education because they prepare students for a world of increasing international communication, foster an acceptance of cultures and improve overall intellectual progress.
In today’s world, many corporations take a span across continents: their products are designed in one country, assembled and manufactured in another and sold all over the globe. Such a fast-paced business climate has no place for language barriers. Students, whose futures will indubitably be in some way tied to this global economy, need to recognize this. According to the Committee for Economic Development, 30 percent of large U.S. corporations in 2006 believed that they “failed to exploit fully their international business opportunities due to insufficient personnel with international skills.” Intercontinental interaction is often underestimated as a vital quality in today’s business world. Studying and understanding the languages and cultures of other nations can often be the key to mutual agreement between two parties. Students who have already learned new languages, then, would have the upper hand. Having already been educated and immersed in the culture of those they go into business with, students would have the knowledge necessary to succeed.
Another important facet of foreign language education is that it encourages students to embrace a wholly different culture. Too often students are mired in their solely American way of life that they fail to experience cultures from around the globe. It is this ignorance that hinders wholehearted acceptance of others, and nurtures the “fear of the unknown.” According to World Language Instructional Supervisor Anne Jensen, language educators have a duty not only to teach the language, but also to help students see the world in a different way. By learning a new language, students can view the world through the lens of an entirely different culture, if only through an hour-long period four times a week. Learning a new language comes hand-in-hand with learning about the corresponding culture, and by doing so, students will learn to embrace and even enjoy other parts of the world.
Foreign language education has also been proven to improve students’ overall intellectual progress. Cognitive development is a broad but critical aspect of intellectual progress. In a 1991 study by Bamford and Mizokawa, students who received second language instruction were shown to be more creative and better at solving complex problems than those who didn’t. Creativity can only be described as one of life’s most sought-after qualities; that students who study a second language are proven to be more creative is a strong indication of bilingualism’s worth. Studies have also long shown that studying a second language early on, and staying with it, consistently improves scores in other subjects and standardized test scores. In 1992, the College Entrance Exmination Board reported that students who studied four years or more of foreign language scored higher on the verbal section than those who did not. This proves that the study of foreign language aids people in other academic areas, including but not limited to standardized exams. If students can improve test scores across the board, and languages help performance in other subjects, then there is no question as to whether they should be required classes.
Students’ ability to learn a language is an overlooked and underappreciated skill; by way of different languages, they can understand, comprehend and communicate with others. The added benefits in other areas of life only serve to further strengthen the case that students should be required to take foreign language classes.