Brain Boost

Why Students Should Learn Another Language


Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks on Creative Commons

There are many benefits that come with learning a second language, both in school and in the job market. However, students in the U.S usually do not start learning a second language until high school, whereas in many European countries, students begin learning as early as the age of 6.

Morgan Kasel, Assistant Editor

After taking five years of Spanish, and still not being able to communicate effortlessly with my fluent friends, I have experienced first-hand the determination required to learn a completely new language. I have also experienced the frustration that comes with being surrounded by bilingual friends who have had the benefit of early exposure to different languages. 

Due to this frustration, I have often wondered why most American school systems do not require students to learn another language until after middle school, when many countries, especially in Europe, expose students as early as the age of six. And as I continue to learn Spanish, I become more and more convinced of the benefits and necessity of becoming multilingual. 

A common perception among English speakers is that another language is not necessary since English has become a universal language, when in reality “universal” is about 20% of the world’s population, according to an article posted by St. Petersburg College. Instead of promoting this attitude, schools should emphasize awareness of other cultures through language learning. Since languages are usually directly tied to a unique culture, students who learn another language are most likely to gain a better understanding of the diversity within our world. 

Aside from the worldly importance of speaking multiple languages, there are several benefits that come with being multilingual. Lead with Languages, an organization created with the hopes of bringing awareness to the relevance of language learning, explains the cognitive impacts of learning another language, including better problem-solving and listening skills, as well as improved memory. 

Nevertheless, the advantages that come with speaking a second language are not just relative within a classroom. Today, more and more jobs are part of a global market, and thus rely on bilingual employees to be successful. According to NCC Home Learning, an experienced and award-winning site for student learning, prospective employees who speak another language usually stand out and are more likely to be hired. Therefore, students who have an early start in language learning will be more prepared to enter the job market once the time comes.

Despite the many benefits of learning a second language, only a few U.S public school systems have established a language requirement for high school students and foreign language classes are even rarer in elementary and middle schools. According to the Pew Research Center, a site focused on the study of current world issues based on social science research, in 2017 only 20% of U.S students from kindergarten to high school were enrolled in a foreign language, compared to 92% of European students. Similarly, as addressed by Tessa International School, a program specifically created to introduce students to different cultures at a young age, research has proven that younger children have an easier time learning multiple languages. However, while many European countries follow this advice and begin teaching students between the ages of six and nine, U.S. students do not start learning a foreign language until high school.

Recently, a few Texas school districts, such as Liberty Hill ISD, have implemented a dual-language program. Starting as early as preschool, students are enrolled in a classroom where lessons are taught in both English and Spanish. The program initially began last school year and the students will continue learning in both languages throughout elementary school. However, there are few school districts throughout the nation that begin teaching another language as early as pre-k. 

With an ever-changing world, it is important for future generations to be as aware as possible of both the adapting job market and the unique people they may one day have to work alongside. Learning another language allows students to acquire additional skills, as well as awareness, that will help them succeed both in the classroom and in the real world. The best way for schools to continue preparing students for life-long scenarios is to start promoting worldly awareness through language learning starting as early as preschool.