Editorial: Foreign languages matter, need to be taught more


Jake Radcliffe

To prepare for their upcoming Honors French 2 assessment, sophomores Zane Pedersen, Cheralatan Saravanan, Ray Johnson, Nathaniel Ray and Raham Shinwari talk about their healthy and unhealthy habits in French. In the attached editorial, the Eagle Nation Online staff takes the stance that more than two years of foreign language classes need to be required in American public schools. “I think that the lack of foreign language education leads us to be kind of ignorant to other cultures,” Ray said. “I want foreign languages to be more available at a much earlier age.”

The amount of people in the United States that can speak more than one language is strikingly low. Only around one in five American adults are bilingual. In comparison, over one-third of adults in the United Kingdom are bilingual. This issue is largely due to the American public school system’s limited teaching of foreign languages.

More than two years of foreign language classes should be required in American public schools.

Learning a second language can improve one’s cognitive and test-taking skills. On average, students who are proficient in more than one language tended to have better test scores and overall grades than those who only know one language. Studying another language can also delay dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and improve one’s memory, problem-solving skills and critical thinking abilities.

Also, learning a foreign language gives a higher awareness of different cultures from around the world. Sadly, many Americans are ignorant of traditions from foreign cultures. This can often lead to bullying toward foreign students. Immigrants from cultures that are foreign to many Americans report they are bullied for the food they eat, the clothes they wear and the traditions they follow. In most foreign language classes, students learn about the cultures of the people that speak the language the students are studying. A higher prevalence of learning about foreign cultures could help decrease the bullying problem.

In addition, learning a foreign language helps students connect with people from around the world. Connecting with foreigners is becoming increasingly important in America because of the rising amount of immigration into the US. Because of the inability of native citizens to connect with those who speak languages other than English, the immigrants often have a harder time integrating themselves into American communities. They may only form friendships with people of a similar culture. More foreign language classes would help form stronger connections between American students and students from other countries.

Some people say two years of high school foreign language classes is enough. However, becoming fluent in a language in two years is nearly impossible, especially as a teenager. The best time to learn a language to become fluent is before the age of 10 years old. If someone learns a foreign language at a younger age, they can not only become fluent in the language but also not develop an accent.

The State Boards of Education across the US need to change the curriculum of public schools to add more mandatory foreign language classes throughout the entire education process, starting in elementary school and going all the way through high school.

Editor’s Note: Jake Radcliffe wrote this editorial on behalf of the editorial board and staff of Eagle Nation Online.