Why do we take a foreign language: Is it Necessary?


Highlands High School german teacher Kristin WIlson’s room.

English is a ‘lingua franca,’ meaning it’s the most widely spoken language in global economics. This is the reason why other countries prioritize English as a part of their learning curriculum.  

Japanese schools require a minimum of six years of the English language. They believe it to be essential in determining the success of their children, according to English Education in Japan.

In 2021 Japan’s education system ranked seventh globally and its language programs were ranked third in the world. The United States wasn’t found in the top ten. 

However, if English dominates the global economy, why should we prioritize learning other languages?   

Spanish is the second most frequently spoken language in the states’ and Caucasians are on pace to become a minority by 2045, as reported by Brookings

The U.S. is diversifying faster than anticipated and such diversity in culture is assured to change the language demographic. English is likely to remain the dominant language but the necessity to be multilingual is apparent.

The hiring process among corporations is rigorous and competitive. Employers search for the most minute details to determine who is the most qualified for the position. 

Anything, even the smallest of advantages shouldn’t be overlooked; and being bilingual may be the ultimate trump card. 

Native-born Porto Rican P&G [Procter & Gamble] hiring manager Maria Hidalgo said there are benefits of being bilingual during the hiring process at a Fortune 500 company. 

“[The job market] is competitive. A candidate that can speak another language can help diversify the company culture and help employees whose first language may not be English, feel more welcome.”

The Kentucky Board of Education requires the bare minimum for graduation requirements. They delegate the majority of curriculum decisions to the local school districts, including foreign languages. 

Therefore designating the decision to require any foreign language credits up to the district school board. 

At Highlands High School, students are encouraged but not required to take at least one year of another language; however, two language credits are strongly recommended by colleges as most prefer two years of experience. 

Speech Pathologist at Lincoln Elementary School Clara Schawe listed the benefits and consequences of taking a language course in high school and college: 

“Positives would be that you have the opportunity to make great connections, build your creative and cognitive skills, and be able to communicate better with people of another culture. In your future career, you may be able to make a larger salary if you are bi-lingual. Negatives would be that it can take a substantially longer time to learn the language the older you get and it takes up some of your time you may want to use for other activities.” 

There are more positives than negatives to learning another language; however, if schools went about it differently it may be more beneficial for students. 

The school district attempts to teach Spanish at a younger age, slowly easing the adolescent students into it in Kindergarten and gradually advancing from there. 

The strategy isn’t well thought out, as it’s easier to learn a new language when you’re young, but they don’t teach it efficiently and regularly enough for it to have a lasting impact on students. 

Once students reach middle school they are recommended to take a quarter-long intro to Spanish and an intro to German for a quarter a piece. This further reduces the amount of Spanish they retained from elementary school because they are subjected to a “break.” If students decide to take a German class in high school they’ll have to learn a new language from scratch completely. 

This strategy makes hardly a lick of sense and they’re making it far more difficult for students to excel in their language classes, especially in German since students have almost no experience with it by the time they reach high school.  

If the schools provided more repetition in Spanish and offered German at a younger age, students would have less trouble in their language classes at the higher levels. 

A coherent strategy for efficiently teaching a language to students replicates the out-of-date school system we are ruthlessly enslaved to.