World language study opens opportunities

Many colleges and universities will commonly ask students to have taken or take a foreign language for a certain number of years to graduate. Many primary, middle and high schools also offer and or require students to take language classes, but is this really necessary or is it an out of date practice? The Department of Education finds many benefits to students learning a language as it enhances literacy skills and is shown to improve performance at school. Also, if you are planning to go to a college overseas, knowing the language of that region will be essential.

“Anything you want to do career wise can be benefited with a language,” Brittan Engels, a French teacher, said. “To have that base knowledge of a language can help you even know English better. Knowing certain root words and stuff like that can help you be a better communicator in general.”

Knowing different languages in the workforce is also important. You will likely need to talk to many different people with many different backgrounds so you will need to adapt your thinking as well as your speaking when encountering new people.

“You might say well, nobody speaks German, why should I learn German?” Gunda Brost, a German teacher, said. “We usually don’t have neighbors that speak German in the United States. You never know you might run into a tourist in Florida when you’re on vacation and they might speak German, or you might end up working for John Deere, which is a company that has German connections, or you might end up studying somewhere in Europe.”

However looking away from just the school and workplace benefits can show a different way of thinking. Learning or knowing a different language as described by Patricia Black, a Spanish teacher, is like opening a doorway. There are so many different, unique languages and cultures not just around the world but also in the United States. The U.S. government estimates that the United States speaks over 350 languages. Learning a new language is like seeing into a whole other world, seeing all sorts of different ways of doing things. Just talking with others can altogether be different on the other side of those doorways.

“For me it’s fascinating teaching a language. It’s so much more than just a bunch of words,” Black said. “Teaching language is about opening a door to a different world, so that students can realize that there is so much more than just one way of doing things.”

“We are in the process of watering down traditional requirements,” Brost said. “It’s sometimes unfortunate because when we become a purely utilitarian society and we only look at what is the buck in this or how this will translate into my career we forget the purpose of life.”  

Even though learning a language can be difficult it can still be very rewarding. Learning a language allows you to converse with others with different backgrounds and histories. It allows you to understand the world from many different perspectives.

“It enriches many aspects of your life, so traveling obviously, literature, music, just being able to communicate and understand that people do things a different way opens up that world view of how things are different. Not necessarily better or worse, but a better understanding; a deeper understanding of the world,” Engels said.

“Being a teacher that speaks English as a second language, languages are inclusive. I want everyone to get an experience, I want everyone to know what it’s like to be born and raised in a different country, to be teaching you,” Black said. “This period in history is one that different things are looked down upon. I don’t believe in violence or any of that, I believe in the power of sitting down and having a conversation with someone.”

“It might be a challenge, you might challenge yourself in ways you haven’t before but when is a challenge not good?” Brost said, “It’s like with a sport or with robotics, you might have never been challenged like this but it teaches you so much about yourself, you might learn things about yourself that you never knew.”

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