To speak or not to speak: mandated foreign language

Illustration by Rachel Carroll, President of National Arts Honor Society
Illustration by Rachel Carroll, President of National Arts Honor Society

Pro: Karen Pegueros

Before abbreviations and emojis, children communicated through secret languages they invented to hinder the enemy’s ability to eavesdrop on their classified plans. Fast forward a bit into their adolescence, and now they are learning languages spoken worldwide they can actually use, in more than just “undercover missions.”

Adding another tongue to a student’s repertoire – whether it be Spanish, French or Japanese – is vital. English is not the official language in the United States let alone in other countries around the world. Although it is predominantly spoken in 50 countries, languages like Mandarin Chinese and Spanish take over 20 percent of the world with around 1.41 million native speakers.

Everybody wants to travel and explore the world. Without having background on the language and culture of the desired destination, it will be substantially harder to assimilate, and travelers will not receive the full experience. Additionally, depending on the career choice, speaking multiple languages can be extremely beneficial in business meetings, negotiations, or even as a career.

College is coming faster than a tsunami. Having a variety of tongues not only looks great on applications, but studies prove high school foreign language study is directly related to higher academic achievement. In fact, students who studied one in high school perform better than a student equally academically qualified without having studied a language.

Bilingual people are proven to be smarter. According to the New York Times, “it can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.” The two languages seem to clash at times, but that only increases the brain’s cognitive skills by exercising it and making it problem solve. Like muscles, working out the brain strengthens it.

Learning at a young age is crucial because kids tend to retain more when they are young, so they will pick up the language easily and quickly. Children unconsciously absorb and retain most information they receive, while adults have to consciously try learn new material. Kids also aren’t afraid of practicing the language, even if that means butchering it.

Knowledge is something everybody should always be striving for more of. By removing the requirement of a foreign language, the road to success through knowledge is hindered.


Con: Rosa Cesareo

Seconds slowly drip by as la profesora drones on and on about preterite tense versus imperfect. Days spent studying yield no long term results as, by Spanish 3H, basic vocabulary words drilled in the brain two years prior have been long forgotten. Years past graduation, English still remains the dominant language used in everyday life.

Although languages such as Spanish and Mandarin Chinese are spoken by millions of people around the world, English has become the unofficial, official language used everywhere. In many foreign countries, information and entertainment can be easily accessed in English; foreigners learn English in attempt to speak the language of the globe.

As a result of widespread use of the language, tourist sites outside of the United States are heavily westernized. Whether traveling by plane, boat, or car, announcements are closely followed by English translations. At restaurants, gourmet dishes with fancy names typically come with English explanations underneath. Tourists need little more than “Hola,” “Adios,” “Ciao,” and “Grazie” to familiarize themselves as they journey through the most popular destinations on Earth.

Colleges and high schools should not require foreign language as a credit. Surviving two years in a dry high school classroom to memorize hundreds of vocabulary words does not indicate mastery of another language. Grammar rules and exceptions are inevitably forgotten, as upon graduation, few careers demand fluency in another tongue. Certain students are more inclined to do well learning other languages; the majority of others are not. Many successful people, idolized for their achievements, are monolingual; among them are Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, and Bill Gates.

Learning another language is not a matter of age but rather commitment. Instead of being forced as an adolescent, people should decide in their lives to dedicate themselves and study a foreign tongue. Kids can be taught another language but won’t be presented with the opportunity to use it in their environment and will inevitably forget it.

Being bilingual does not guarantee intelligence. Often, high school language electives prove to be a waste of time as information is rarely used beyond exams; pressure to study and pass distracts students from their true passions. Becoming an accomplished person does not depend on fluency in multiple languages but rather the efficiency to communicate in a standard tongue.