Should foreign language courses be mandatory, oui oui

Bug Portaluppi, Staff Writer

When someone in the United States mentions knowing another language, they often receive very surprised inquisitions and applaud for their abilities. But go almost anywhere else in the world, and multilingual people are not hard to find. 

It’s extremely apparent that the rest of the globe somewhat shapes itself to fit the needs and wants of the United States. English is the most spoken language in the world. When you turn on a movie, there is absolutely no question whether or not there will be either an English dub or English captions for you to understand, no matter where the place of origin of the media is.

People from the United States are incredibly ethnocentric. We don’t see other people and places as important, so we don’t ever bother to meet them in the middle and learn how they communicate. However, this mindset creates issues for both us and the rest of the world that could be fixed if foreign language courses were mandatory throughout our public education system.

If foreign language courses were mandatory, we could provide them much sooner. Younger children, such as those in elementary school, are at a developmental stage where they are innately better at learning language. Introducing multiple languages then could provide a smooth foundation for both attaining said languages over time and grasping new ones as an adult. Not to mention, younger children are generally less burnt out from school and therefore may put more effort into learning the languages than highschool-aged children.

Students are constantly pointing out how much unnecessary busywork there is to do. Certain higher level subjects are constantly questioned for their helpfulness later in life. Adding foreign languages to the mandatory curriculum doesn’t have to mean increasing the overall workload. It could also mean replacing outdated and irrelevant materials with something much more valuable.

Learning more languages can also improve the cognitive abilities of the individual. Learning another language has been shown to help with focus, memory and critical thinking skills.

And on a broader scale, being multilingual opens up communication in obvious ways. Certain languages like ASL make the world more accessible for deaf and hard of hearing people. Understandinding the basics of languages like Spanish or Portuguese can be especially relevant to Americans who live in places with higher immigrant populations, as some people come here without reaching fluency. Knowing languages like Mandarin Chinese may be helpful for business exchanges or job opportunities.

Being multilingual opens doors to other cultures. If we were raised to see other languages as just as important as our own, maybe we wouldn’t have as much of an ego. The Earth has so much to offer, and here we are obsessed with ourselves too much to care.