Written by: Raisa Hasan
I hear you. Your Spanish, French, or Italian class can be difficult: the seemingly endless verb tenses, grammar etiquettes, various dialects to understand, and so on. It’s more content added on to your high school schedule, of which you likely don’t use in your daily life. It feels useless– an “extra” class. I hear you, but I don’t agree with you. New York state requires all students to have taken at least two years of a foreign language course, and I find that completely valid. There are a plethora of benefits associated with not only being bilingual, but merely the process of learning a second language as well.
Firstly, there are the cognitive gains. Have you ever heard your math teacher say mathematics “work your brain muscles?” Learning a language does much the same. According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), your memory, problem solving and thinking skills, concentration, and ability to multitask can and will improve by studying language. How? Think of those long lists of vocabulary or verbs, for example. Memorizing and internalizing them jogs your memory function. Your critical thinking skills are also used because you are tasked to think in an intrinsically different way, as in, you won’t be thinking in your primary language. Finally, you’ll be able to coexist with two (or more) speech patterns, a clear ability to multitask. The worldly benefits of language learning are plentiful, too. For one thing, being a multilingual adult makes you a more eye-catching candidate in the career marketplace. Being able to communicate with a diverse and wide range of people is critical for some, if not most jobs. This is especially true in the globalized society we live in today. Connecting with people across the world helps us understand the countless cultures of the world, bringing us closer together.
Convinced you yet? If I did, where can you get a start on your language learning journey? Of course, all of us at The Wheatley School have access to a choice of pursuing up to AP level Spanish, French, or Italian, all of which are common romance languages. But let’s say there’s a language besides these offered that you’d like to learn. Is it a language from your ethnic origins? Try asking a family member to help you out. Self studying is a great option as well, if done right and adequately. If it’s a language completely outside your familiar sphere that interests you to want to learn, there are a multitude of language-learning apps available, some of which are accessible to all ages for their free cost. Rosetta Stone, Busuu, Tandem, and Babbel are some examples. One of the most popular language-learning apps is Duolingo, known for its notorious daily streak incentives. (I’ve surpassed day 750, at the moment. Not to brag.)
The process can get difficult. It could even be a bit grueling, depending on your linguistic skills, or the specific language you’re learning. But I urge you not to give up. Know that the outcome from this knowledge opens up doors of opportunities for you: if not now, in the future. Let’s all work to build language bridges, not barriers.