How Important Is Taking A Language, Really?

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By Alisa Oden (She/Her)

January 21, 2021

Language is everywhere. No matter what kind of language it is, it’s our strongest point of communication. Most of us probably speak multiple languages or take language classes, but just how important is learning languages, really?

“Having a second language gives kids an edge,” said Dr. Olademeji in an interview. “Research has shown that having a second or third language actually gives you an advantage over SAT scores and even academic rigor in other contexts. It’s truly very important.” 

Not only do languages help boost your GPA, but people are more likely to hire you if you’re multilingual. Knowing multiple languages gives you access to jobs those who speak one language don’t have access to. In that case though, if languages really are so important, why would FCPS label them as electives?

Most people are familiar with the IB program, which considers all subjects to be on the same level of significance in getting an IB diploma upon graduation. Dr. Olademeji explains this with, “Language helps you understand people’s culture and understand people’s perspectives. In the IB world, language classes are not electives. They are on the same level of importance of math.”

Of course, not all schools in FCPS are IB schools, so classes other than math, science, history, English, and P.E are considered electives in the whole county.

PROS AND CONS OF MAKING LANGUAGES CORE CLASSES:

In a survey on this topic, most Glasgow students thought languages should be core classes.

Many students agreed that language classes are important but didn’t like the idea of not getting to choose what language to take, let alone being forced to take a language class if they don’t want to. On the downside though, you can only choose a limited number of electives, and in 7th and 8th grade, language classes are year long courses.

“I had to make a really tough decision between art and Spanish, and it killed me to have to stop taking art,” said Katherine Bille. “Kids who are taking a language now are wanting to get ahead for high school, and it is not fair that they get one less elective if they choose to take a language.” 

Like with all classes, learning a new language could also result in extra stress or frustration, especially for those with learning disabilities. Being required to learn a language could cause kids to turn away from learning languages in general because of a bad experience. Unfortunately though, not taking a language in middle school does have its toll.

Starting in 7th grade, you can earn language credits. 8th graders can find themselves getting frustrated if they didn’t take a language in 7th grade. If you wait until high school to take a language, you might have to work harder to earn all the credits you need for an IB diploma and miss out on other opportunities. 

“If students aren’t taking the opportunity to start sooner in a language, they’re regretting it later,” said Ms. O’Donnell, a Glasgow counselor. 

The most important thing is to educate kids and parents on the importance of taking languages as early as possible whether in 1st grade or 7th. Even though it might not seem like it now, you’ll thank yourself later down the line.