¿Hablas Español? Parlez-vous Français? Sprechen sie Deutsch?
If you were able to answer any of these questions without hesitation, then congrats, you may be multilingual! If you were under the impression that I was spouting gibberish, there is a good chance that your education is lacking in something I believe is of the utmost importance.
In an age where we are constantly meeting and interacting with people from other cultures, whether in person or through the use of technology, it is important that we have the means to effectively communicate with everyone we come across.
I firmly believe that studying a language other than English should be a foundation of basic education.
How is it fair to expect that everyone we meet will be able to speak English when most people in the world do not? It is our duty to what we can to bridge the gap between cultures by learning another language.
You may be saying to yourself, “I plan to be a teacher in an American school or work at an American hospital, so why do I need to learn a second language? Everyone I work with will be able to speak English.” Wrong! If you are a teacher, at some point you may have a student who was recently adopted from abroad. If you are a doctor, odds are you will have to treat patients that emigrated from other countries and were never able to become fluent in English.
No matter what you are planning on doing as a career, there is a large chance you will run into someone whose primary language is something other than English. If you ever decide to travel abroad, knowing the native language of your destination is a wonderful way to experience the culture even if it is just by talking with the local people.
I wasn’t required to take a second language until college, but I made the choice to study Spanish in high school. Looking back, I feel I missed out on something by not starting Spanish sooner. I was unable to study Spanish long enough to feel comfortable with it. In order to increase students’ aptitude with other languages, they should be introduced to a foreign language in elementary school. I’m not saying we should try to get children to be fluent in Spanish or German by the time they finish elementary school, but if they had some exposure to another language early on, they would be more open to studying a second language later in life.
It is important to study another language if for no other reason than it helps you communicate effectively with more people. Even if you aren’t fluent, you may know enough to get your point across to a native speaker. As you grow up, you will make connections with people from around the world. Taking the time to learn basic Spanish or German is a wonderful way to become responsibly engaged in the world.
This column was written by Isaac Heath, a contributing writer for The Concordian.