Should We Drop It Like It’s Hot?

“I will never use *insert foreign language* in my life” is a statement many students say too often when complaining about taking a foreign language. Many students wonder if they should go the extra mile to reach fluency in a language or drop out.

Our school offers Spanish, German, and French foreign language courses. Morris Hills requires 5 credits in order to graduate, which is equivalent to one year of a foreign language. However, 10 credits or more are recommended for students looking to enroll in a four-year university, as most colleges require it.  However, is this enough?

Señora Dalton, who teaches Spanish, recommended that if students are not interested in learning a foreign language, then they should not continue beyond the graduation requirements. For students who continue to study a foreign language, she described taking a foreign language as more than class but a memorable “experience.”

For Señora Dalton, knowing a second language is an “incredible asset to a life resume,” and she says that it can transform a student into a “well-rounded, more cultured person.” 

Sr. Dalton explains that “You will use it [a language] all the time” and that using a language other than English shows that you appreciate where someone comes from. You are able to help someone else understand in their native language if they are having trouble and show appreciation for their culture.

Sofia Castano, a trilingual senior, has progressed through four levels of French and enjoys her classes. “I think it’s great to learn more languages because it not only introduces you to a new culture, but it’s fun and interesting,” she shared. “It’s a life skill that you can use in the future.”

Mr. Pelosi, a guidance counselor, clarified that the requirements for foreign language depend on the selectivity of the college and the major students are applying for. More selective schools, such as Ivy Leagues, may want to see more than two years. For students hoping to apply to a prestigious university, completing four years of a foreign language can look impressive to college admissions officers as it shows that you have challenged yourself. However, some selective schools do not require a foreign language. Overall, the more years of a foreign language a student studies, the more competitive they become for colleges that require foreign language requirements.

Common reasons why students stop taking a foreign language after completing the requirement is that they would rather pursue a class that aligns with their interests, such as a science or math elective. Another reason is that some are just not interested at all in picking up a new language to continue to learn outside of high school. According to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, only 7.5% of American college students are enrolled in a foreign language. This small percentage reveals how there is a low number of students that are motivated to learn a foreign language. 

Mr. Pelosi advised that students can opt to take acceleration exams, such as STAMP, to receive a certificate to ensure proficiency in a language. However, many colleges prefer the dedication and time students spend taking a foreign language in a whole school year rather than just taking a STAMP assessment. Many colleges want to see students spending a lengthy amount of time studying and learning a language rather than self-studying.

Continuing a foreign language in high school is ultimately in the hands of the student. Students who are dedicated to learning a second language can apply it to their everyday life, but students who are not as enthusiastic about it should find another class to fulfill their passions (and take a break from Google Translate).