Opinion: High School Students Should be Encouraged to Learn a Second Language


Around the world, students start learning a second language, usually English, in elementary school. In America, however, and in Wadsworth specifically, language classes are not even an option until middle school.

Studies show that elementary school is a critical time for learning a different language while also achieving the best fluency.
There are countless benefits to learning a second language. It helps develop essential skills such as active listening and patience and also improves cognitive ability and performance in other classes.

“Listening is a skill a lot of people fall short on,” said Mrs. Meredith Stratton, a French teacher at Wadsworth High School. “But when you study a language, you get used to really having to pay attention, especially when you’re listening to native speakers.”Communication skills are also greatly expanded upon with the knowledge of a second language.

“When you learn a second language, your ability to talk to other people, your ability to be able to communicate with the world around you increases exponentially,” said Jim Steward, a recruiter for a mental health company.

Infographic created by Alex Banks.

Understanding another language can help people understand their own language better.

“You also become a creative thinker and a really good problem solver,” Stratton said. “It helps also with good communication, you get a better understanding of your own language so you actually learn how to communicate better in your own language.”A better understanding of their own language can help them improve their scores on standardized tests, especially with ones used for college admissions.

“People who know a second language have typically higher ACT and SAT scores,” said Mrs. Karen Beavers, a Spanish teacher at Wadsworth High School.

Because learning another language takes a lot of practice, dedication, and application, it can teach how to achieve those skills, which can then be used in other classes.

“It can also improve your achievement in other classes by being a strong language student,” Stratton said. “There is a strong correlation between language and math because similar thinking skills are required.”

Learning another language can also help expand someone’s worldview because it introduces them to a completely new culture.

“It kind of opens up your worldview so that you can see things differently,” Stratton said. “You have a better perspective of things.

Additionally, students who take language classes and work towards knowing a second language gain a more impressive resume and better job opportunities.

“Knowing a foreign language makes you more marketable,” Beavers said.

Many people are not interested in learning a different language because it takes a lot of time and dedication; however, it can greatly benefit them later in life, which is something that might not be considered.

“If I were to do my teenage years again, knowing what I know now and looking back at it, I’d be like ‘I need to try and learn a second language,’” Steward said.

Learning a second language in high school can present challenges because it is one of the only class options where students have to learn something that they may have been previously completely unfamiliar with, which will discourage people from even trying to take the class. However, if students were encouraged to take language classes in middle school or even given the option to take it at a younger age, they might not feel as discouraged and will have the opportunity to learn a second language, which will benefit them greatly.

“There needs to be more consideration given to how we are preparing students for life after high school and are we giving them the skills they need to be successful?” Stratton said. “I think for a lot of people and for a lot of careers, knowing another language can give you what you need.”

Mrs. Stratton instructs her French 4 class. In addition to teaching at the high school, she is currently teaching French to seventh graders at Wadsworth Middle School. Photo by Carley Sorrent.

Being able to speak fluently in a language is something that many employers look at. From 2010 to 2015, the demand for knowing a second language doubled. Having a second language on a resume shows that the job applicant has good communication skills, commitment to classes, and willingness to work hard.

“It also indicates an intelligent and creative and critical thinker,” Stratton said. “I think it’s something where if you have a language on your resume and it’s something where you’re actually capable of communicating in that language, then, pretty much on any level, I think it is something that they would look at.”

Many jobs look for knowledge of a second language, and even if it will not be specifically used in a job, it could help boost a job application or give someone an edge against other applicants who do not have the same knowledge.

“Regardless of the career that you’re in, communication is the biggest key, being able to talk to people, being able to understand multiple cultures, being able to understand where people are coming from, [and] learning a second language helps with that,” Steward said.

For example, although a job in the medical field might not require a person to know a second language, knowing one can provide a huge advantage.
“Because we have so many immigrants in our country, it is very helpful if medical staff know different languages,” Stratton said.

If a student is able to learn a second language during high school, they should take the opportunity because it will help them enhance their communication skills and their memory, expand their worldview, and will help them find better jobs and gain more job opportunities.