Foreign Languages

Important for all students to learn

Madeline Halgren, Staff Writer

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This past weekend, I came across an article in the “Omaha World Herald” about how some schools are replacing teaching Latin with teaching Mandarin or pulling Latin altogether. Though Latin is considered a “dead” language, this brought to my attention how important learning foreign languages are no matter how large the population is that speaks it. Learning a new language opens doors for both career opportunities and immersive cultural experiences.
From the mere age of three, I was introduced to a language that was not English. My mother enrolled me in a preschool which had a foreign language program built into their curriculum. There, I started learning French. Though my instruction was cut off in elementary school, I have been able to study French for the past six years in middle and high school.
By speaking another language, many opportunities become available for travel in high school and college. I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to visit France this past summer due to my enrollment in a French class. Many study abroad programs are language-based and allow students to study in their respective countries. The opportunities don’t just start in college. Many high schools, including MN, have gone on trips around the globe to places such as France, Spain, and Italy.
Knowing a language other than your own makes for more satisfying and immersive travel. During my travels this summer, I found myself able to communicate with natives in shops, restaurants, and airports with ease. It allowed for a stress free trip as well as feeling more connected with the country and culture.
While learning a language allows for an immersive travel experience, there are many other benefits to being bilingual. By having a second language, one is able to acquire an edge in the job market. A study done at Northern Illinois University showed those who are bilingual are considered more employable and may receive higher salaries than those who only speak a singular language.
Along with a wide variety of job opportunities, the University continued studying the bilingual brain and how it provides many benefits in brain health. A bilingual brain is visibly larger than a monolingual one. People are better at filtering out unnecessary information and tend to perform higher in subject areas other than the foreign language.
According to an article in the “New York Times,” being bilingual improves the brain’s “executive function,” which helps with planning and problem solving. This allows them to stay focused and move from task to task without forgetting previous information.
Along with this, bilingualism causes the brain to have a sharper memory. Those who are bilingual recall memories faster, and recent research shows that the onset of dementia occurs four to five years later in bilinguals than in monolinguals. Though this statistic is based on those who use the second language everyday, learning a language in school and regularly practicing it is still useful for delaying this onset.
Though learning language is difficult past a certain age, a recent study showed that even adults who intensively studied a language had significant brain growth over the course of a year. These adults are shown to have denser gray matter in the left brain which controls language and communication. This is mostly seen in those who learn a language at the age of five or younger but similar effects can still occur in an older brain.
Scientists are finding that bilinguals use a front area of the right brain more than monolinguals. That area is the source of bilingual advantages and attention control. Scientists are able to decipher bilinguals and monolinguals by neural activity in brain scans.
No matter how many people speak a foreign language, learning one is something everyone should consider doing. Schools across the United States have implemented foreign language into school curriculum and many colleges require students to take foreign language due to all the health and experiential benefits. This emphasis on foreign language is influenced directly by its benefits in the job market, brain health, and immersive cultural experiences.

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Foreign Languages