Why Study Foreign Languages?
Studying a foreign language in college is not just for those who want to become foreign language teachers or translators. If you are interested in other cultures, peoples, and languages - as many students are in this age of increasing globalization and multiculturalism - you should consider making the study of a foreign language an important part of your college experience.
Foreign languages offer three main advantages:
1. Learning a foreign language can improve your overall academic performance.
Studies show that there is a link between second language learning and increased cognitive abilities in students. Students who learn languages score higher on standardized tests and have higher academic achievement rates overall. Learning languages develops the skills that are at the core of a liberal arts education, such as:
- intellectual skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, mental agility, and making interdisciplinary connections
- self-confidence, including increased self-reliance, ability to adapt new situations, pro-activity, and willingness to take on responsibilities, and
- people skills, such as effective interpersonal communication, leadership, presentation skills, ability to do team-work, and cross-cultural understanding.
Foreign language study will teach you to think creatively, communicate effectively, and interact appropriately with people from different cultural backgrounds.
2. Learning languages makes you more marketable as a job candidate in almost every field.
Language is key to increasing one's understanding of today's world. The internationalization of travel, the arts, media, politics, science and technology, the economic interdependence of the world's nations, and the increasingly multicultural character of American society have created a very real demand for multilingual professionals in nearly every profession.
Knowing a second (or third) language is a real asset in today's markeplace, not only because you might need to use that language to communicate with native speakers in the U.S. or abroad, but also because of the personal, cultural and intellectual skills you develop when you learn a foreign language. In the words of the Wall Street Journal, ''successful managers of the future are those who have ... the ability to understand different cultures and different ways of doing business.''
Studying foreign languages and interacting with people from other cultures while in college is the way to acquire that ability. For many employers, your ability to communicate in a foreign language may be equally important to the specialist skills you will need to work in that field. A foreign language major or minor will add value to your undergraduate degree.
3. Learning a foreign language will enrich your life.
Most people who choose to study a foreign language do so for reasons that are neither practical nor academic; they do so for personal reasons. Some dream of being able to travel and discover other countries, some want to learn the language of their ancestors to communicate with family members or to rediscover their roots, still others enjoy a passtime - such as a love of the arts, international sports, or fine cuisine - that could be enhanced by learning a language. Whatever your reason, whatever your passion in life, learning foreign languages open doors to the world.