What’s the Point of a Foreign Language Class?

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Many students view a foreign language class as something that is required solely for college credits. Once the requisite two or three years of taking a foreign language class are completed, all of that hard-earned knowledge is simply thrown out. As long as the credits show up on the final transcript, the essence of knowing how to speak French, Spanish, Mandarin, or any other foreign language is lost. Learning a foreign language may seem like a short-term achievement and can quickly become a burden if not approached with the right attitude and perspective. As it is, the point of a foreign language class is more than just the ten credits allotted to it; it is more than just learning a new language.

From an academic perspective, a foreign language is not about equations, memorizing formulas, or analyzing literature. The difficulty of learning a new language increases with age, but a different part of the brain is implemented in such a way that is not used in other subjects such as math or science. Learning a language is just as important as taking math, science, and English classes as it helps train all parts of your brain to create well-developed, well-rounded cognitive capabilities. In addition to using computational and analytical skills, a foreign language class challenges a student’s creativity. Because in a foreign language class, students must read, write, speak, and even think in a completely new language, students must use their creativity to weave grammar, spelling, logic, and imagination together to apply a new language in instances such as telling a story, completing comprehensive projects, or analyzing foreign literature, to name a few. In this way, studying a foreign language also contributes to the improvement of other skills such as listening comprehension, problem-solving, memory, and the ability to quickly understand concepts, as all of these are required to fully grasp the flow and application of the language. In the broader perspective, learning a foreign language keeps the brain sharp by testing it to work through the same problems in daily life, only this time, in another language. Beyond the textbooks, however, a Foreign language class provides countless opportunities to become involved in the culture associated with the language and is also meant to help students develop leadership qualities. For example, a Foreign Language class may come with a club and an Honor society in which officer positions are available. These clubs and societies allow students to organize cultural activities and bond with others with a common love for learning the language. Participating in these activities and becoming an officer enhances the learning process by teaching students more about the language and culture, and brings them out of their comfort zone by connecting with other students and shouldering the responsibility of facilitating events, developing students into active learners. Through this experience comes the “A-ha!” moment when students finally realize how to use the knowledge gained from the Foreign Language class in their daily lives, giving students confidence and a reason to feel proud of themselves. The satisfaction of learning and understanding a new, difficult concept is a priceless emotion that is especially prevalent in a Foreign Language class.

Furthermore, the point of a Foreign language class goes beyond the classroom and straight to the heart. A Foreign language class not only teaches you a new language, but also includes information about the corresponding culture and people associated with that culture, all down to the minute details such as the way people interact with each other, facilities such as hospitals, grocery stores, parks, etc., and essential locations with a cultural significance. In this way, a Foreign language class is a window to a different world. Such education is key as it brings the students awareness of other cultures. Students learn to appreciate and respect other peoples, traditions, and customs as well as understand the nature of a people’s culture. Familiarity with the culture and language breeds a mutual understanding of similarities and differences between people and allows for close bonds with one another.

While a foreign language class ultimately teaches a new language, the enlightenment and new horizons that come from learning a new language define the real value of the class. As difficult and arduous as learning a new language may seem at first, grasping the countless opportunities and making it a point to apply the language where possible is a promising way to make the best use of the class. In the end, a foreign language class is not about tests, grades, and credits, but about exploring new territory and cherishing the experience.

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