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Most high schools require students to take at least two years of a foreign language. Unfortunately, many people stop taking these classes once they’ve reached this requirement. Even fewer continue to study a foreign language in college. As a result, studies by the Modern Language Association show that enrollment in foreign language programs is declining on college campuses across the country, leaving the departments in jeopardy. Students should make the most of these programs because learning a foreign language is a fun experience that can help you in your future endeavors.
1. Meet people with similar interests
One of the best parts of studying a foreign language is the camaraderie with the other students in your class. This is especially true if you start at the same level and progress through the program together. When you’re all beginners, you learn and make mistakes together, which makes you feel more comfortable with each other. Practicing a foreign language obviously requires a lot of speaking and conversation, so you get to know your classmates. It is easy to maintain these friendships because you have the opportunity to take multiple foreign language classes together throughout your college career. This is a great way to meet people with similar interests in language and culture. You can also join language clubs on campus to meet and hang out with other students. This way you can practice speaking the language in a more casual environment, attend fun events and activities sponsored by the club, and be more involved on campus overall.
2. Seize the opportunity
A common goal for many people is to be fluent in another language. A lot of people say that they would love to be bilingual or learn another language “someday.” If this sounds like you, ask yourself, “why not now?” If you want to learn a foreign language, college is the perfect opportunity to do so. Take advantage of the foreign language department while you’re in college, especially because your professors, with all their advice and experiences, can be extremely helpful when learning a new language. Many foreign language professors are native speakers or have lived abroad, and their first-hand experiences and knowledge is always useful when learning about a different language and culture.
3. Expand your worldview
Learning a foreign language can seem intimidating or difficult at first. It pushes you out of your comfort zone--in a good way! Studying another language and culture expands your worldview. It can make you more open-minded by allowing you to view the world from a different perspective and helping you appreciate and better understand another culture’s customs and values.
4. Future career benefits
Another advantage of learning a foreign language is its usefulness in the workforce. The ability to speak, write, or understand another language is a skill that can impress potential employers and help set you apart from other candidates in your job search. This is especially true if you choose to learn an in-demand language, or one that is particularly important in your career field. However, it is a valuable skill to have regardless of your career. It is not limited to careers such as teaching, translating, or linguistics. Knowing another language is beneficial in fields such as engineering and business as well.
5. Immerse yourself in another culture
If you’re adventurous, the most exciting part of studying a foreign language is the potential to study abroad. This is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture you’re studying, and improve your speaking and comprehension skills through firsthand experience. Many colleges also plan trips with their language classes to travel abroad. You can go on trips with your classmates led by your professors and visit the notable landmarks, taste the country’s cuisine, and practice the language with native speakers. You can experience the culture, appreciate the history and traditions, and gain confidence in your command of the language. The ability to speak another language also opens up more possibilities for future career locations if you want to live and work in another country!
Learning a new language might seem intimidating, but the challenge is definitely worth it. It’s a fun experience and it’s useful knowledge to acquire. There are so many potential benefits, and it can help you achieve your future career goals. Seize the opportunity while you’re in college to study a language and culture that interests you.
Erin Azzopardi is a twenty-two-year-old senior at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She is majoring in English and minoring in French Studies. When she isn't studying, you can find her listening to music, reading, or watching her favorite shows. Her future goals include traveling and becoming a published author.