Today, although most of the world is multilingual, many Americans are not fluent in a second language. This is due to the lack of emphasis on foreign language by the United States education system as only ten states require foreign language courses as a high school graduation requirement (Engle). Some argue that it is unnecessary for native English speakers to learn another language because English is the “language of the world/business.” While it is true that English is the most prevalent language, learning a second language is highly beneficial as it leads to heightened cultural understanding, an attribute much needed in today’s divided world, and offers a host of cognitive advantages.
Language helps express our feelings, desires, and questions to the world around us. Words, gestures, and tone are utilized in order to portray emotion and communicate with others. The ability to communicate through complex processes such as writing and spoken language is what “allows us to form bonds with each other and what separates man from animal” (De Valeos). Learning a second language provides access to different cultures and a unique insight into the way of the world. It encourages empathy, openness, and prompts a curiosity of other countries’ histories and cultures. By opening up an avenue to understanding others, people can become more tolerant and patient.
Travel requires the desire and willingness to adapt to new cultures. In some occupations, it is essential to be able to communicate with many different peoples as the global business community has become more and more integrated. Even though many countries study English in addition to their native language, it is “arrogant to assume that everybody speaks his or her native tongue” (De Valeos) . Likewise, it is extremely rude when Americans ridicule immigrants for their broken English. By learning a second language, Americans can become more responsible global citizens and empathetic to those who have trouble articulating their thoughts. (Burton).
The communication skills formed as a child will provide a strong foundation for success later on in life. They also shape a person’s cognitive ability by improving memory and judgement by encouraging rational and nuanced thinking (Engle). If Americans want to be active and intelligent participants in a multilingual world, foreign language is critical. Thus, it is necessary that the United States create an accessible, widespread, and standardized foreign language curriculum in order to prepare the future generations and the nation for “security and prosperity” (De Valeos).
Burton, Neel. “Beyond Words: The Benefits of Being Bilingual.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 28 July 2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201807/beyond-words-the-benefits-being-bilingual
De Valeos, Leonardo. “Importance of Language – Why Learning a Second Language Is Important.” Trinity Washington University, 13 July 2020, https://discover.trinitydc.edu/continuing-education/2014/02/26/importance-of-language-why-learning-a-second-language-is-important/
Engle, Jeremy. “How Important Is Knowing a Foreign Language?” The New York Times, 29 Mar. 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/29/learning/how-important-is-knowing-a-foreign-language.html