Foreign Language Learning: Which One? When Do We Start?

The Importance of Foreign Language Learning

Communication is what brings us together as humans. Understanding and communicating with each other creates the opportunity for connection and community. For those reasons, learning a foreign language can open innumerable doors to connecting with others.

Not only do most high schools require students to take at least certain language classes, but colleges and universities do as well. These essential classes are to help prepare students for living and working in a world where they will need to communicate with a diverse range of individuals. Regardless of pursued majors or career routes, even the most basic degree requires foreign language classes. At the root of this requirement is the recognition that another language will help connect students with more of our world.

Further, it is common for job applications to list a second language as a preference, such as Spanish. When employees interact with customers and clients, it is inevitable that they will need to communicate with someone who does not speak English. The knowledge of another language, especially one of the most commonly spoken in the area, will be a valuable asset both to the employee and the employer. Further, it will help the customers or clients feel more included, and help the community feel more welcoming.

On another note, the difficulty of breaking the language barrier is a well-known cause of isolation for people in new countries. Their lack of ability to communicate with those around them leads them to feel cut-off. On the other hand, however, one of the best ways to learn a new language is by being immersed in the culture and country. The need for communication applies the learned language skills in a practical matter and associates the phrases with actions and memories.

How to Determine Which Language Would Be Right for My Student

The process of choosing a foreign language study involves numerous factors. Where do you live? What are the most common languages spoken in the area? Which languages are most often requested by universities and employers alike?

In the United States, for most of these questions, the answer will be to study Spanish. However, if that doesn’t seem like a good fit for your language learner, you can choose another option. It is common for universities to merely request a number of credits in a foreign language, not singularly for Spanish. Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind as you consider which foreign language would work best for your student:

  • How difficult is the language? Is that a potential red flag for your student’s level? Easy languages to learn may be preferable, depending on your situation.
  • How long does it take to learn the language?
  • How many classes or semesters will be necessary?
  • Will the number of available credits for your preferred language program match the number required by most universities? Or will your student have to take more?
  • Has your student expressed interest in the language? Self-led interest will play a large role in motivation, progress, and perseverance.
  • How accessible are resources for this language? Can you easily find helpful resources and guides?
  • Will the language be put to good use in the grand scheme of your student’s ideal career path or lifestyle goals?


When is the Best Time to Start Learning a Foreign Language?

As cliche as it sounds, it truly is never too late to learn something new! However, it is ideal for students to begin learning a new language in their freshman year of high school at the latest, if not touching on the basics in middle school or earlier. While students are younger, they will learn the new concepts easier, and they will have plenty of available semesters for earning the necessary credits. Further, when students begin their language studies in high school, they will likely already have a solid foundation of the mechanics for their native language, such as English grammar, which will be helpful for learning the grammar of a foreign tongue.

On another note, though, if it is an option for your family, there also exists the possibility of raising your children in a bilingual home. If your children are just beginning to learn their native language and your family communicates bilingually, it may be a prime time to begin teaching them both languages. When children learn the languages simultaneously, the process is far easier than learning later on.

It can be overwhelming to decide on a language study. And, it is an important aspect in today’s world, which can add pressure when you’re preparing your teen for college. However, the stakes are never too high or too serious to switch if it isn’t working out. That’s one of the joys of homeschooling — the flexibility!

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