World Language Studies: More Important Than We Think

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By Anoushka Oke

While students at Arlington High School are required to take at least two years of foreign language classes in order to graduate, this is often not enough preparation for the level of world language skills that colleges expect; many colleges prefer that students take four years of a language, to ensure advanced proficiency. But why does the university system place such an importance in studying and learning foreign languages?

The education system puts this emphasis on world languages because skill in a foreign language brings opportunity. By learning and becoming fluent in at least one other language, people give themselves many advantages.

Primarily, learning another language allows a person to become more eligible for jobs. Many job applications ask applicants whether or not they’re fluent in a second language because having a bilingual employee is beneficial to the company: an employee who can speak multiple languages can interact with foreign representatives and communicate with a wider range of customers. Those fluent in multiple languages also have an increased ability to travel to foreign countries to expand their business or make deals with potential foreign business partners.

According to a New American Economy report, “Over the past five years, demand for bilingual workers in the United States more than doubled. In 2010, there were roughly 240,000 job postings aimed at bilingual workers; by 2015, that figure had ballooned to approximately 630,000.” The demand for bilingual employees is rising and will continue rising.

Aside from the usefulness of foreign languages when applying for a job, learning another language helps people learn about new cultures, which can help one understand the lives and experiences of people living in other countries. It can also lead to more enjoyable and more meaningful travel to places where English is less common, because knowing the language of a place allows one to communicate with the locals when travelling

The head of the language department at Arlington High School, Dawn Carney–who speaks French and understands some Spanish–also believes that foreign languages are a crucial skill to implement in the coming and future generations of students. Carney argues that the ability to speak a foreign language unlocks many other skills that are needed throughout life. “From the brain perspective”, she says, “people that are bilingual have the capacity to toggle back and forth between languages, and that helps them with other critical thinking and problem solving tasks.”

Carney explains how these additional skills gained by studying foreign language impact one’s thinking, including helping them become more open-minded: “when people can engage in those types of critical thinking skills and problem solving skills, then they have this capacity to look from the perspective of somebody else, and ask questions like ‘I wonder why…’ [instead of saying things like] ‘that’s wrong’ or ‘why did they do it backwards?’” She mentions that acquiring such skills can also benefit students when applying for a job.

Additionally, Carney mentions how her ability to speak French has advantaged her by broadening her range of communication. She explains that she is able to communicate with people in many foreign countries. Even outside of France and other French-speaking countries, Carney can get by in other countries that use Romance languages.

Carney also feels that being fluent in French has allowed her to communicate with more people within Boston. She gives an example of how she can speak with much of Greater Boston’s large Haitian population because French and Creole, which is a dialect similar to French, are both national languages in Haiti.

So despite the many benefits of learning a foreign language, why do many students complain about having to do it? It may be because it’s difficult, or because it requires too much thought, or because it adds to students’ ever-increasing workload.

The substantial benefits of learning foreign languages is why American schools should consider implementing language studies from an early age. In many places throughout the world, particularly in parts of Europe and South America, foreign languages are required to be taught from a young age. Being exposed to the language from an early age allows lots of foreign students to be fluent in more than one language, meaning that they will therefore enjoy the benefits of being bilingual.

Because of this system’s success in other countries, the United States should definitely try to implement it into our education system. The peak age for language learning is early elementary school, and we should be using this peak age to our advantage and start introducing kids to foreign languages while they have ease at learning it. That way, high school language classes would just be about practicing the language and making sure that one is still able to speak it; such classes would be much easier and less stressful than classes that teach students languages from the beginning, especially past the peak age.

By implementing such a change, students would have second-language skills with less stress and difficulty. Gaining these second-language skills would allow students to enjoy the benefits of knowing multiple languages.

 

 

Bibliography

“Demand for Bilingual Workers More than Doubled in 5 Years, New Report Shows.” New American Economy, New American Economy, 1 Mar. 2017, http://www.newamericaneconomy.org/press-release/demand-for-bilingual-workers-more-than-doubled-in-5-years-new-report-shows/.

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16 Year-Olds are Ready to Vote…So Why are We Waiting?

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By Connor Rempe

On March 15th, much of the student population walked out of Arlington High School and stood in front of the main doors to protest our country’s current gun control regulations. Student leaders made speeches and presented statistics in an attempt to grab the attention of politicians across the country. However, there was one speech in particular that stood out. Freshman Genevieve Baldwin used her time at the podium to warn this country’s leaders that our time is coming. Soon we will be able to vote and it is clear that our generation has a strong and powerful voice. She said that we had always been told by our parents that “someday you’ll be old enough” and that now our “someday was coming.” While this message might be inspiring, I could only think one thing while listening to it: “Why wait for someday? Why can’t someday be now?” We were told “someday” as kids, but if there is one thing I am certain of it is that the people on the steps of the high school that day were not children in the traditional sense. We were engaged in the democratic process more than most adults and ready to make a change. The leadership of youth in today’s America has proven that teens shouldn’t be considered apathetic children but rather a driving force in shaping the future. Furthermore, in order to allow teens to influence the laws and lawmakers that very much influence them, the legal voting age ought to be lowered to 16 years old.

The debate over voting age has pervaded U.S. history as early as 1942 and most notably during the Vietnam War.  During WWII, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt lowered the minimum draft age from 21 to 18, and while at the time voting ages were decided by states, across the board the legal age to vote was 21. 18-year-olds were conscripted without any say in the process of their government. “Old enough to fight, Old enough to Vote” became a slogan for the fight for voting rights and in 1942 Georgia lowered the minimum age to vote in state and local elections to 18. Many states followed suit. Congress, however, did not until similar circumstances arose in the Vietnam war and moved them to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Today, the situation is similar; a group of empowered, young people want a say in the important decisions that affect their lives.

Those who oppose lowering the minimum voting age often question why 16-year-olds deserve to be given the vote. David Davenport of Forbes feels that until 16-year-olds pay taxes or can be asked to participate in the military, they should not be able to dictate the actions of those who do. Additionally, Davenport says, support for lowering the age in the government by senators such as Nancy Pelosi is purely partisan. He says that until teens have to pay taxes, they are more frequently liberal-leaning. Ultimately, Davenport claims, until we have “evidence that we need or even want 16-year olds voting,” there is no reason to make a change.

While these concerns are valid, they rely on misconceptions about the motivations of teenagers. People, let alone teenagers, don’t vote for only themselves. Studies by the American Psychological Association show that by the age of 16 teens can gather and process information, as well as weigh pros and cons in low-pressure situations, such as voting. Teens think about many different angles when making decisions, so the fact that they themselves don’t pay taxes doesn’t disqualify them from being able to vote based on what they think is best for the country and their families. Secondly, we want 16-year-olds voting because they have unique and educated opinions, which are always necessary for a good democracy. In order for that voice to be heard to its fullest extent, the voting age ought to be lowered.

Today’s youth have demonstrated that they are ready and willing to participate in the democratic process. In order for their voice to not only be heard but also affect real change, they need to be given the most powerful tool in our government today: the ability to vote.

 

 

Works Cited

Davenport, David. “No, We Shouldn’t Lower The Voting Age To 16.” Forbes, 25 May 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2016/05/25/no-we-shouldnt-lower-the-voting-age-to-16/#7e382a55531e. Accessed 26 Apr. 2018.

History.com Staff. “The 26th Amendment.” History.com, A+E Networks, 2010, http://www.history.com/topics/the-26th-amendment. Accessed 26 Apr. 2018.

Steinberg, Laurence. “Why We Should Lower the Voting Age to 16.” The New York Times, 2 Mar. 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/opinion/sunday/voting-age-school-shootings.html. Accessed 26 Apr. 2018.