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Why should you want to take a foreign language in college? The better question is why not?
As one of my friends always says, being able to speak multiple languages is the closest things humans can have to super powers. You might be detoured since it is a lot of effort, but I promise you, it will be worth it. A lot of students in Europe are required to learn two languages on top of their mother tongue, and while this might seem intense, they reap many benefits from it.
Not sure what to take? Here is a run down on some popular second languages to help you decide which might be a good fit for you.
I decided to take German because my parents are Swiss and I wanted to be able to read and write as well (Swiss is only spoken). I am almost finished with my second year of German and while it isn’t a walk in the park, I have learned so much and am glad that I stuck it out. It’s an amazing feeling once you can start to speak more fluently and actually begin to understand more complex reading assignments.
It’s also great for when you and a friend are talking smack about someone, and said someone walks in. Instead of having to postpone the conversation, you can simply switch into your foreign language and keep on talking (not that I do this or anything …). Plus it makes you feel pretty cool when people look over at you with interest, wondering what you are saying.
“You definitely want to have some sort of motivation to take German—like if your family is from there, you have a particular interest in the language and culture, or it may benefit you in your academic career,” said Professor Theo Honnef, a German lecturer at UC Santa Cruz. “German is a very hard language and may be difficult to stick with if the affiliation is not there.”
Any language is going to be tough, but German can be particularly frustrating (trust me on this one). If you are indifferent to which language you want to take, you might want to consider another one first.
Spanish is everywhere! This is definitely a language that everyone should learn—especially you West Coasters. More and more jobs are starting to require some knowledge in Spanish, and it really helps if you are fluent.
According to this article, “in the United States, knowing Spanish can be particularly helpful if you work in healthcare or education.” You should do some research into your career path to see if Spanish would be beneficial to you.
The article also stated that “research indicates that knowing and using two languages reduces your chances of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease.”
How cool is that? If you didn’t have a reason to learn another language before, there you go, you have one now.
Oh the romantic language of French. How wonderful would it be to have French pour fluently from your lips? French pronunciation is a bit tricky, but if you stick with it and put in the effort, you’ll get there!
Professor Angela Elsey, a French Lecturer at UC Santa Cruz, said:
“In my own life, knowing French has enabled me to live, work, or travel in many parts of the world and speak with the locals in their first or second language: France, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Quebec, Louisiana, French Polynesia, the French Caribbean, Morocco and Senegal.”
If traveling is something you want to pursue in the future, French is definitely a wonderful choice. Sure, it’s nerve racking at first to try and speak another language in the native country, but they appreciate the effort. Going to the actual country is the best way to fluently learn a language. If you get the basics down in college, your travels will help ground the language inside of you. You’ll be dreaming and thinking in French before you know it.
As well as being beneficial in the job market, French is also the language of culture. This article states “French is the international language of cooking, fashion, theatre, the visual arts, dance and architecture. A knowledge of French offers access to great works of literature, as well as films and songs, in the original French.”
Okay, how badass would it be to nonchalantly mention to someone, “Oh yeah, btw, I speak Italian.” Pretty badass if you ask me.
According to this blog, Ciaoteacher, “the Italian language is the closest to Latin, the common ancestor of all romance languages. Knowing Italian will help you in learning Spanish or French.”
In other words, if you want to be even more impressive and get more than one foreign language under your belt, it might be beneficial to let Italian begin your studies.
Italy also seems like a wonderful place to visit, and if you know the language, you will be able to more efficiently immerse yourself in the culture and appreciate things in a whole new light.
A lot of language professors want to get their students abroad, and there are actually a lot of scholarships if you know where to look, so if Italy is your dream vacation spot, you know what to enroll in for next quarter/semester.
Knowing Japanese will set you apart from the crowd since most people choose a European language as their second language. As with many of the other languages, learning Japanese will bring about amazing job opportunities in many different fields.
According to this article, Japanese is a gateway to other Asian languages and cultures, stating “a study of Japanese can open your perspective on the values that other Asian nations share with Japan, including religious beliefs, ethics and aesthetics.”
Sara Dadafshar, a second year computer science and game design student at UC Irvine who is learning Japanese, said “I think taking a foreign language is not only a good way for you to learn about other cultures, but it’s also a great way to expand your circle of friends.”
Learning about different cultures will definitely change your perspective of the world, and show you the wonders of other places.
“When you strike up a conversation with someone from a different country in their foreign tongue, you’d be surprised just how impressed they get,” Dadafshar went on to say. ”It’s like … BAM! Friends!”
I think this is a wonderful point because that is when you really feel like all the hard work of learning the language actually starts to pay off, when you get to see all the fun aspects of it.
These are just a few of the many languages that you could be studying while in college. And if you still can’t decide, why not take a few intro classes and see what sticks the best? A lot of it is going to be based on personal preference. If you are dedicated and have a willingness to learn, I guarantee you’ll be bilingual in no time. So what are you waiting for?