Why Learning a Second Language in High School is So Important

Because English is a very popular language, American students tend to forget other languages may useful in their present and future life. People from Latin America, Asia, and Europe learn English as their second language at a very early age. They start studying it once they get into primary school. But why don’t people, whose mother language is English, get taught another one–such as Chinese or Spanish–when they are young?

Studies show that a large amount out of the 335 million people who have English as their main language never even consider learning another one. They don’t find a need to because most people they meet–even foreigners–can speak English. Even though it is true, English isn’t the most commonly spoken language in the world. Chinese is, followed by Spanish and then English. But still, people from all over the world take the time to learn English. Why don’t those who speak English try to do the same?

A globe on a desk.

High School and College Language Learning

Most high schools offer several years of foreign language–typically Spanish, French, German, and Mandarin Chinese. Sometimes these classes are mandatory, other times they are electives–but you should take advantage of these courses.

Additionally, many colleges require a certain number of years of a foreign language before you can be admitted. If you lack that, you must take several courses once you attend their school. At a college or university, even more languages will be offered. Oftentimes, these courses are taught by a native speaker. You can even major or minor in one of them!

When it comes to learning a second language, the earlier you start the better off you’ll be. Studies have shown that the younger a child learns a language, the better they will both understand and be able to speak it. But just in case your elementary school didn’t offer First Grade Spanish, high school is a great place to start as well.

Your brain also improves a lot once you start learning another language. Psychologists from York University discovered that students who learn a foreign language get higher scores in their courses and tests, specifically on math and vocabulary. This because learning a second language influences the gray matter of the brain, the part that processes information. Thus, the student absorbs information faster.

Worldwide Communication

By learning a second language, you open a huge window. If you learn Spanish, you’ll be able to talk to the 414 million people in the world who also speak Spanish. If you learn Portuguese, you can talk to 203 million speakers. It doesn’t really matter what you choose; the number of people you can communicate with grows.

It Provides Opportunity

Communicating with more people is the biggest reward you’ll get from speaking two or more languages. It will also increase your job opportunities. You’ll be able to find a job by only speaking English, but if your resume says you can also speak French or Italian, it is more likely you’ll get the job. Big companies tend to have business relationships with international companies. In order to communicate with those international partners, companies hire workers who can fluently speak a second language.

The Many Benefits of a Second Language

Learning a second language is the best decision you’ll ever make for multiple reasons:

  • Increases the number of people you can communicate with
  • Increases your job opportunities, improves your life, and makes your brain work faster
  • Helps improve your confidence and makes traveling easier
  • Gives you the opportunity to study abroad and opens your mind to new cultures

The amazing thing is that you can learn any language and you’ll still get these rewards. Just pick one, maybe even two or three, you want to learn and start studying.

8 thoughts on “Why Learning a Second Language in High School is So Important”

  1. Lexi Jorgenson says:

    When was this published?

    1. Allison Wignall says:

      Hi Lexi, this piece was published on 7/21/16.

  2. T. Venable says:

    My daughter who is a sophmore took 2 years of Spanish in Middle school. She took Spanish 3-4 as a Freshman. She didn’t take a Spanish class as a sophmore but now finds out she will most likely need 2 years of Spanish to get into a University . She wants to take Spanish either in Junior or Senior year but take Spanish 1-2 since she was never credited the spanish classes in middle school. Our district we are told does not give credit for middle school Spanish. She is told that she cannot take another Spanish class because it has to be taken consecutively…is this true? How does she make up for the 2nd year of spanish required for a university then?

    1. Allison Wignall says:

      Hello! Credit is not often given for middle school foreign language, but every district and college is different, and so qualifies credit differently. In terms of second year language requirements, get in touch with the school directly and ask the admissions team what can be done. Likely your daughter might have to take some foreign language courses in the college of her choice to make up for it. But as I said, every college is different, and so it’s important to reach out to them to get more specific information.

  3. Genevieve R Leibrecht says:

    who published this article

    1. Allison Wignall says:

      Hi, Genevieve! This article was written by our former guest-blogger Maria Andreina Fernandez.

  4. BJ says:

    What if you’ve missed the high school window and still want to learn Spanish. I’ve often read how many ESL learners are taught English for free, as adults. I’ve never seen that offered to English speakers. Do such places exist after high school (besides college paid courses)? If not, why is English only taught for free, but not Spanish? Your thoughts?

  5. Marcus says:

    I agree with you in that it is always important to make sure you start learning a foreign language as soon as you can. It makes sense to think that doing this can help you get the new language ingrained in your mind and have it easier later on. A friend of mine was talking about how he needed to get his mom to take ESL classes, so I’m glad I found your page.

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