Why Study a Foreign Language?

Why Study Language?

"'I speak English, so I don't have to learn a foreign language....'

Everyone speaks English, right? Well, certainly not everyone speaks English. According to the CIA World Fact Book, only 5.6 % of the world's total population speaks English as a primary language. That number doubles when people who speak English as a second or third language are counted. By conservative estimates, that means that well over four-fifths of the world's population does not speak English.

It's true that English has become a global lingua franca over the past several decades. This fact, however, really should have little effect on your decision to learn a foreign language. The attitude that English alone is enough in fact creates self-imposed limitations. To remain monolingual is to stunt your educational development, to restrict your communication and thinking abilities, and to deny yourself the ability to fully appreciate and understand the world in which you live. Learning another language opens up new opportunities and gives you perspectives that you might never have encountered otherwise. Personal, professional, social, and economic considerations all point to the advantages of learning foreign languages."
from: http://www.vistawide.com/languages/why_languages.htm

Governor Gary Herbet of Utah addressed the U.S. House and Education Workforce on February 6, 2013 to highlight three important educational priorities for his state, among them a heavy emphasis on dual language immersion programming. In Governor Herbert's words: "The third initiative I wish to highlight today is Utah's expansion of dual immersion education. Utah's dual immersion programs in Spanish, French, and Chinese teach our students cultural literacy and prepare them for a global economy. Dual immersion students also perform better on standardized testing. They show improved memory skills, better attention-control, and higher problem-solving ability. ... Our multi-lingual students become a key part of our workforce, and that attracts business to our state, including Goldman Sachs, whose Utah office is its second largest in the America's and fastest growing in the world."

A sub-committee of Homeland Security held a hearing on May 21, 2012 entitled "A National Security Crisis: Foreign Language Capabilities in the Federal Government." Senator Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii stated: "As U.S. businesses of all sizes look to expand, they need employees with the foreign language skills and cultural knowledge to access overseas markets. Our national and economic security is closely linked to how well our schools prepare students to succeed in a global environment. Experts indicate that learning languages starting at the K-12 levels develop higher language proficiency than those starting in college. The Federal government must partner with schools, colleges, and the private sector to address this ongoing challenge at its root cause: our nation’s failure to adequately invest in language education, starting at early ages."

CIA Director Calls for a National Commitment to Language Proficiency at Foreign Language Summit
“Language is the window through which we come to know other peoples and cultures,” Director Panetta said. “Mastery of a second language allows you to capture the nuances that are essential to true understanding...This is not about learning something that is helpful or simply nice to have. It is crucial to the CIA’s mission.”

Education and the Language Gap: Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks at the Foreign Language Summit

"One place we obviously need to get better is in teaching languages. The United States is a long way from being the multi-lingual society that so many of our economic competitors are. My message to you today is that K-12 schools and higher education institutions must be part of the solution to our national language gap."

Washington Times Analysis: U.S. Must Strengthen Foreign Language Education

"'If the U.S., in the modern world, is going to maintain its position as a global leader it’s going to have to become more conversant,' said Ken Gude, a former Center for National Security Studies policy analyst."

Talk the Talk
Former German Chancellor, Willy Brandt, best expressed the importance of speaking foreign languages when doing business when he said, "If I'm selling to you, I speak your language. But if I'm buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen."

Read "Talk the Talk: A Guide to Mazimising Your Prospectus [resume] Using Languages," written by the British Academy in collaboration with the European Council, below about the importance of language in the business world.


Want More?
Here are some more articles that may convince you of the importance of language learning!
"The Language Industry and STEM"
A "Languages for Jobs" Initiative
Foreign Languages and Economic Competitiveness
"College Scholarships Abound for Bilingual Students"
"We Must Learn to Talk the Talk to for Boost in Trading"
"High School Regrets: Not Studying a Foreign Language"
"How Being Bilingual Can Boost Your Career"
"When, How, and Why My Child Should Learn a Second Language"
"Benefits of Bilingualism"
"A second language for every high school student, Stanford's Russell Berman says"
"Foreign Language Education For ALL Students"