Foreign Language Requirements
Many high schools and some colleges and universities require a minimum number of foreign language credits. For some students, it seems like a terrible imposition — “I don’t plan on living anywhere else but here!” Others truly struggle to learn a new language. Individuals vary tremendously in their abilities to learn languages, and it may seem unfair that one individual just seems to learn it naturally while another labors to learn his latest list of vocabulary words. But there’s a host of benefits to learning Spanish in high school, not the least of which is the frequency with which you’ll probably run across the opportunity to practice it without leaving your state. Why? After English, Spanish is the most widely spoken language in the United States. Its slang has become mainstream, as have many Latino musicians. Comedians alternate between English and Spanish during their stand-up acts, and network TV audiences hear Spanish phrases so often now that it fails to register to them.
The Benefits of Speaking Spanish and Learning the Language in High School
If you didn’t learn Spanish as a young child, then high school can be the next best thing. After all, teens are the age group most closely in tune with popular culture, and American popular culture is full of Spanish words, phrases and slang. Other real benefits include:
Studying Spanish can improve your English vocabulary and help you on the English portion of your SAT test. How? Spanish is a Latin language, and many of the common words of the language are still very closely connected to their Latin roots. English also has many words of Latin derivation, so learning everyday Spanish can actually help you figure out the meaning of an entirely unknown English word.
- Learning a new language changes the anatomy of the brain and carves new neural pathways throughout it. These changes have been linked to a decreased chance of developing memory problems such as age-related dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. The new neural pathways also make it easier for you to learn any new information, and a second language helps you develop critical thinking skills as you learn to puzzle out the meaning of new words.
- Compared to other languages — Asian languages, German and English — learning to pronounce and read Spanish is relatively easy. The easier you find the language, the more encouraged you’ll be to study.
- Being fluent in both Spanish and English increases your value as an employee in any field you might pursue. If you become fluent enough, your career might just become one of being a translator between doctors and patients, judges and witnesses or customers and store managers, for example.
- In addition to making you more marketable, knowing how to speak Spanish can make you more popular. You’ll be able to meet new people just by helping to translate or explain for someone.
- Finally, in general, most Spanish speakers are remarkably friendly to individuals new to their language so you can usually count on help whenever words fail you.
Learning a foreign language like Spanish is more than just a good way to earn high school language credits–it’s also a great way to prepare for your future.