The beginning of a new semester is an opportune moment to remind you why language learning matters.
Russell Berman, current president of the Modern Language Association, and professor of Comparative Literature and German Studies at Stanford, has some good reminders why college students should take language learning seriously:
Learning another language will open the door to another culture and enhance your career opportunities in the increasingly global economy. Having strong skills in another language may give you an edge when applying for a job. That unique ability will set you apart from other applicants and show a potential employer that you have demonstrated long-term discipline in acquiring specialized knowledge.
Studying a language will also build your overall language abilities—in English too—and strengthen your skills in interpretation and understanding. Learning the grammar of another language is an important way to get a better handle on grammar in general. Expanding your foreign language vocabulary helps you think about words and their meanings in complex ways. The new language deepens your capacity to communicate and to understand the challenges of all cross-cultural relations. As countries become every more interconnected, the ability to engage in cross-cultural communication will grow ever more important.
Knowledge of another language can pave the way for advanced study in a wide range of fields and give you a chance to build the kinds of expertise that someone without those language abilities would not be able to master. Interested in health care delivery? Spanish may be very useful when treating Spanish-speaking patients. Curious about African history? You better learn French to study the key sources. Intrigued by European politics? You could be following today’s news in the German press. All in all, studying a foreign language strengthens your intellectual profile and will make you more competitive in whatever career you pursue.
Notice how Berman emphasizes “strong skills”. Everybody can speak in words and fragments of at least one foreign language. But being able to communicate, to inquire about other customs and cultures demands linguistic skills at a more advanced level. Which is why we continuously encourage you to improve your performance, to read and speak more, to engage in more conversations. It’s because we want your investment in language-learning to pay off.
To read Berman’s entire commentary on CNN, click here.