Most colleges in the U.S. require that students take a certain amount of years, usually two, of foreign language classes to be admitted. Currently, only 23 states do not have foreign language requirements to be admitted. In addition to the requirements to be admitted into a university, many colleges also require foreign language classes to be taken for graduation.
Since the majority of colleges require students to have experience in foreign language studies, it has become a controversial topic across the country.
Ohio University does not require previous experience in foreign language to be admitted. However, students in the College of Arts and Sciences “must complete a foreign language requirement by taking college-level courses or testing out of the requirement,” and “all candidates for a B.A. degree (must) successfully complete the 2120 college level of foreign language or equivalent.” This means that the general population of students at OU must take or test out of the equivalent of four semesters of a foreign language.
Studying a foreign language can come with a lot of benefits. According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), studying a foreign language “helps students understand the dynamics of language, our fundamental intellectual tool, and enables students to understand another culture.” Foreign language studies can also provide enhanced memory and listening skills, as well as advanced skills in other academic aspects.
Although students can benefit greatly from studying another language and the culture that comes with it, they will only obtain these benefits if they are not forced to take foreign languages by their school. Ultimately, these requirements force students into taking classes that they aren’t even interested in, which leads to students retaining less knowledge, especially since only 15% of students can converse on basic topics even after four years of foreign language classes.
In terms of Ohio University’s requirement that all students in the College of Arts and Sciences take or meet the equivalent of four semesters of a foreign language, it is a waste of time and energy. If students are required to include additional language study, it comes at the expense of something else, such as other classes and opportunities that could benefit their area of study and advance their future career.
The College of Arts and Sciences makes up a multitude of different majors ranging from English to chemistry. Many students feel that their specific major and their success in their respective fields do not require the learning of a different language. Additional classes that are outside a student’s area of study can also be stressful and costly, which is unfair since it does not further education.
A common argument for those in favor of mandatory learning of foreign languages is that American students will be able to catch up with their global counterparts. In comparison with the rest of the world, only 20% of American students are studying a foreign language compared to 100% in France and Romania, and 70% in the Netherlands.
However, this comparison should be disregarded as a factor considering that other countries are striving to learn English because knowing the language opens up a lot of job opportunities. English is typically the most helpful language to know when on the job search, and foreign languages rarely help Americans in job opportunities.
So, although learning foreign languages can be both a beneficial and fun experience, forcing students to take classes as a mandatory requirement offers no real benefits and causes stress. This takes time away from important classes and opportunities and can add unnecessary expenses to an already expensive education. Colleges should stop implementing foreign language requirements to be admitted and/or to obtain a degree.
Katie Trott is a junior studying creative writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Katie by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.