Foreign Language - Learning a Second Language

Why Foreign Languages Are Important

More jobs than you may think consider foreign languages a great skill to have and that number is increasing every day. What does that mean for you?? Your high school French or Spanish could turn into valuable $$$.

Past-perfect versus imperfect.
Direct or indirect object pronouns.
Hambre or hombre? Schon or schön? Mon ami or ma ami?
If you’ve ever struggled with learning a foreign language, take heart: you are not alone.

Many students across the country find themselves in the same boat as you – struggling to memorize verb tenses you never knew existed and vocabulary words you’re convinced you’ll never use unless you win a vacation in Acapulco.

If, at this point in your life, you’re ready to throw in the towel and call it quits on that pesky French grammar or that throaty German… don’t! Now is actually not a good time.

According to linguist Elissa Newport, the longer you wait to learn, the harder it is to conquer a new language. She believes – as do many other linguists and neurologists – that if you learn a new language post-puberty, you’ll never achieve the fluency and pronunciation of a native speaker.

Since you’ve probably already passed that milestone (another painful experience), it’s important not to let another year slip by before investing yourself in a language that, if all else fails and you somehow don’t use in your adult life, will be handy for an appearance on Jeopardy.

It’s not a good time in the grand scheme of things – as in, the world – either. As more and more Vermont businesses are expanding the geographic and cultural scopes of their clientele, they are recognizing the need to pursue employees who offer proficiency in a foreign language that can connect them with a new customer or untapped market.

Conquering a foreign language is akin to a Boy Scout’s much-awaited graduation from a plastic knife to a Swiss Army knife complete with scissors and corkscrew. In other words, language proficiency gives job candidates an advantage over their peers who are bound to just English.

Having jumped the mental hurdle of accepting that they will be unable rely solely on English in the marketplace, these potential employees already accomplished the daunting task of committing to memory an entirely new set of tools. Because…

News flash! The United States is bordered by two nations with significant foreign language-speaking populations; Mexico, to our south, speaks primarily Spanish, and the province of Quebec, to our north, functions in French.

A plane ride from the West Coast can take you to Asia in a number of hours, where a whole host of languages is spoken, and one from the East Coast can deliver you to Europe in a matter of hours.

From a global perspective, monolingual Americans are already a step or two behind their international peers. Many European students already speak more than one language; since their countries are the size of our states, international travel is passé.

In Asia, children are taught English from the time they enter the public school system; it’s a course subject, just like math or history. In contrast, foreign language study in American public schools is usually optional and rarely introduced before the eighth or ninth grade.

These are your competitors. As more and more jobs are sent to other locations in the world, the only way to keep up with the vocational mobility is to overcome linguistic barriers imposed by political boundaries. 

Bottom line: we’re not isolated from the rest of the world by any stretch of the imagination, and having a handle on just the English language limits where you can go. It’s crucial that the latest and greatest generation keep up with the international marketplace by removing the linguistic handicap many of our parents encounter.

Ask Mom and Dad – odds are they wish they’d kept up their high school Spanish and envy the unique position you’re in, one for which the gates of learning haven’t fully slammed shut.

So go forth. Wipe the dust off your trusty “501 French Verbs” book and throw away the receipt you’ve been saving in case you want to return it. Now is the hour to delve into another language and you won’t regret it.