Americans need to learn more languages

I have many bilingual friends, but most of them are either International students, or are in my family. Almost all of my American friends speak only English and I always wondered why?

When I was 12 years old, I went to Poland to visit my family and we went to tour the infamous Wieliczka (VIL-lee-cha-KA) Salt Caves. I asked our tour guide what languages she spoke, and she told me she was fluent in seven languages. She said she wanted to become fluent in 10 though. I was astonished by this because I only knew two, barely though because I was a Polish school drop out after the first grade. 

If you go to another country and don’t know the native language, you will probably just speak English to them and they will likely be able to understand and speak right back. But sadly this isn’t always the case for internationals coming to the U.S. 

Yes the United States has translators and interpreters, but unfortunately, not everyone is a translator. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 23% of the U.S. population can speak 2 or more languages, compared to 56% of Europeans. However, it is crucial for Americans to be able to speak more than one language. 

The U.S. lacks in foreign language skills because our school systems don’t encourage it enough. From personal experience, I didn’t start learning a new language in school until my freshman year of high school even though, according to Scientific American, the best age to become fluent in a new language is before the age of 10. 

But even then, I only needed to take two years of a language class in order to have the necessary credits to graduate. I ended up taking all four years, but I know many people who stopped taking the courses after those two years were up. Even with those four years of Spanish classes, I would say I remember 30% of what I learned. Babbel Magazine states high schools have no compulsory language requirement in any of the 50 states.

Being bilingual has many benefits that aren’t talked about enough. Knowing another language always seems to impress people. Not to mention, if you ever want to build your resume, knowing more than one language can boost your chances of attaining a job as it can help a company substantially by being able to grow and connect more with customers. 

So when you get a chance, grab your laptop and sign up for those language classes you have always wanted to take. Or take that study abroad course for a semester that’s been calling your name. Watch that  show in Spanish, not in English dubbed, and maybe put the subtitles so you can learn the meaning of the words. Even Lewis offers language classes as general education classes or even minor in a language. You never  know the next time you might need to use those language classes from high school, so start refreshing yourself today.

Photo Credit: Anthony Beimal

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