Learn a foreign language to succeed


Azanae Barrow

Speaking a different language can be beneficial in multiple facets of life. The ability to speak another language can not only make you feel more confident while traveling, but it also provides many options for different professional opportunities.

6,909. That’s the approximate number of languages that exist. Do you know how many languages I speak? One. Out of the 6,909 languages, my mother tongue is English.

I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s crazy that Americans don’t really drill students on learning a foreign language. In my opinion, America as a whole has a lackadaisical way of thinking about culture and languages. Some of us are just content with speaking one language our entire life, but I will never be content with that.

Recently, my french exchange student, Elsa, came to America. She speaks English, French and German, and she told me about how in European countries it is required for students to speak another language fluently. Here I am in a nation that doesn’t really care if students learn a language or not and on the other side of the world there are students who can speak several languages without even batting an eye.

I was so embarrassed by my lack of French knowledge compared to her English knowledge that I vowed to myself I would learn to speak the language better. I started taking extra French classes after school and studying French for an hour after my copious amounts of homework. As tired as I feel, or start to think about giving up, I realize that being fluent in another language will benefit me in the long run.

After an interviewing Chantal Buchser Kelley, an alumna of JC who now works for the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, I realized how important it was for me to become fluent. Kelley speaks English, French, Spanish, and some Chinese. She emphasized how important it was not only for the line of work she was in, but for most majors to be able to communicate with someone from a different country.

I constantly think about Kelley, how she learned those languages, and now has what I consider to be one of the coolest jobs there is. If she didn’t learn another language, would she have that job? I have no clue, but I think it would have been harder for the IOC to accept someone who only spoke one language.

I am currently learning French. I have been taking it for the past four years and – not to brag – I’m pretty good at it. I can hold a long conversation, ask questions, give directions, understand movies, and I can read entire chapters from French books pretty well. However, I feel as though a 55 minute class isn’t enough for someone to really immerse his or herself in a language. It certainly isn’t enough for me.

College, for some students, is just a hop and skip away. Depending on which major you choose, and the job you want to have, you could easily be denied an opportunity if a company wants a well-rounded individual who fluently speaks another language.

Would you want lose an amazing opportunity to travel abroad for something work-related just because you decided it wasn’t beneficial to learn a language? I don’t think so.

I have friends who think spending all my time learning a language isn’t beneficial, that once I arrive in France during spring break for the exchange everyone is going to speak English just fine and I shouldn’t worry. Why would I go halfway across the world and  not speak the language in that country? I already speak English, I don’t want to hear more English in a foreign country.

Americans should make it a priority to put language at the forefront of their educational agendas. It’s not fair that other countries prioritize their students abilities to stretch their minds and we don’t. I can’t even blame America anymore at this point, because we all know how to read and write. As individuals who want to better ourselves, we should take it upon ourselves to learn a language.

I know it’s hard, but it must to be done. Everyone else in the world is learning multiple languages without a problem, so it is possible. For now, I can just go down my own path  because at the end of the day…c’est la vie.

Azanae Barrow is an Entertainment Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.