Embrace your foreign language courses

By Rylee Seavers | Broadcast Reporter

Language classes are often viewed only as a requirement we have to complete to graduate. Baylor’s potential changes to the core curriculum for the College of Arts and Sciences would reduce the language requirement to three semesters. Many students may see this as a good change or more time that could be better spent taking major-specific classes, but I think this would be a loss for students.

We live in a large country that is part of an even larger world, in which 7,099 known languages are spoken, according to Ethnologue by SIL International. Seventy-nine percent of Americans only speak English, according to the CIA World Factbook, which is a loss for our country since there are so many cultures we can explore through language. The United States has no official language, so an increased amount of bilingual citizens would only help foster a global community within the United States and allow Americans to be better citizens of the world.

As Americans, it’s easy to think that languages are not important, since we live in such a large country, and it’s easy to see the value in being bilingual, but devoting time to learning a foreign language takes time and effort. Learning a new language isn’t something you can do in one semester, it requires constant dedication and commitment. I can say from personal experience that there is nothing more gratifying than standing in line at the grocery store or sitting in a café in another country and hearing a person speak a foreign language that you can understand.

The benefits go far beyond a feeling of accomplishment. According to research from the DANA Foundation, bilingual people are better at conflict management than monolingual people, can switch between tasks easier, process information more efficiently and have preserved brain function during aging. But don’t get discouraged if you aren’t bilingual yet, because even just learning a second language has been shown to improve academic achievement on standardized tests, reading skills and ability to form hypotheses in science, according to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

I have heard other students say many times that they are unable to learn another language or that they just don’t want to. I used to think the same things, until I found a language and a culture that really intrigued me and made me want to learn as much as I could. As a freshman, I chose to study Russian because it was an eccentric option in comparison to the languages I had studied in middle and high school. But the more I learned, the more I wanted to be able to speak the language well, and before I knew it I was hooked. Spanish and French, probably the two most commonly studied languages at Baylor, are both beautiful languages associated with fascinating cultures, but they are not the only option. Baylor offers courses in Arabic, Russian, Chinese, Swahili, German and so many others.

Languages unlock so much about a country, its history, people and culture. Language study can teach you things about a culture that you would not otherwise have known.

Rylee Seavers is a sophomore journalism major from Peoria, Ariz.