Why You Should Pursue A Foreign Language in College

Learning a foreign language is one of life’s most exciting experiences that I truly believe everyone should take advantage of.

I am currently learning American Sign Language because I needed to take a language in order to graduate. I’m so thankful it was a requirement because had I not taken it, I would have missed out on such an amazing part of college.

Whether it’s a requirement or not, I really suggest looking into learning a language while you’re in college. I know taking on a whole new language is hard work, but I assure you that it’s worth it in the end. The experience is a challenging one, but it exposes you to a whole new world of culture and people. Not to mention, bilingualism looks fantastic on a resume.

A very close friend of mine, Ryann Fromknecht, is at this moment studying abroad in Grenada, Spain (See? Taking a foreign language can bring you to amazing places). She is currently a bilingual education major and the founder of UNICEF @ Illinois State.

I was so fortunate that Ryann was able to take some time out of her busy schedule in Spain to answer some important questions about being a bilingual student. Hopefully after reading about Ryann’s thoughts and experiences, the idea of acquiring a new language won’t be so daunting.

Question #1: What made you want to pursue bilingualism in college?

I was originally interested in teaching in a mainstream elementary classroom, but learned about bilingual education through my university. At first, I was unsure about pursuing bilingualism because I didn’t feel like I was proficient enough in a second language to work in a classroom with ELLs (English language learners).

I decided to take the introductory course to bilingual education that fall, and I fell in love! I declared my major, and my career aspirations have led to my pursuit of bilingualism (and maybe even multilingualism!).

When I saw what a difference being bilingual could have on my future students; not only with communicating with them and their families, but also by showing them that I value their culture, I was instantly motivated to become bilingual! Bilingualism has many benefits, I can not advocate it enough.

Question #2: What attracted you to learning Spanish?

I thought being able to speak Spanish would be a useful skill to have. Spanish is the home language for a large population of U.S. citizens, and this number is growing. Overall, we are a very culturally and linguistically diverse country.Spanish is only one of these languages that is heavily spoken.

I do think that for current, and pre-service teachers, Spanish is an important tool to have considering the number of children in public schools that speak it. Since learning Spanish I have been able to work with many ELLs in public schools, and I have found many other purposes for it.

Question #3: What are the best parts of learning another language?

I can’t even begin to explain all of the perks that come with being bilingual! I really would like to be multilingual. I think one of the best aspects of speaking a second, third, fourth.. language is everything that comes with the language.

Language is more than a list of nouns, verbs, tenses etc. Instead it comes with many sociocultural aspects as well. There are things that don’t directly translate into English because they mean something to the culture of the language. I find this so interesting.

I also love being able to communicate with others! Spanish allows me to interact with new people, and take on new opportunities. I have learned so much from being bilingual about culture, about people, and have made so many wonderful friendships!

Question #4: What advice can you give to others who want to learn another language?

Start now and immerse yourself! If you are motivated to learn a language, and see a use for it, you are more likely to become proficient. I volunteered at an after school program that many Spanish speaking students participated in.

Many programs at libraries, community centers etc. are looking for volunteers who speak Spanish (even a little Spanish)! Participating in these opportunities or other volunteer programs, allow you to practice using the target language.

Studying abroad, if possible, is also an amazing experience. I am currently studying abroad in Spain, and I’m enjoying every second of it. Using a target language everyday really makes a difference.

It’s important when learning a language to take risks! Put yourself out there. I was very shy when speaking Spanish for years. Now that I am living in Spain, I need to use my Spanish to communicate with my host family, baristas, teachers and others. My Spanish has really improved!

Question #5: How do you think learning another language will prepare you for life after college?

I think learning another language has benefited me in countless ways. Overall, it has made me into a more well-rounded person, and enhanced my college experience. Through my pursuit of bilingualism I have been exposed to diversity I hadn’t experienced before. I learned more about others, and even about myself.

Learning another language is a great skill to have in job searching as well. It certainly makes you more marketable. Some employers today only consider applicants who are able to speak a second language. I know in the field of education, this is getting more and more important in certain areas of the country.

Now that I have lived in Europe, I have realized how many people here are bilingual or even multilingual. Fortunately, I believe the United States is becoming more accepting and encouraging of bilingualism every day. Being bilingual is wonderful, and opens many doors for you after college.

As you can see, the journey to bilingualism can be an exciting, challenging and life changing experience. Anyone who is passionate about the language will only benefit from all its rewarding aspects.

Thanks again to Ryann for taking the time to share with us her experiences and thoughts on bilingualism!

Thinking about pursuing a second language now?

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Molly Stallman

Molly Stallman

Molly Stallman is a senior at DePaul University working toward an English degree with an emphasis on Creative Writing. She also has a minor in Digital Cinema. Molly especially enjoys spending time with loved ones, listening to music, watching movies/television and playing with her dogs. She also has a passion for antiques, crafts, animals, photography and the great outdoors.