OPINION: Learn a foreign language

Learning a foreign language can benefit WSU students in many ways



Learning a foreign language opens up whole new worlds and skills to students.


Learning a foreign language is something every student can benefit from. Though many students take foreign language and culture classes as part of UCORE or Honors requirements, most do not go beyond that requirement and take advantage of the great classes offered at WSU. Taking additional foreign language and culture classes offers unique opportunities for all majors.

When you study a foreign language, you are not only learning vocabulary and grammar. Along with the mechanics of the language, you learn about the place the language comes from and see the world from another perspective. It can be an endlessly fascinating process.

Carmen Lugo-Lugo, director of WSU’s School of Languages, Cultures and Race, wrote in an email that learning a language helps you understand more about the world and yourself.

“You should learn a second language for the same reason you should learn anything: to grow as a person,” Lugo-Lugo wrote. “Learning a second language gives you insight into your first language, its grammar, its roots, its quirks.”

Spencer Martin, doctoral student in SLCR, said there are many reasons to learn a foreign language. He particularly mentioned communication with others.

“When you’re able to use [a foreign language] to communicate with someone who otherwise couldn’t with you … they’re very appreciative of that,” Martin said.

Martin said that while working as a host in a restaurant, there were several instances in which his Spanish skills helped him connect with customers in ways that he couldn’t in English.

When you are in another country it is amazing what speaking the local language with native speakers can do. Locals might be nicer to you or be more willing to help if they see that you are making an effort to speak their language.

It is also true that languages can help a student’s job prospects after college. With an ever-changing and globalizing society and economy, it is essential that students are educated about other cultures and languages, which can help them be more successful after graduation.

Lugo-Lugo wrote that knowing a second language is an important asset to have especially for college graduates.

“Given how interconnected the world is … how easy it is to communicate with people in other countries and continents and how culturally diverse our own society has become, it is imperative for college graduates to know more than one language and be able to understand more than one culture,” Lugo-Lugo wrote. “Employers are expecting this from the new graduates they hire.”

It is important to remember, though, that while knowing a second language can help in getting a job, you can’t forget the other values languages offer.

Martin said that it is important for students to look past learning a foreign language for the business aspects and understand the many other benefits which come with learning languages.

“Look for different ways, don’t think it’s just going to benefit you in one way,” Martin said. “I would encourage people … to not look at it so transactional [learning the language only to get a job].”

At WSU, there are plenty of opportunities not to just learn another language but the cultures they are a part of as well. Lugo-Lugo attested to the importance of combining culture with language.

“SLCR is pretty unique in what it does, as, first of all, it combines the study of language with the study of culture, putting language within a context,” Lugo-Lugo wrote. “Think of a person learning English without any cultural context. What is the person really learning? Would the person understand the intricacies of English in Australia? In Britain? In the U.S.?”

While you are in college and have the opportunity to take classes of all different subjects, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t take advantage of our academic opportunities, especially those in SLCR. So, next time you have some space in your schedule for an elective, consider a foreign language or culture class.