Faults in foreign language


Drawing by Fiona Kogan ’22

Plenty of high schools require foreign language classes, and Chicago Public Schools [CPS] has made it mandatory for students to take at least two years of the same language. This requirement is not always beneficial to the student’s learning and academic experience. While learning another language can be a good thing, it should not be necessary for many reasons, and could potentially harm one’s academics.

Taking a foreign language is not necessarily “bad” ; but the fact that it must be two years of the same language is bad . It could be better to have a beginner’s understanding of multiple languages than a more in-depth education of one. A student likely will not become bilingual with only two years of a language, so the education level will make only a minuscule, insubstantial difference. In my experience of taking Spanish I last year and Spanish II this year, we, as a class, have done many of the same activities both years, and, while my learning and vocabulary have expanded, it is not to the extent where I am able to use the language much more frequently and fluently. However Because this is the case, a year each of separate languages would yield better results. 

Language may take up space for classes more oriented toward d on their specific career paths. If a student is interested in taking an AP, double block science class, or elective in order to help them eventually major in a field regarding that class, the language may take priority simply to graduate high school. Also, some students are already bilingual and taking a language class is less necessary for their success, especially if they take a higher course of the same language they already speak, such as a heritage or AP class. These necessary classes could be harmful to their development as they already understand another language, so they should be free to expand upon other subjects. 

One of the main problems of this requirement is, once again, the specific two years of the same language needing to be taken. By taking a language in the first two years of high school, one will probably forget most of it before college, following the common phrase “if you don’t use it you will lose it” regarding foreign languages. The same goes for taking a year in between by taking a language freshman then junior year or as a sophomore then as a senior. The language will not be as fresh in a student’s mind. 

In an attempt to counteract this relapse, students should  take a language junior and senior year, but there is hardly room in the average student’s schedule now that they have more options with other classes. Also, there is little that could take the place of a language not taken in freshman year. 

Many claim that knowing a foreign language is useful when traveling or applying for jobs, and this is true. However, two years in high school will not get the skills needed for a worthwhile experience unless starting out with prior knowledge of the language. To obtain the benefits of speaking a language, you must be able to do just that: speak it. Personally, I panic  whenever we have an oral quiz or test because I am not confident in my ability to hold a conversation. I know many of my classmates feel the same way, and for most of us, the end of this year could be our last year taking a language. I would not say that I am prepared to use my Spanish outside of the classroom. 

A potential solution to this issue is to offer language waivers similar to the ones given for PE. Students could obtain a waiver by already being fluent in another language or by needing the space for an approved class.