It is becoming increasingly important for students to become familiar with different cultures in a global economy.
At Central Michigan University, this exposure starts with foreign language courses.
Despite the reluctance of many students to take these courses, the ability to speak a language other than English could be the factor that helps them get their dream job. No matter the language, there are endless opportunities that can come from learning one, Spanish professor Mary Jackson said.
“Learning a foreign language is of great value to students because it helps them understand their own language, exposes them to other cultures and broadens their horizons,” Jackson said.
In regards to society, Jackson said bilingual students will likely have a better understanding of the world outside of the United States.
“For too long, our society has expected other nations to know English in order to communicate with us,” she said. “With increased globalization, it is important for us to make the effort to be fluent in other languages for greater understanding and good will.”
Illinois junior Ophelia Swanson has studied Spanish for six years, two of them at CMU, and recommends studying any foreign language.
“I think it is really important for students to take advantage of a foreign language, because as our lives are becoming more and more integrated on a global market, it is really important to expand your horizons past the scope of American society,” she said.
Swanson said the benefits of learning another language amount to much more than a line on a resumé.
“Speaking a second or third language not only makes you a more attractive applicant in the competitive job market, but also widens your perspectives on a personal and cultural level,” she said.
French professor Amy Ransom agrees, saying teaching language isn’t about simply teaching words but about how those words connect different cultures.
“In addition to the cultural value of learning a foreign language, simply opening oneself up to something new and different, understanding how another culture works through its language, there are many practical reasons to learn a language no matter what field you are studying,” Ransom said.
Ransom said her positive personal experience with French has gone beyond the walls of the classroom as well.
“It is personally satisfying to me to be able to go to Montreal and speak with people in another language or to help out in public setting when I see an individual having trouble communicating his or her needs to customer service personnel who only speaks English,” she said.
Ludington senior Samantha Borashko began her journey with the French language in eighth grade and has continued to study it throughout high school and college.
Her commitment to the language landed her the position of French Club president.
“When you have any degree, whether you’re in medicine or technology or anything like that these days – because our society is so global – if you’re not able to talk to those people in other countries about your subject, it’s going to limit you extremely,” Borashko said.
According to Borashko, even if students are not interested in foreign language, taking a few classes can put you ahead of the game.
“I think even taking just a couple of language classes can give you a definite advantage over someone who is just a monolingual English speaker,” she said.