Student columnist stresses importance of keeping up with language classes in high school

SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - Brandon KyungI started learning Spanish in middle school. For one semester a year, every year in middle school, I studied Spanish. Come high school, I took Spanish through my sophomore year. However, by junior year, I began to notice some students decide not to take a foreign language class. Even more opted out of taking AP Spanish or a higher-level Spanish class. I understand that some want to pursue other interests, or feel they aren't ready for the next level, but a class one has taken for several years, should not be discarded so readily.

Proficiency in a second language is an investment that may not pay off in high school, but to quit would cut the returns short. While a high schooler may not see the benefits right away, the benefits abroad and while entering the workforce later on, is huge.

While English speakers can be found all over the globe, an American speaking or attempting a foreign language abroad shows a sincere effort to connect with others. It makes you seem like less of a foreigner, and this can garner respect from people. It also allows you to truly delve into another culture. You are able to fit in and have the confidence to explore. Knowing the language can help you escape from tourist zones during vacation. Additionally, speaking another language has many practical benefits abroad, particularly in terms of autonomy. If you speak the language, you don't have to rely on others for basic necessities such as getting around, purchasing things, and reading signs.

Domestically, possessing even basic skills in another language, can be a great service to you in the workforce. It shows the dedication one put toward learning it. This also shows that the person has the ability to communicate with others. As the world becomes even more interconnected, possessing these skills have become increasingly valuable. Someone with proficiency in another language can operate in a global marketplace more easily than someone without. 

Unfortunately, it is no secret that a second language is difficult to acquire. The time, energy and resources it takes to learn another language is tremendous. This is why learning a language in middle school and high school is optimal. In school, you routinely show up to class and practice. This repetition is integral in acquiring a second language, and it is time one would have spent in school anyway. When else would you have the opportunity to spend an hour on something consistently? Especially because a second language requires the exact same consistency school provides, it's a great environment to learn it. Furthermore, in high school students would be practicing with friends. This comfortable environment can make the task seem less daunting.

Many people in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District began a foreign language in middle school — some as early as elementary school. With the time and energy put toward learning a language, why stop during high school?

Sure, some students may find other interests, but the value of a second language is often lost during high school. I highly encourage you to persevere with a second language. It may be difficult, but in time, the benefits will reveal themselves. There will be moments where you don't see improvement, or things seem over your head. Carry on. It will be worth it. ?

Brandon Kyung is a senior at Wilsonville High School.

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