Why Learning a Second Language is Important

Alexandra Lajo Leonardi, Staff Member

Part of being a high school student is making a lot of decisions. One of the most important decisions is choosing the classes you are going to take. There are many electives that you could choose from like music, art, business, and a foreign language. This can be a hard choice as you are just starting to figure out your own interests and what career you will pursue. An elective that you will use in any field of work and that will open many doors for you is LOTE or Language Other Than English. Many students think that because the English language is spoken throughout the world, we don’t need to learn it but it is becoming an incredibly important tool to have as more people are becoming bilingual. Most countries teach their students English, America is one of the few that learning a LOTE is not required in high school. The Johnny Green talked to Mrs. Matson, a Spanish teacher at WHS, and Mrs. Brown a French and Spanish teacher at WHS, about the importance of taking a LOTE in high school.

When can students begin studying Spanish or French, and what are the benefits of taking a foreign language now rather than in college?

Mrs: Matson: “When you’re in seventh grade you take 20 weeks of Spanish, and French and in 8th grade that’s when you decide. Spanish 1 is actually a high school course. Many colleges require 2 semesters of a foreign language no matter what your major is. Here at Weedsport if you can take Spanish or French 4 and it counts as a 201 college-level course. Not only do you get high school credit, but for 175 dollars you will get 3 college credits and then when you take Spanish or French 5, you get another 3 credits. So when you graduate from Weedsport your foreign language requirement for college are completed. So you don’t have to study a foreign language in college, you can do it here. You are doing a semester of work throughout the whole school year here and college courses cost up to 25 hundred dollars, and all it costs is 175 and you get the same program with the same credits that are transferable to college.”

Why do you encourage students to study another language and what are the advantages?

Mrs. Matson: “There are many reasons, for example, employers like it because you did something that you weren’t forced to do, you studied a language because you wanted to and you can communicate better with clients. If you have on your resume that you studied another language your resume is going to be put on top of the pile because you can communicate with more people. If you speak two languages, and if you and another person have an identical resume you are going to get the job over the other person because you open up a whole new world of communication whereas the other person will not be able to. Also studying a foreign language gives your brain a boost, and it gives your mind a good workout because there’s so many components that apply and help you with the rest of your school day and throughout your studies. There is a poster outside my door ‘Will it be easy no, will it be worth it yes I promise’, so often students come to me and say ‘you know Senora, I used Spanish today,’ if you travel abroad you can speak with the people and that opens up a whole new world by making deep connections with others.”

Mrs. Brown: “In the near future, we will live and work in a world, including the online realm of the internet, where intercultural skills that come from learning a foreign language will help us to deal more respectfully and more effectively with others. Learning about other cultures helps us to expand our personal horizons, takes us out of our comfort zones, opens up our minds to other ways of life around us and ultimately allows us the opportunity to become a more responsible and worldlier citizen. Competition for admission to top-rated schools, and scholarships to pay for these schools, and for the best jobs is intense. Directly and indirectly, the study of languages and their cultures provides our children with important job-related knowledge and skills that can give them a competitive edge they will be glad they have. The skills that I am referring to include; problem solving, creative and critical-thought processing and confidence to communicate effectively. When you are up against someone who has a similar educational background in your field, the candidate who is able to communicate, negotiate, and investigate new knowledge in another language is worth more to a company and to a community than someone who is limited by knowing only their native language.”

What does it take to learn a new language?

Mrs. Matson: “It takes dedication, hard work, and the desire to learn it, you have to understand the importance of learning the language to be a good student.”

Mrs. Brown: “Anybody can become good at learning languages. Señora Matson and I have said it for years, it takes ‘GRIT’ as with anything else. You aren’t born being awesome at math formulas, playing the cello, basketball or French, you have to want to be good and you have to put in the time and effort to get good. Here is what it takes, courage and humor, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Practice makes you more confident and it is the only way to get better. Curiosity, sticking only to the mandatory stuff that you learn in class is definitely not as fun as learning what you want to know. Patience, with yourself and with your classmates. Motivation, diligence, and attentiveness are contagious and very appealing qualities. Successful learners actively seek out opportunities to practice speaking outside the classroom.”

Why did you become a Foreign Language Teacher and what is your favorite part about teaching a Foreign Language?

Mrs. Matson: “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, and when I was young I visited Mexico, and there was music, the people were happy and friendly and there were flowers everywhere. Then it hit me, I thought, I want to learn this language, it sounds so beautiful. I was in 8th grade at the time but I knew that Spanish was the language for me. Teaching my students about another culture is my favorite part. The Hispanic culture is so beautiful in so many ways, the music, the Hispanic people are so warm. I love to tell my students that if you study Spanish and go to a Spanish speaking country even if it’s not perfect Spanish they don’t mind because they are so proud of their language. So I love to teach about the hispanic people and the cultural differences and I love to impress upon my students that just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And it’s so important that when you study a language that you also study the culture because if everybody learned that just because something is done in a different way doesn’t make it wrong and if we opened our hearts and minds up to that, this whole world would be a better place.”

Mrs. Brown: “Anyone who knows me, knows I love language. Hearing others speak a foreign language is mesmerizing to me and makes me very curious. Languages are so vivid, beautiful and expressive. I became a teacher because I have an extra-huge heart, a lot of advice to give, my students keep me young, I like red pens and stickers, and I am bossy. My favorite part of being a teacher is hard to narrow down. I get goosebumps, every time a student comes into my class with a big ole skip in their step, a smile and huge “Bonjour, ça va?”, when they make me proud, when they try to see who can be the first to arrive to class, when they race to see who can be the first to look up a word for me, when they win at Around the World or Bizz Buzz, when they catch me in a mistake, when they help each other without being asked, when they greet me in French in the hallways, when they choose to share their good news with me or need to share their bad times with me, when I get a thank you note or they write me a poem in French or share a new song, meme or video they have found online, when they tell me that they love my class despite all the homework, when they laugh at my jokes, when they pronouns the S in DANS (ugh), when they hand in a project in the morning before school because they are too excited by their hard work to wait to submit it in class.”

What should students think about as they are choosing whether they should take a LOTE or not or which one?

Mrs. Brown: “It depends on a student’s personal goals. What do you enjoy learning? What are you good at, when an honest effort is made? Which culture(s) interest you?

Conclusion: Learning a second language can be a challenging thing but the rewards are great, as you will have many doors opened to you in the future. Weedsport LOTE program offers students great opportunities to have a great start in learning a foreign language. You should take advantage of the opportunities it provides, such as the completion of your college foreign language requirement and having a better chance to get into the college of your choice and excel in finding a good paying job.