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The Hawkeye

Why do colleges care about foreign language?

By Nhung Lam, Hawkeye staff

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Students each year take foreign languages in high school to not only learn a new language but for the language credits.

According to College Confidential, selective colleges, including universities or private colleges, require students to take three years of the same foreign language. Three years is considered the minimum, four years is preferable to colleges.

The Edmonds School District does not require foreign language credits to graduate. However, MTHS students can take foreign languages, and there are certain languages that are more accredited than others.

The Des Moines Register reported most colleges and community colleges require students to take at least two years of a foreign language before college. This is a common recommendation by high school counselors.

Learning new languages opens horizons and opens worlds to students.”

— Heidi Monrad

Competition for college has become more heated over the years, according to the New York Times. To increase a student’s chance of holding a spot in college, they should have at least two to four credits. Colleges seem to favor having foreign language credits rather than not having them.

In Washington, community colleges have an open admissions policy. Mark Di Virgilio, Director of Entry Services at Edmonds Community College, said “as long as an applicant has a high school diploma or GED, and are 18 years old, they will be accepted at any community college in the state.”

Although it is recommended to take a foreign language in high school, there may be challenges. Some students can’t learn a language as easily as others. Having a bad grade in a foreign language can negatively affect a student’s admission and/or scholarship opportunities for college.

The Report Card said it’s not uncommon for students to struggle with four years of a foreign language.

For example, students who take four years of a foreign language with C grades or lower per semester can have devastating effects on their GPA. Foreign language grades could also drop the GPA below the level needed to get accepted into a four year college.

Struggling students may also spend more time on foreign languages, which takes time away from required graduation classes, such as math or English.

L’apprentissage de nouvelles langues ouvre des portes et aide à découvrir de nouveaux mondes.”

— Translation by Mallory Kellum

Some students drop their foreign language class, and at Hamilton College even though it’s not required for four years of a language, dropping a class can be detrimental to a student’s chance of being admitted. Admission Officers are looking for students who have challenged themselves in many areas.

A recommendation for struggling students of foreign language is to take two years of it in high school. If a college requires students to take more of a language, they can take it in community college or a college credit program to meet the requirement of a four-year college’s graduation requirement. Students should also know the state or private school requirements of their choice.

There are benefits to learning a foreign language, but why do colleges care if a student takes foreign language classes in high school?

“Should a student be interested in transferring to a four year institution, where the admissions process is competitive, knowing a foreign language will make you a stronger candidate. In addition, having working knowledge of a foreign language after you graduate, will also make you a stronger job applicant since many employers now do like to have a workforce that can communicate with other cultures,” Edmonds Community College’s Admissions and Registrations department said.

In other words, a student’s chance of being accepted into college is increased when there are language credits present on their transcript.

The Daily Telegraph of the UK said knowing and speaking multiple languages increases a person’s knowledge because speaking a foreign language improves the functionality of the brain by forcing it to negotiate, recognize and communicate in different languages.

A person who speaks multiple languages also has increased memory capabilities because of the need to memorize vocabulary and rules of a language.

Learning a new language consists of familiarizing the vocabulary and rules and applying memorized information into communication. It can also strengthen the memory by having the brain associate information with mnemonics. People who speak more than one language (polyglots) have more exercised brains that are quicker to recall anything involving the memory.

El aprendezaje de los idiomas nuevos abre horizontes y abre el mundo a los estudiantes.”

— Translated by Robin Cogburn

The languages offered at MTHS that students can receive credit for are Spanish, French and American Sign Language (ASL). Although they all qualify for credit here, some colleges don’t accept ASL language credits.

The Report Card says many colleges don’t accept ASL credits from high school because they don’t offer a continuation of the lessons as they do with other foreign languages. But others argue otherwise.

Sherman Wilcox, a linguistics professor at the University of New Mexico, argues sign language has the same heightened learning as any other language.

“It is often acquired by non-verbal people and special needs groups including those with autism, a population rapidly growing in our country,” Wilcox said. “If one becomes fluent in ASL, they’ll have greater opportunities for use in professions and the community whereas there is limited use for many other languages.”

Some colleges don’t consider ASL to be a foreign language. Although ASL is not a spoken language, it provides most of the benefits spoken languages provide too.

Foreign language teachers at MTHS provided their thoughts about learning a foreign language.

French teacher Heidi Monrad believes being a polyglot has many benefits.

“Learning new languages opens horizons and opens worlds to students,” Monrad said. “It opens your eyes to the correlation between math and music.”

Monrad thinks foreign languages have benefits to them. Besides opening new possibilities to students, Spanish teacher Tamara Riley said communication is vital in today’s society.

“Being able to communicate with each other can help you get a job or a better job,” Riley said.

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The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.
Why do colleges care about foreign language?