Top five reasons to study a foreign language at WLU

By Gabriella Pozell, Contributing Writer

Midterms are over.  Spring is in the air. Cue the scheduling frenzy for next semester. 

As you plan your schedule for fall 2015, here are five reasons why you should consider taking a foreign language class or even adding a foreign language minor:

  1. Educational and job opportunities.

Having knowledge of another language is a desirable skill for job candidates, no matter what type of work it is that you are seeking.  In an increasingly competitive job market, this is a great way for job candidates to stand out to employers. 

Also, instead of limiting yourself to jobs or graduate schools in countries where your native language is spoken, knowing another language makes it feasible to work or study abroad.

  1. A way to appreciate culture and diversity.

Studying a foreign language provides opportunities to learn about different cultures.   Foreign language professors often design lessons related to the traditions, social issues, and cultures of the countries where the target language is spoken.  So, this also opens you up to that much more literature you can read, art to discuss, and films to watch because you can appreciate all those things in another language, too. 

Studying a foreign language is also a way to meet and communicate with people from different backgrounds.  According to French student Sarah Wagstaff, “My favorite thing about French at WLU is that we get real cultural exposure because we have international students, many who speak French, in the classes.  It’s fun to be able to communicate and connect with them.”

  1. It can help you in your other classes.

Spanish minor Amanda Howard has found that to be true in her personal experience.  She explained how her knowledge of Spanish has helped her in classes for her Nursing major, “Because Spanish has a Latin base, it has helped me in my medical terminology and biology classes, which also have several terms that are Latin-based.  Where I may have been lost, I thought, ‘Hey, I already get this.’”

Foreign language learners are also at an advantage because it helps improve thinking skills.  Studies, like one from  Duke University in 2007, show that learning a second language can  improve cognitive and creative abilities and help people become better thinkers overall.

  1. It’s fun!

With the smaller class sizes, it is really easy to develop a camaraderie with the other students and to have fun.  According to Howard, “My favorite thing about Spanish class is that it is a relaxed atmosphere… We have discussions, share our opinions, and do fun activities.”  She added that it is also fun because “there are just some jokes that are funnier in Spanish!”

It also opens up enriching opportunities outside of class.  For example, Wagstaff enjoys French club because “we do fun things like conversation tables which allow students to communicate in French without the pressure of being in a classroom.” 

  1. To fulfill general education requirements.

Yes, even though “because you have to” may not be as satisfying of a reason to study a foreign language, it is a compelling one nonetheless.  According to the WLU Catalog, Bachelors of Science majors are required to take one elective in either a religion, philosophy, or foreign language class.  Meanwhile, Bachelor of Arts Liberal Arts majors need twelve credits in a foreign language to graduate. 

However, thinking about the reasons behind that foreign language requirement may help in approaching such classes with a more open mind.  One brief reason is that West Liberty has a rich history as a liberal arts institution.   The goal of a liberal arts education is to educate the whole individual and help students acquire the skills to be able to think critically, some of the same traits associated with learning a second language.  So, don’t think of a foreign language as something that you “have to do” but something beneficial that you “get to do.”

For more information about the Spanish or French minors at WLU, please visit the Humanities website or talk to any foreign language professor.