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Ask the Experts

Should My Teen Take Two Foreign Languages?

By Maxine Grossman, CampusCompare

Question:

My son is going to be a junior in high school. He is taking Spanish 3 and wants to take French 1. Would it help him a lot? Or would it make his life more hectic?

Answer:

First, know that you are not alone. Parents often think their children should be taking more science or math courses, particularly at the Advanced Placement (AP) level. The humanities are often unfairly overshadowed by math and science, but foreign language can open just as many doors, if not more. Did you know there are currently over 120 million French speakers worldwide, and 28 countries where French is the official language?

OK, maybe I'm biased because I loved studying French and Italian, but I say if your son has found a subject - any subject - that he enjoys, you should encourage him. Not convinced? Here are some more reasons:

  • Your son's solid foundation in Spanish will make it easier to pick up French, as the grammar and sentence construction are closely related.
  • Many students are overwhelmed by learning a second language. The fact your son wants to pursue a third will definitely help get him noticed in the college admission process.
  • Comprehension and appreciation of numerous languages and cultures help create the well-rounded personality that admissions officers look for in a college applicant.
  • Many colleges and universities (e.g. Georgetown, Fordham and Tufts require foreign languages as part of their graduation requirements; your son is ahead of the curve.
  • After graduation, his employment opportunities will be better. Companies are increasingly eager to hire bilingual and trilingual individuals - and in this economy, every differentiator and competitive edge helps!

As your son starts his college search, go online to discover colleges that offer foreign languages. The best college resource sites allow you to research schools by major, combined with other criteria like location, size of enrollment and tuition costs. Going online is a good way of finding out which schools have strong language programs as well as exciting study-abroad options.

Bonne chance!


Maxine Grossman is Senior Vice President of CampusCompare, a Web site that helps college-bound students find the right school.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.


Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

09/21/2009:
"I totally agree with the expert's response to whether or not your son should take a 3rd language. Afterall, look at European students....the majority of them speak 3 or more languages! Americans are behind! It will benefit your son more than you can imagine (in college, the job force, etc.) if he's able to speak basic converstaional French and Spanish! I speak French, Spanish & Arabic and it has opened numerous doors for me. The opportunities are endless when you know more languages because most Americans do not so if your son can master at least one other language then he'll have a leg-up on all other applicants in the job force! My son is 2 yrs old and can understand when Daddy speaks to him in French and he understands me in Spanish. He's automatically picking up English from his friends and TV. It shocks me how much English he speaks when it's not spoken in the house at all. Good luck and please encourage your kids to learn another language! It only gets harder as you get older so learn now! "
12/23/2008:
"Actually in reality for High School they have to have two years of a foriegn language to graduate. Two years of the SAME language. Although, it is possible to take more than one language in HS most counselors would not recommend it in with the rest of the required course load. After they have picked the language for the required credits, other language courses CAN be taken as extra curric. provided they have all the other required course's credits. "
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