In a world where globalization continues to spread at an exponential rate, many careers can no longer do without an international component. Whether a student is interested in a job that involves travel outside the U.S. or not, more and more employers are willing to hire individuals who are bilingual, or even trilingual, and can communicate and work with customers and colleagues from around the world.
The Australian government recently suggested that its top businesses implement a job quota for Australian students who can speak an Asian language, a strategic move that only highlights the importance of expanding and prioritizing language learning in school. And the earlier the learning begins, the better.
Studying a foreign language is more than just testing out of classes or fulfilling a high school or college graduation requirement. Learning a foreign language helps students open up their world view and become more aware of what really exists outside their community and country. The College Board has even stated that students who are learning a foreign language tend to have higher SAT scores and better overall academic performance.
Whenever possible, students should look to expand beyond the basic package of Spanish, French and German that is often offered by high schools. In the past decade, there has been a shift in U.S. schools toward the study of globally important languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Korean and Russian. However, recent budget cuts to foreign language programs in schools across the country have also made it more difficult for students to study any language besides Spanish or French.
Apart from experiencing a language immersion through a summer of studying or volunteering abroad, or by participating in a high school exchange program abroad, there are numerous ways to study a foreign language outside of school but without the need to travel overseas.
Here are some helpful tips to share with students to help broaden their horizons, and their language skills.
Hire a private tutor
Attend classes at a local culture center
Download and listen to podcasts from language websites or iTunes
Complete free online courses offered by top universities like MIT (www.mit.edu), Yale (www.yale.edu), Harvard (www.harvard.edu) and University of Michigan (www.umich.edu)
Attend a summer language camp, like that offered by Middlebury College in Vermont (www.middlebury.edu)
Even if there is no foreign language requirement at your school, encourage students to begin or carry on with language studies. Their ability to communicate in multiple languages will diversify their skillset and incorporate a global element into their academic career that will make their college application and resume much more attractive.