The Importance of Learning a Second Language
According the 2007 U.S. Census Bureau, only 19.7 percent of Americans know a second language. In comparison, the European Commission found that 56 percent of Europeans know a second language. Well, you might ask, why is that a big deal?
I thought English was the only important language to know because everyone uses it.
Although English is spoken throughout the world, the CIA World Fact Book found that only 5.6% of the world's total population speaks English as a primary language. That number doubles when people who speak English as a second or third language are counted. By conservative estimates, that means that well over four-fifths of the world's population does not speak English.
The Benefits of Learning a Second Language
There are many benefits to learning a second language. Learning a new language not only opens your mind to different cultures, but it also increases life skills and employment potential. Other benefits include:
- Sharpen cognitive skills
- Increase native language ability (who knew learning French could boost my English skills?!)
- Improve chances of entry into graduate school
- Appreciate international literature, music, and film
- Make travel more feasible and enjoyable
- Expand study abroad options
- Increase understanding of oneself and one's own culture
- Make lifelong friends
How I Intend to Learn French
I am currently double majoring in social work and French in my undergraduate study at my university. Although taking classes at my school will definitely help me gain critical skills in the French language, I want to become fluent beyond the classroom. Doing that, however, is very difficult because I am surrounded by only English. Because of financial reasons, my options for studying abroad next summer are also very limited, but luckily, Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, offers a world-renowned summer language immersion program.
How is the Middlebury summer program any different than learning in a normal classroom?
Middlebury offers a very successful 7-week French immersion program that offers students an entirely French-speaking experience. One thing that makes the program so successful is Middlebury's strict "no English" pledge. During the seven weeks, students must live and breathe French- in the classroom, during meals and co-curricular activities, and while spending time with other students. Because of the intensity of the program, students learn at least one year of language study in only seven weeks while gaining language skills unachievable in English-speaking environments.
Why this is Important to Me
Above all other reasons, I want to make a difference in the world, and I strongly believe this will help me do that. When I say that, I do not say it passively, but I truly mean it. Because of my personal experiences and struggles, I have a very strong passion for social work and helping others. As such, learning a second language will allow me to broaden my understanding of other cultures while furthering my appreciation of diversity.
Another reason I want to attend Middlebury is because I have never been given on opportunity like this. I believe that with my level of commitment to learning a new language, this program will help me significantly. In addition, it will open doors to furthering my study of French. Because I cannot currently afford study abroad programs, having a higher level of French will also increase my chances of receiving scholarships in the future for later endeavors.
Lastly, this is important to me because becoming fluent in a second language will grant me an incredible sense of self-fulfillment. I have always wanted to be able to speak fluently in another language because it would dramatically increase the number of people I can communicate with. In addition, learning a new language requires a lot of commitment , and I enjoy challenging myself.