Bilingualism- overrated or undervalued?



As we grow up, high school counselors are telling us that we need two years of language to graduate high school. We are being shown that taking a foreign language class is more of a chore than a useful class to create life skills. But why is there a poor perspective on learning many languages in schools in the United States? All over Europe, most children, teens, and adults know at least two languages. This is because Europeans are being told that they need to know more than one language. One of the languages most people learn is English, so they’re able to have a good career in the future. After all, English is the language of money. But what do multilingual people think about this?

Kathrine, a Danish student, who went to Jenison High School from 2021 to 2022  was asked some questions.  “How many languages she can speak, and how old she was when she began learning different languages.” She then said that she started learning English when she was the ripe age of 9 years old. “I speak Danish and English fluently, but I understand Norwegian and Swedish too,” Kathrine said. Kathrine now is continuing her education in Denmark. She continues to use her multilingual skills every day.

Ariadna, an exchange student from 2021-2022, said knowing four languages has changed her. Ariadna speaks  Catalan, Spanish, English, and German. Then she stated, “Knowing more than one language has had a lot of benefits in my life. It brings me a broader vision of different things that surround me, it gives me tools to communicate easier with other people and brings me out of my comfort zone. It helps me stay mentally sharp, because it makes my brain think and work a lot more by having to understand things, translate them, or simply learning new stuff. Overall, it just makes me interested in knowing and learning.” More people should be shown Ariadnas perspective on learning. If more people learned new languages, they could reach more potential in their lives.

After interviewing Ariadna, Alicia, only a 5-hour train ride from Ariadna was interviewed. Alicia knows three languages which are English, French, and Spanish. She was asked the simple question of why did you choose to learn a second language. Her answer often is a mindblowing idea to most Americans. She said, “It wasn’t a decision it was a need to be able to have a good future and have more job opportunities.” Alicia’s view of learning new languages brings me back to my main idea. People around the world see foreign languages as a necessity to have a good career.  But in America, we see foreign language as a chore and nothing more than a blow-off class.

Anna, a former exchange student from Barcelona was raised differently than most Americans. “My parents raised me speaking two different languages; Catalan and Spanish. Furthermore, I started taking English lessons at school when I was three.” She then said more about how English is a necessity to be able to get a job anywhere in European countries. So why are Americans slacking so much with learning more than one language?

From someone a little closer to the walls of Jenison High School, and someone with a particularly different experience. Profesora Sommer Cain was mistakenly put into Spanish class during her high school years. She had then decided to try out Spanish for just a semester, but she ended up falling in love with the language, and culture and pursued the connection to multiple groups of people around the world. Though, learning a second language is not a walk in the park, “When you want to express yourself in your second language when you don’t have the tools or experience, however, it creates so much empathy in you when you learn a second language and you learn how people feel learning your native language,” Cain exclaimed. So, it is well known that learning anything new can be quite challenging, but the benefits definitely outweigh the stress of learning a new language.

In conclusion, after hearing from Kathrine, Ariadna, Alicia, Anna, and Prosesora Cain, it is a big takeaway that learning new languages can be frustrating, but very rewarding. From the streets of Madrid to the small town of Jenison, learning a new language can benefit you anywhere in the world.