In today’s society, children are introduced to many different ethnicities and cultural traditions. Exposure to various languages of other cultures can help students flourish both in their classrooms and in their communities.
When students learn and practice foreign languages, they tend to score higher on standardized exams, including the ACT and the SAT. According to the College Board, a 2004 study found that high school students who completed at least four years of foreign languages scored more than 100 points higher on each section of the SAT than those who took only one semester or less. Research conducted by the ERIC — Institute of Education Sciences found that taking foreign language courses allows students to improve their developments in the verbal sections, particularly in the area of vocabulary, more than by simply studying the English language.
Because of their abilities to identify correct grammatical and syntactical uses in the different languages they study, students are also able to understand proper grammar and syntax in their native languages. The earlier they are exposed to foreign languages, the more likely they are to begin reading at younger ages and performing better on tests in their own dialects.
Introducing a student to a foreign language early on in life also allows him or her to acquire that language more easily. Children are able to speak second languages free of accents and with fluent grammar until they turn 7 or 8 years old — what is known as the “critical period” — after which point it will become more difficult.
These individuals who become proficient in multiple languages are not only able to speak each language well, but they are also able to communicate, in general, more effectively than monolingual students. Students do not necessarily need to be completely bilingual in order to advance their communication abilities, but merely being in a multilingual environment allows them to improve their skills in this particular area.
While studying foreign languages in elementary and secondary schools is certainly advantageous for students as they continue their educations at the collegiate level, doing so has also proven to be effective in helping individuals further their careers and have better opportunities in terms of the roles for which they are qualified in the workforce. Thus, it is important to take advantage of these multilingual programs when they are available.