Bonjour! Nǐ hǎo ma? Mir geht es gut. You may have understood some of these words, or maybe none at all, but I can guarantee you didn’t know what all of them meant. I must say I am guilty of using Google Translate to translate some of these but this only strengthens my upcoming point. We need to learn foreign languages. Period.
While the world is becoming as globalized as ever, we cannot keep pretending that English is the only language that matters and the United States of America is the most superior country in the world. English is not even the most spoken language in the world anymore and it is foolish to think that everyone will adapt to learning our language.
I remember I started learning Spanish in kindergarten and it was always a part of my core education all the way now through college. I may not have learned the most intricate vocabulary or all of the tenses at such a young age, but it was a nice introduction to the language. Studies have even shown the benefits of learning a language at such a young age and the impact it has on future development and academic studies. I remember learning basics like colors, foods, activities, numbers, and it slowly transitioned to learning conjugations and such. We even learned the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish that we would say at the beginning of each class. I even still remember it to this day!
Now imagine my surprise when I see or hear something in Spanish and my younger brother turns to me and asks what that means. They have completely cut foreign language out of the curriculum until students reach high school. My brother is currently a high school sophomore, so yes he does now have the opportunity to learn a foreign language, but he does not have the additional benefit of starting young. My brother currently takes French and although I took Spanish as a kid and throughout high school, having already learned a language makes it much easier to learn another one, especially with romance languages since they are quite similar in vocabulary. I went to France during my senior year of high school and had never taken French, but easily used my knowledge of Spanish to make it through my trip.
Not only in future academic studies, but it is an added bonus to know Spanish when pursuing our careers. I know many of my friends are double majoring or minoring with Spanish for the Professions because of the importance of learning another culture. When my grandparents came to America from India, my grandmother had to work in a factory where the rest of her co-workers only spoke Spanish. Slowly she picked up on the language and can still remember it to this day. She only knew Hindi and Gujarati when coming to America and quite possibly learned more of the Spanish language before she even learned the English language. So, no, America is not the only country in the world, and no, not everyone will be learning English just to be able to communicate with us. It is a two way street and I highly believe we should do our part to meet halfway.