Many reasons exist for learning new languages. Learning a country’s national language is often required in order to obtain citizenship. Before vacationing to a foreign country, it may be helpful for one to know at least some of that country’s language so that one can converse on a basic level with the locals.
For Bellevue College students and other people in the United States that are not native English speakers, learning a second language is almost a necessity.
The situation is quite different for native English speakers, however. English has been the vernacular of Americans for centuries. Because of this, most people that the average Anglo-Americans encounter in their home country will also speak at least some English, making the study of other languages out of necessity almost irrelevant.
The mastery of foreign languages is indeed important for anyone trying to start a career in international business or politics, with Mandarin Chinese, the language with the most native speakers in the world, being learned by more and more prospective businesspeople as China’s role in the world economy continues to grow.
Additionally, the increasing Hispanic immigrant population will make the knowledge of Spanish increasingly important in the years to come.
And yet, many schools at both the high school and college level in the US require some foreign language courses to be taken, typically Spanish or French. BC has no such requirements, but the four-year universities that BC students may end up transferring to often do. The unfortunate truth is that most people who take these classes and don’t put skills to use later in life end up forgetting most of what they learned, wasting hours of class and study time that they spent to try and learn them.
These language courses may indeed end up being important in the long run, and there is no question that a multilingual person will have a more enriched education than a monolingual person, but forcing students to take these courses is often an exercise in futility for both the students and the faculty that teach them.
While Latin is a functionally dead language, it has had a tremendous impact on almost all other western European languages, including English, and is still used in the fields of biology and medicine to provide names for organisms and body parts. Greek is seldom spoken outside of Greece, but it and its Ancient Greek equivalent have had almost as large of an impact on the culture and language of the Western world, and can also prove to be extremely useful to students of philosophy and history of religion.
The language classes at BC and colleges in general serve an important function, but it may be beneficial to the schools and to the student population as a whole if the emphasis was shifted from specific foreign languages to languages with broader applications, which can be utilized by people majoring in fields that do not concern international commerce and politics.