Why Should U.S. High School Students be Required to Take Spanish as a Second Language?

Latina

by: Sarah Keavy

I remember the first time I learned some Spanish in fifth grade. I thought it was cool, but not the greatest thing in the world. Then ninth grade came and I didn’t really know any Spanish and I had moved to South Omaha. I was quite thankful that I was starting to learn Spanish. I immediately fell in love with the language once I started really learning it. It came in handy soon after. My mom and I had a garage sale and this one lady could not speak English. I ended up interpreting between her and my mom. I even got the item sold! Throughout my time in South Omaha, I ended up using the language endlessly. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. However, there were plenty of times where I had to use Spanish because the person or people I was communicating with, could not speak English. This is just one example.

According to Adam Tutor, on his website, “Homeschool Spanish Academy”, “Unless you are a bear in hibernation or similarly snuggled up in your suburban refuge lost in the retentions of Downton Abbey, it is next to impossible to escape the omnipresence of the Spanish language in our society today” (Tutor par. 1). Why should English-speaking Americans communicate with the Spanish-speaking population in America? English is our national language anyways, right? Wrong. According to the website, “Official Language of the U.S.”, “There is no official language in the United States” (par 1). So why should English-speaking Americans bother to learn Spanish?

All U.S. high school students should be required to take Spanish as a second language because language is what connects us as human beings and it is becoming a very necessary language to have in the workplace as well as one’s social life.Language is by far man’s greatest invention. It’s how humans communicate with one another. There are multiple languages and by far, the one that is in greatest need to be learned in the United States is Spanish. Language is the keystone of communication. America is a melting pot. There are many different races, languages, and cultures here. However, the dominant language and culture behind English is Spanish and the Hispanic cultures. What would normally separate different ethnicities, languages, and cultures, brings us together in America. The reason is America is a melting pot. For these reasons, English-speaking Americans should learn Spanish. Due to the enormous presence of Spanish-speakers in the United States, American High School Students ought to learn the language.

How many Hispanic/Latino people are there living in the U.S.? According to the website, “infoplease”, “As of July 1, 2012, [there are] 1.1 million [Hispanics living in the United States]” (par 1). High school students in the United States should be required to take Spanish because Hispanics are the largest growing ethnicity in the United States and this in turn is becoming a very necessary language to have in the workplace as well as one’s social life. According to Deborah Sharp, in her article in USA Today, titled, “Those who don’t speak Spanish may be left behind”, she states, “With the surge over the past decade in the Hispanic population in the United States, speaking Spanish is becoming more of a necessity than a choice in many parts of the country” (Sharp par. 1). In other words, Spanish is a growing language in the United States and it is very important that non-Spanish-speaking Americans learn it because it is needed in everyday life from one’s social life to one’s work life. For example, Spanish knowledge is a very valuable asset to have as a job-seeker. According to Terrence Wiley, President, Sarah Moore, and Margaret Fee on their website called “COUNCIL on FOREIGN RELATIONS”, “In an increasingly competitive international economy, a workforce with more market-relevant foreign language skills is a strategic economic asset for the United States” (Wiley, Moore, Fee par. 1). Also according to this website, “It is an old adage that you can buy in any language, but you must sell in the language of your customer.” (Wiley, Moore, Fee par. 3). In other words, Americans can use English to buy whatever it is they’re buying, but when it comes to selling, Americans have to know the target language. Therefore, it is necessary to have Spanish knowledge as a skill to add on to one’s resume.

I have discussed how Spanish connects us as humans beings and how it is necessary to have knowledge of the language because it is very useful in one’s work and social life. The U.S. Hispanic/Latino population is growing and is only continuing to soar. This makes it very valuable to have as a skill because no matter where you go in the United States or what you do, you will likely encounter a Spanish-speaker. Knowing this language can also help create friends that cannot speak or speak limited English. Your work and social life are both important; add new people to it. You deserve it and so does the Hispanic population.

Works Cited

Adam Tutor. “The Spanish Network: Opportunities For Bilingualists in Today’s Job Market.” HOMESCHOOL SPANISH ACADEMY. blog.HOMESCHOOL SPANISH ACADEMY.com, 21 Mar. 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

Fee, Margaret S., Moore, Sarah C., Wiley, Terrence G. COUNCIL on FOREIGN RELATIONS. Council on Foreign Relations.org, n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2013.

“Official Language of the U.S.” Answers.USA.gov, 4 Nov. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.

Sharp, Deborah. “Those who don’t speak Spanish may be left behind.” USA Today. Jun. 2001. Web. 16 Sep. 2001.

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14 thoughts on “Why Should U.S. High School Students be Required to Take Spanish as a Second Language?

  1. I’ve constantly been thinking the same thing. It baffles me that many countries in the world are required or CAN speak another language. It blows my mind how we already haven’t implemented something like this in the U.S. I read somewhere that it gets more and more difficult to be able to learn a language as you get older, so I believe the key is to begin learning a language as soon as possible. Although it would be difficult to teach Spanish to elementary, because they still haven’t mastered the English language yet…But like you said the next step up would be High School, and that may be the best way to go about it. I definitely agree. Great entry!

    • I find it outstanding how even just walking on campus you come across a group of people who are talking English and then on the spot switch to a different language. I took Spanish all four years of high school and I loved it. But, now that I don’t have to take Spanish, I have lost almost everything I knew. I wish I still knew fluent Spanish because it would be very benificial in everyday life. Between work, school, daily routines, knowing Spanish would be very helpful. Many people who speak Spanish can also speak English so I think it’s only fair that people who speak English should have to know Spanish as well.

  2. Very interesting and well written article. Though you make some very good points about the prevalence of the Spanish language in American society, I disagree that high school students should be required to take Spanish. You state in your article that the U.S. has no official language. Though this is true, nearly 80% of the U.S. population speaks English. So my question is why should Americans be required to learn Spanish when it is the Spanish speaking immigrants who are coming into a country where 80% of the population speaks English? It seems to me that Spanish speaking immigrants should learn English not because it is the official language (which it’s not), but because it is the most prevalent language within the U.S. If I were going to pack up and move to Mexico I would not expect the Mexicans to learn English just because I came to their country, rather I would learn their language.

    • I have to agree with jswgreenpower comment. i was literately thinking the exact same thing while reading the article myself so naturally i am going to side with him. Also Americans do not like being told they have to do things, especially things that are going to be hard to justify them taking like a foreign language.

  3. This is a very well written article. As I have grown up, and traveled to France, England, and Switzerland. I have grown to wish that I had learned to speak more than one language from a very young age. It is terrible to not be able to communicate with other people. I hated feeling lost and alone in a sea of people who could all communicate with each other. Speaking other languages is useful and other languages can be beautiful to speak and understand.

    However, forcing all high school students to learn Spanish, in my humble opinion, is not the correct plan of action. You stated in your article that there is no official language in the United States. So, we cannot mandate the teaching of Spanish throughout the school system, in the same way that we cannot mandate any other language.

    Some would argue that learning Chinese is just as important because China is the other economic superpower in the world, and that anyone conducting business in the future will need to know Chinese. But I bet that you have no interest in learning Chinese? How would you feel if you were taken out of the Spanish class that was offered by your school (at least my school offered Spanish, German, French, and Japanese, as well as a class on Latin, which isn’t technically a language) and told, you will now learn Chinese because the government has decided it would be useful for you. You would be outraged, or at least annoyed right?

    The official languages of Canada are English and French. Is it fair to say we must also force high school students to learn french as well? How would you feel if you were removed from the same theoretical Spanish class as before and placed in French instead. Told that the United States dictated you learn French instead. Annoyed?

    The best possible action for learning foreign languages is giving Students the choice to learn the language they want. It is up to the student to decide to learn something.

    While learning other languages is arguably one of the most important things any student can learn. Forcing all students to learn one particular language is not the answer. The requirements of the public school system I attended required at least two years in a foreign language, and offered 5 years in each of these languages. This is the best possible solution at the moment, outside of parents teaching their children. There is not a nationwide need to learn one specific language.

  4. I have actually taken 4 years of Spanish in high school and college, mainly because I had too. But, sometimes I even wanted to. I’m going to have to agree with what you are saying in this article. First im going to say that Spanish is a good thing to have for almost anything. In my job, I have to communicate with a variety of people ranging from Hispanic, Asian, the list goes on and on. And I must say, im glad I took those courses because I can actually help those people since im the only one that can speak Spanish. Plus I get a good pay raise too for being bilingual. So in response to jswgreenpower and mfenster, Spanish is really just a great thing to have, and what high schools are trying to do is prepare us for the world. And Spanish is something that a high school student will use, guaranteed. Believe me, there is not a more awkward situation than when someone is trying to ask you something over and over and all you can do is smile and say “can you repeat that?” Am I right?

  5. Personally, I think that knowing a second or even third language could be a massive benefit to our society if the return on investment was significant.
    However, I don’t see any real significant return if Spanish was a mandatory class requirement in the United States. It may be one of the most prevalent languages appearing in the United States today but the cost of establishing and reallocating resources to Spanish programs in schools and expanding curriculum to accommodate does not seem to lend itself to building an equilibrium.
    Next, many people like to bring up Europe and how many languages they must learn. In response to that, I must not the geographic location and size. The United States does not have 5-10 neighbors that all speak different languages as well as not having a sizable population that could easily have new educational programs established.
    Lastly, and this is a bit of intolerant bit of reasoning, but why doesn’t the smaller part of society make the change to English rather than the other way around?

  6. I would completely agree with your argument, we see so many hispanic/latinos now in the United States. I love how you say that there is no official language in the US, because that is what I firmly believe that we should have more high school student learning Spanish, they will be more qualified for some jobs where there is more interaction with hispanics/latinos I believe. Great argument!

  7. I think in some cases, this can be a very controversial issue and many people would disagree with you. English seems to be the main spoken language in the United States but it would never hurt anyone to learn another language. From what I have also heard, it is beneficial in many ways beyond just being able to speak another language. It helps with better cognitive abilities and seems to help memory at an older age. I took four years of spanish in my high school career and now I wish I would have kept pursuing it.

  8. I don’t think students should be required to take spanish in high school. It should be their choice whether they want to take it or not. Yes it would be beneficial for certain careers or if you are living in a country where they speak spanish. Overall, it should be the students choice whether they want to learn spanish, it should not be required.

  9. I don’t think it should be required to take a second language. I definitely think it should be an available option but should not be forced. I have taken three years of Spanish class and to this day I could not put together a sentence in Spanish. I could have been learning something that would pertain to my personal interests during all of that time but instead it was wasted on knowledge that was not retained.

    • I don’t think you should be required to take a second language. It definitely will benefit a person individually but if (like myself) a person is unfamiliar or merely just awful at said languages they shouldn’t be forced to continue to learn. People should be able to learn and do what they choose with their lives not what people say they have to learn and do because of a state school when in retrospect the government sholdn’t be involved in anyways.

  10. My high school did not require us to take spanish; we had the choice among a couple of different languages. However, Spanish is probably the most prominent language besides English in the United States and I think it is important to learn. Being able to speak spanish opens the doors for many job opportunities as well as better compensation. Although I don’t think it should be required, it should be recommended.

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