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Foreign language education is lacking

Illustration: Madalyn Drewno

CU Denver needs more language requirements

Currently, according to ilanguages.org, 60 percent of people in the world speak multiple languages—meaning that a minority of the world population can only speak one language. However, according to The Atlantic, only one percent of American adults can speak a foreign language that they learned in the classroom. Considering that 93 percent of high schools in the country offer foreign language classes, the low statistic doesn’t seem great. Compared to the rest of the world, America is lacking in foreign language education.

In order to solve part of this issue, or rather lead by example, CU Denver should implement a foreign language requirement for all majors. As of now, only a few departments on campus require proficiency in a foreign language, and students in those majors can often get the requirement waived if they took a foreign language in high school—which, as stated before, doesn’t usually mean much.

Not only would requiring proficiency in a foreign language for all students help to improve the population’s multilingual abilities, it also has other positive impacts ranging from job potential to cultural experience to brain development.

Most employers like to know if their applicants know more than one language. Not only does this set these applicants apart from the rest, but it is also beneficial for the employer. If a company has more employees that are multilingual, it is easier to spread their business.

Learning a second language also branches into a deeper cultural experience of the world. When a person learns a new language, a lot of other information comes with that. Knowing why people speak languages the way they do and how they use their words is an immersive experience. Anyone who has taken a high school language class knows how languages are heavily tied to cultural traditions. But if nothing else were to convince people that multilingualism is beneficial, the impact it can have on the brain is astonishing.

According to Science Direct and other large studies, knowing more than one language greatly impacts brain growth and development in everyone from children to adults. In younger brains, students who learn or know a second language have greater neuroplasticity, which is the ability to reform new connections after learning something new or experiencing a traumatic injury. For adults, the benefits include better listening skills, more creativity, better decision-making, and better memory function.

The reason neuroplasticity is so important is due to the fact that after a certain amount of time, a brain will lack the ability to adapt to further changes. Some neurologists are even beginning to speculate that people with high brain plasticity are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

It’s up to CU Denver to change the graduation requirements. However, if the students of CU Denver decide that a second language is more beneficial than how it is treated currently, it’s likely that the university would take that into account and set the example for the rest of the country to follow in pursuit of foreign language education.

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