Date of Award
School of Unrestricted Education
Dr. Grace Veach
In the past half-century, Americans have had ongoing issues with foreign language instruction. Around 1970, the number of foreign language classes began to decline, and funding slowly began to disappear. Although some proficiency tests and requirements have been put in place, no nationwide requirements for foreign language instruction exist for public high schools. The foreign language requirements for entrance into college used to be more prevalent and followed, but studies have shown that 84% of four-year schools do not require foreign language credits (The History of Foreign Language Education in the United States Timeline 1). Because of this lack of regulation and consistency, the U.S. government should change the foreign language requirements for graduation through a federally enacted legislative mandate. This mandate would effectively make Americans more hospitable, increase alignment with needs for life after high school, impact America’s diverse economy, improve diplomacy and foreign relations, and strengthen the health of Americans who are bilingual.
Because our nation continues to welcome and embrace sojourners, we can show our hospitality by communicating and building relationships with our guests/sojourners. Sadly, most Americans today are only fluent in English and are unable to cross these language and communication barriers. The lack of strong high school foreign language regulations not only diminishes America's ability to communicate effectively and hospitably but also decreases high school graduates’ acceptance into most college programs. Many competitive college programs require that applicants have completed at least two years of a foreign language, whereas the more competitive schools require more years of foreign language study (Grove 1). However, “throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia, 20% of K-12 students are enrolled in foreign language classes” (Devlin 1). The college acceptance rates are not the only thing that suffers because of the lack of regulations, but also our international economy, foreign relations, and diplomacy. If America is unable to communicate with those within its borders, what expectations exist that it can effectively communicate with those outside of its borders? Increasing the requirement for foreign language fluency will also increase the pool of eligible candidates to fill necessary jobs that require foreign language fluency, as well as improving the ability to communicate, work, and collaborate internationally. Moreover, bilingualism provides resistance to and adds protection against brain deterioration. “According to some studies, monolingual adults tend to show the first signs of dementia at the average age of 71. This is in contrast to bilingual individuals who show their first symptoms around 76 years old” (de Miguel 1).
To achieve these benefits, a national mandate requiring high school students become fluent in at least one foreign language must be enacted. The national mandate requires students in public schools to complete at least four years of the same foreign language study, so that students graduate high school being able to speak and understand a foreign language. Because the mandate requires fluency, the plan will address who is determining “fluency,” how fluency will be measured, and how the mandate will be funded.
A federal mandate for foreign language instruction is necessary in order to make Americans more hospitable, increase alignment with needs for life after high school, impact America’s diverse economy, improve diplomacy and foreign relations, and strengthen the health of Americans who are bilingual.
Youmans, Elizabeth M., "The Necessity of Second Language Learning" (2020). Classical Conversations. 11.