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Prepare Your Students for College – Encourage Them to Learn a Foreign Language(Guest Post)

Susan Taylor is a freelance writer who loves travel, foreign languages, and curling up with a good book.

No matter what grade you teach, it’s never too early to start preparing your students for college. Colleges want the best and brightest, which doesn’t always translate to just the highest IQ. They want students with full backgrounds in diverse activities, who will bring some honor and stature to their school. Aside from joining clubs, doing volunteer work, and yes, getting good grades, students of all ages can benefit from learning a second language in preparation for the college world and beyond.

High school students often take a foreign language as part of their curriculum. It’s a popular elective, and some schools even require students to take a language like Spanish, depending on where the school is located. If students really want to take advantage of how language skills can help them get into college, they may want to supplement their classes with outside courses, and learn Spanish—or another language—on their own, which you may want to encourage as their teacher. Here’s why.

Improved SAT Scores

You may have never thought that learning another language could help your students with their SATs. After all, the entire test is English and Math, so how is knowing Spanish, French, or any other language going to help them? Actually, learning another language can help them to understand English structure and vocabulary better. This is especially true of Latin-based languages that share many cognates (words that sound alike in more than one language) with English.

In addition, because most students probably grew up speaking just English, much of the grammar and structure is second nature to them. Having to think about how a second language is structured causes them to be more conscious of English structure and grammar, thereby understanding it more thoroughly and not taking it for granted. A higher SAT score increases their chances of being accepted to more discriminating colleges.

Unique Study Opportunities

Speaking a second language opens up an entire world of study opportunities to students later on in their academic careers. Student exchange programs take place throughout the calendar year, not just the school year, and are organized by several independent organizations not affiliated with high schools. Knowing a second language can help students secure a position in an exchange program, which could be a very valuable and educational experience for them.

Studying abroad is about much more than reading or writing in a foreign language. Students will have the chance to interact with people of other cultures, learn their traditions and customs, and expand their understanding of the world. They’ll get the chance to travel, and see sights they otherwise might never be able to experience. Being able to speak the language of the country is where their knowledge will only enrich those experiences. And then when it comes time to apply for and interview with colleges, their time overseas could help to demonstrate a willingness to learn new things, and show that they are open to new experiences and challenges. This can make them good candidates for special programs in college as well, and will help them stand out as much more attractive prospects.

Advancement in Fields of Study

Depending on their major, a foreign language can propel students further toward their career goals. Are any of them hoping to become doctors some day? Knowing a Latin-based language such as French, Italian, or Spanish can help them learn the Latin medical terminology more quickly. Many medical terms are also rooted in Greek, so that language could help them in that endeavor as well.

If your students end up choosing a major like foreign relations, global economics, or even biology, second language skills can come in handy. They may wish to participate in a field study group with biologists collecting specimens in the South American rain forest. Spanish or Portuguese would help them get around during their stay, and communicating with local team members would be much easier. Being able to communicate with them will allow your students to share information, and build relationships that may last throughout their careers.

These are just a few examples of how learning a foreign language can help your students get into a good college, and enrich their lives in many ways. Language skills are something they can carry with them always, and helping them learn a new language may give them an advantage not only in college, but in the job market once they graduate.

Susan Taylor is a freelance writer who loves travel, foreign languages, and curling up with a good book.

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