Foreign languages: Where can they take you?


Emma Gallian

In Ms. Paganelli’s Italian III class, students learn about Palio di Siena, a horse race in Siena, Italy held twice each year.

By Isabel Wojcik, Reporter

After three years of looking around a classroom that held landscapes depicting travels to Peru, Columbia and Argentina, Anna Pupa was faced with a complicated decision when it came to course programming.

Pupa, Div. 074, debated whether she would like to continue her current track and take Spanish for a fourth year, or choose a different elective to help her decide on a possible college major.

She is bilingual in Polish and English and has considered not taking a fourth year of Spanish because it would prevent her from being able to take classes like Anatomy or Psychology.

“I am already fluent in Polish, so I would prefer to take another class other than Spanish that would benefit me more and be less stressful with my schedule,” Pupa said.

Nathan Polizzi, Div. 081, who has taken three years of Italian at Lane, said that he loves learning a new language because it has taught him new writing techniques.

“Studying things such as verb conjugations from another perspective really helped me understand how they work in English better,” Polizzi said.

However, Polizzi decided to take Cyber Security instead of Italian because it would work better within his schedule and be a more helpful experience for him to determine his major of interest.

“If the civics requirement wasn’t necessary to graduate, and if I had space in my schedule, I would definitely be taking a fourth year of Italian, because I really do enjoy it,” Polizzi said.

According to a report by the American Councils for International Education, more than 92 percent of students have been learning another language since the age of six in European countries.  

In the United States, however, only 20 percent of K-12 students are enrolled in a foreign language. Throughout the U.S., only 10 states have foreign language requirements for high school students, according to the American Council for International Education.

With one of those states being Illinois, CPS requires students to take at least two years of a foreign language in high school. Additionally, Lane has its own standards and requires students to complete at least three years of a language.

“I think Lane requires students to take three years of language so that they are more likely to take a fourth year of language, most likely as an AP level class, which will in turn increase the school’s AP classes taken at Lane which will in turn help increase the schools rating,” Polizzi said.

Ms. Esguerra, who teaches Spanish I and II, said that one reason students take an AP language course is to help them prepare for the state biliteracy test. The biliteracy test, when passed, adds an additional seal to a student’s diploma which proves that the student is fluent in speaking and comprehension of that language.

Esguerra also said that learning a second language is a very valuable skill for high school students.

“It’s not only valuable for school and looking good on paper, it actually increases your IQ. By you being able to transfer over from language to language, it gives you a different outlook and a different set of skills. Your brain process is very different,” Esguerra said.

According to a study done by the National Education Association, students who have studied a language for four or more years have better listening and memorization skills, and therefore demonstrate higher scores on standardized tests and exhibit cognitive flexibility.

Max Rains, Div. 067, plans to complete four years of Arabic, because he said it will help him prepare for future endeavors, especially college applications.

Colleges such as Stanford, University of Michigan and Williams College imply that applicants who take more than two years studying a language would strengthen an application more, according to ThoughtCo.  

“If I can claim that I’m fluent in a language like Arabic, it will help with future job applications by showing intelligence and strength in understanding foreign languages,” Rains said. “It also shows your perseverance and dedication when you apply to college.”