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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Get your foreign language on

    This weekend marks the beginning of the registration period for students at the UA, which will continue over the next few weeks. And so begins the period of deliberation: Is it worth getting up at 7 a.m. to get the professor you want? Which Tier II looks best?

    As you plan your schedule, here’s another question you should be asking yourself: How about a foreign language class this semester?

    Fewer than 10 percent of university students are studying a foreign language, according to a recent study released by the Committee for Economic Development, a nonpartisan think tank of business leaders and educators. In certain majors, it’s possible to graduate from the UA without taking a single foreign language class.

    Facts like these reflect a myopic ignorance of the growing importance of international connectivity in our increasingly globalized world. As Americans, we tend to assume that the rest of the world will always be willing to operate in our language, on our terms. The rest of the world, however, has a different story to tell.

    When the RAND Corporation surveyed correspondents from 16 global corporations, though the technical skills of American students were praised, many managers criticized graduates of U.S. universities for their linguistic incompetence and general lack of understanding of foreign cultures. And according to author Michael Marquardt, American companies lose an estimated $2 billion a year due to insufficient cross-cultural guidance for their employees.

    Though we may certainly recognize the pervasiveness of globalization on a macro level – like when we purchase goods made in foreign countries – our ability to recognize on a personal level is limited. An understanding of increased international connections should lead to an understanding of the necessity and importance of being able to communicate with the rest of the world. Regardless of whether you become a kindergarten teacher or a sales rep for a multinational corporation, knowing how to communicate in a tongue other than English will benefit you.

    Eighty percent of graduates of the renowned Thunderbird School of Management, where students are required to take several semesters of a foreign language, reported that their foreign language skills enhanced their business edge.

    Not only that, but learning a foreign language is good for your brain. According to a recent study conducted at the University College in London, language study affects the brain in a way similar to how exercise affects the body.

    Convinced yet?

    Why not consider taking one of the languages that will grow in importance as our generation grows up? Hindi, Mandarin, Farsi, Arabic: These languages are all becoming extremely important, yet they are still rarely studied by college students. Case in point: Arabic, though growing in importance, represents just 0.8 percent of all language classes taken at U.S. universities.

    This next semester is your chance to start to capitalize on all the benefits of speaking another language. Don’t miss this opportunity: register for a foreign language class.

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