Learning in high schools and colleges is becoming continually dynamic, with an increased globalization of life before, in and after college becoming more and more salient. This means that there is an augmented educational interaction among people from different parts of the world, and this interaction is enhanced by effective communication, which in turn depends on the language. For this reason, the introduction of foreign language classes in high schools and colleges has become an area attracting societal attention. However, this practice raises varied opinions, with some feeling that the foreign language studies should be mandatorily introduced in these institutions. On the other hand, others maintain that it should be an optional engagement left at the students’ discretion. The mainstream opinions arguing the two sides of the idea and the reason supporting the arguments are presented in this particular case.
Making the studies of foreign languages compulsory at colleges as well as in high schools is agreed with on the basis of intellectual development of a given student. It is through the studying of foreign languages that students interact with intellectual persons, a practice that broadens their intellectual and spiritual capabilities. In other words, foreign language lessons or studies expand the learners’ outlook and at the same time foster the growth of their intelligence growth through brain development. Garfinkel and Tabor (379) appreciate the significant role that extended study of foreign languages plays in the boosting children’s intelligence in terms of their reading scores. If this is possible at the elementary level of learning, then it means that extending the study of foreign languages in high schools and even colleges on compulsory basis serves as a peculiar means of enhancing intelligence in students. Through intelligence broadening, the students become slowly acquainted with a foreign nation’s histories, literatures and cultures among other distinguishing peculiarities through language.
The other point that supports the idea of making the study of foreign languages mandatory for high school and college students is the simplification of future students' tasks. Through obligatory mastery of foreign languages, students are relieved from the burden of creating time to learn the languages at a later date. The implication of this is that students with plans of proceeding with their academic pursuits on an abroad soil have their work simplified, since they spend time adjusting to new geographical conditions rather than undergoing linguistic and cultural orientation. Fouzia, Samina and Fazalur (1360) state that one of the factors and issues that acts as a great hindrance to smooth and effective adjustment for foreign students is language. This means that students who commit themselves to learning foreign languages never perceive language as a barrier upon entering a foreign land that use a particular language as the main language of communication. Consequently, the language difficulty that promotes lack of confidence as well as hampering the comprehending of tutors’ teachings is eliminated, thus fostering participation in class discussions.
Thirdly, studying foreign languages on a compulsory basis at high school and college levels serves as a means of steering students to potential international career opportunities. Being well acquainted with a foreign language presents an individual with a better chance of securing a job in a foreign setting, or in a local organization that adopt that language in administrative communication. Amanda (1-4) affirms this by mentioning that there are teaching jobs at high school and college levels that have attractive remunerations, thus encouraging students to continue learning foreign languages such as German, Japanese and Spanish among others. There are also institutional government and business jobs that require foreign language translators or interpreters, and, therefore a student learning the foreign language is likely to secure a job in fields associated with international collaboration and communication even immediately after schooling.
Lastly, due to the fact that no high school student is certainly aware of the college they are to join after secondary education, it is good that studying of foreign languages be done on a compulsory basis. This assists in ensuring that there is no breakage of the continuity of language learning that would potentially emanate from joining a college that do not offer such. A recommendation of two or more years of foreign language learning by a given clearly signals that studying the language, even for longer, helps in strengthening the individual application (Garfinkel & Tabor 380). This becomes crucial, especially in this age of globalization, where there is urgency in foreign language knowledge and proficiency to meet that requirement of active international integration. Due to this, there should be uninterrupted continuity in the language learning process, meaning that practicing it on a mandatory basis achieves this suitably. This and the other three reasons make the studying of foreign languages on a compulsory basis for two or more years a feasible idea to be adopted by high schools and colleges.
The practice of studying foreign languages in high schools and colleges should not be done on a compulsory basis, but rather on optional basis for the reason of talent and interest concentration. Students are talent in different ways, and at the same time they have diverse interests in the academic field. It has been established that the best manner in which a student’s talent can be nurtured is by giving that talent some substantial attention. The Department of Education in Brunswick affirms this by stating that there is specific attention and knowledge that require to be engaged in learning processes to effectively nurture students that are exceptionally talented(4). It should be noted that focusing on students’ interests and talents should go beyond the attempts to standardize and homogenize the systems of education. This is to state that it is through appropriate educational systems that promote careful nurturing of talents that gifted students become potential unique contributors the society and the world at large. For this reason, studying foreign languages should be optional for educational appropriateness to be achieved, bearing in mind that an effort to inflict forceful learning is destined to failure.
The element of academic freedom comes into play as far as foreign language learning of studying is concerned, and there should be curriculum liberty to some extent in the institutions of secondary and tertiary learning. This directly implies that the learning or studying of foreign languages should be an optional curriculum requirement. There should be an academic provision that avails students with sufficient paths of choosing what best fit them. This is to say that it would be archaic to deny students the this freedom selecting what shapes them best by making foreign language studying compulsory rather than optional. It is more fulfilling for learners or students to concentrate on subjects that are most interesting to them, and thus they should not be compelled to collective learning of foreign language literatures keeping in mind that they might be uninteresting to them. This is a fact discovered by the Department of Education in Brunswick, thus stating that one characteristic of giftedness in passionate concentration, in areas that are most interesting to one (11).
The third and the last reason as to why studying foreign languages should be learnt and taught on an optional basis rather than compulsory grounds is the notion that through immersion and experience culture is learned and assimilated. Arguing from a pluralistic point of view, this means that students do not need to be subject to compulsory foreign languages to learn foreign cultures, bearing in mind that some cultures may be incompatible. This strongly supports the studying of the foreign languages on an optional basis, as it would be impractical and time wasting to try to merge immiscible features of cultures. Learning is an ability developing or building process which can be hampered by compulsion, and adapting to new cultures in an effective manner is an internal ability (Fouzia, Samina and Fazalur 1360). This infers that optional learning of the foreign languages serves to build linguistic and cultural ability efficiently. Learning on an option basis does not reduce the importance of internalizing foreign languages and hence cultures, but only eliminates compulsion that can indeed hinder the achievement of the initial goals of teaching and learning the same, regardless of the time period.
The requirements of foreign language differ from college to college as well from school to school, and the exact requisites are often unclear for any specific institution. Indeed, there are some situations where the adequacy of the minimum requirement and time is questionable. It is a necessary requirement for the institutions to be certain of the standard requirements of the practice of studying foreign languages at both levels. This is a crucial instrument in assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of the optional criterion and the compulsory approaches. With this, the institutions are bound to adopt the approach that effectively and efficiently realizes the requirements of studying the foreign languages. It is worth to remember that whether on an optional or a compulsory basis, linguistic proficiency and satisfaction are the ultimate objectives.
Amanda M. McCoy “Careers in Foreign Languages”. 2006. Print. Available 20 March 2014,
Nouveau Brunswick: Educational Services Division (Anglophone). 2007. Print.
Fouzia Janjua, Samina Malik & Fazalur Rahman, “Learning Experiences and Academic
Adjustment of International Students: A Case Study from Pakistan”. Journal of Language Teaching and Research. Islamabad, Pakistan: Academy Publisher, 2, (6), pp. 1359-1365. November, 2011. Print.
Garfinkel, Alan & Tabor, K. E., “Elementary School Foreign Languages and English Reading
Achievement: A New View of the Relationship”. Foreign Language Annals, 24, (5),
375-382. 1991. Print.