My introduction to languages other than English was not particularly nuanced. There were some Spanish words on Sesame Street, some French words from a children’s language book I got for Christmas one year, and then a few weeks where the school librarian tried to teach fourth graders French. (To be fair, I still remember how to ask where the hospital is, so I think she can safely count the endeavor as a success). My first real introduction to a foreign language came in eighth grade, when you were able to choose between German or Spanish.
Now, common sense might dictate that Spanish was the better choice. After all, there are more Spanish-speakers in the world than German-speakers. The United States, bordered as it is by a Spanish-speaking country and with a high Spanish-speaking population, is a place where knowledge of Spanish is particularly useful. At the age of thirteen, though, other considerations came into mind. My last name is German, the German teachers had an excellent reputation in our school district, and German just seemed like a different language choice than most people made and I wanted to be unique and cool.
So I chose German. I took German all the way through high school and then two additional courses in college until I ran out of space in my schedule and began to focus on my major rather than electives or potential minors. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the importance of languages until after I had graduated and started looking at the kinds of jobs I wanted. I painfully became aware that knowledge of foreign languages is a pre-requisite to many careers, and a boon in many others. It isn’t that I regret taking German–I still think it is a cool language and I rarely meet people who speak it–but more that I wish I had been able to take more languages.
Unfortunately for high school students who are interested in languages, scheduling makes it impossible to take more than two languages. This means that college is the best time to really delve into languages. What has your experience been with learning foreign languages?