Should studying a second language be compulsory?

While some countries make it mandatory for students to learn a second language, many leave it up to the students to decide. Studies have shown that there are cognitive benefits from learning a second language, like improved memory, so should studying a second language be compulsory? Why or why not?


@Debaters

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I don’t think it should be compulsory, no, but highly recommended, sure. Only in cases where schools do have the options of many languages to choose from. ‘Cause some just don’t have the resources or teachers to cater to teaching multiple languages.
So based on that, no, I don’t believe it should be compulsory

And I am going to say compulsory, because if I was forced to learn a second language, I want everyone else to be forced to, as well. :rofl: There are so many benefits to knowing another language. Sneak-talking to family in a country where your language isn’t usually heard, making all kinds of new friends, being your own tour guide…

In my school we were given mandatory classes on French and Spanish until year 9 then we had the option to pick it at GCSE. I don’t really mind the basic studying we did from year 7-9 but I still don’t think even that should be compulsory, at the end of the day some people struggle picking up on other languages even in their basic form and they will always be at a disadvantage. Plus imagine if someone was only able to communicate non verbally, they wouldn’t be able to do the spoken stuff. No matter what your cut off is, somebody gets excluded.

So no I don’t think it should be mandatory I really think people should be able to pick what clssses they want to do!

We HAVE TO learn a language starting in 7th grade and ending in 12th. But I don’t think it should be mandatory

while it annoys me that some gringos will somehow forget the fact that languages other than english exist (i have personally lived through this), i don’t think a second language should be compulsory.
english as a second language IS compulsory for me, from first grade to now that i’m trying to graduate uni (we either have to take classes or to take the TOEFL or the IELTS and get a certain score on them in order to be able to graduate). but i know that learning languages, as anything else, kinda becomes more boring when it’s compulsory, and i’d hate if people came to hate learning languages because they were forced to

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Okay, I think I might actually have an interesting perspective on this as someone who was forced in high school to study 4 foreign languages (English (6 years), French (3 years), German (3 years) and Spanish (5 years)).

When I was in highschool I wasn’t too happy with all these languages, learning 3 different languages with different grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, it was a lot and very confusing at time. Sorry not sorry, but I especially didn’t like French in school, so much grammer, it just wasn’t fun, and they always had so high expectations from us (only talking in French to us from the 2nd year onwards, and if you dared to make a mistake, well, they weren’t happy). So no wonder all that work didn’t pay off and I don’t remember much but Bonjour, Merci, de rien and counting to 10.

This is kinda my main point, teaching kids a language simply for the sake of teaching them a language, that’s not good. The usability of the language after school is very important, how much will you be putting it in practice? Does that weight up to all the effort you have to put into learning a language. You can teach someone a language, but if they don’t get into contact with it enough, that knowledge fades over time. In this is also some casual criticism on the way languages are taught in schools in my experience, mostly focused on one to one translation of words, I remember getting points multiple times as I had written a synonym instead of the one word on the list. This just leads to studenten who ‘stamp’ words, learning the list with almost brute force, which will usually end up in the short term memory instead of contributing to the knowledge on the language. Skills like listening, speaking and reading is much more important. Skills you actually need to be able to interact with a language, not a ton of useless words.

So, in short, yes, I do think 1 language is great, as long as that language is actually useful in the life of students after school, but I think the way we teach languages should be adjusted a bit.

(Also, I still feel a bit salty they forced me to study all these languages even if I had dyslexia and it was a challenge for me. All because I ‘scored sufficiently’ in them, yeah, because at times I sacrificed my mental health by working so hard on them to keep up)

I actually did an essay on this and no, it’s been proven that forcing somebody to learn a language is a form of abuse
Now obviously studying a language is different, I have a French GCSE and they didn’t teach me how to be fluent in French, but being compulsory with this kind of thing just doesn’t sit with me.

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oooh can you tell us more about this? i’d never seen it put this way

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I’ll have to see if I can find the journal articles but of course colonisation involved exploiting people who didn’t understand the language of the colonisers but iirc there was instances of people being forced to learn the language which as you can imagine wouldn’t have good results.

But it’s also along the lines of forcing non-verbal people to speak!

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oooh i think i know where you’re coming from!
and yeah forcing people to learn a language played such a messy part in colonisation (i’m reading Bartolomé de las Casas these days and what he says about how Spanish culture (religion and language) was imposed is actually so interesting)

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Yeah, I can definitely understand this.

Personally, I wish I was forced in school to learn a second language. I feel like we live in a world that’s so divergent in languages in general, and the fact that they leave it up to a child (I’m thinking elementary-high school-er) is kind of crazy in my mind. Plus, the language boom happens in elementary school and I just wish I was forced or at least exposed to different languages in Elementary School and Middle School. Especially where I live, I feel like Spanish is so important and I’m kind of disappointed looking back that I didn’t take the chance to learn it when I was given the opportunity.

So as long as school funds allow it, I believe that there should, indeed, be some sort of compulsory language lessons in Elementary - High School Years. That being said, I don’t think these classes should be graded. Again, I despise the way the US school system works in general, but many studies have shown that focusing a class on learning instead of grades fosters the learning aspect of it.

I don’t know, just personal thoughts

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This is a good point

I can only speak for my province, but in Ontario, students have to take French from grades 4-9 (grade 9 French is a requirement for high school graduation). After that, it becomes a choice. The reason we do so is to acknowledge the fact that French is one of Canada’s official languages. A lot of students end up dropping French after gr 9 because they don’t do well in it.

If the classes weren’t graded, maybe more people would stick with it

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I had to, and I chose German. Ich Liebte es. (I loved it.)

Well, for a lot of non-english speaking countries, English is already compulsory. I guess since the whole world speaks English, it would be necessary for everyone to learn it to communicate properly with people across the world.

But I’m not sure if it should be compulsory, forcing students to learn something they don’t want to would be a bad idea, but it would be very useful to know a second language either way. Maybe the basics should be mandatory but the rest would be the student’s choice, instead of learning how to write stuff like argumentative essays like in my English class.

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Yeah that’s how it is here, at least, and it being compulsory makes kids who have a harder time grasping it end up hating the class and language (and usually language learning) altogether

This doesn’t help people not liking English, though
i know a lot of cultures dislike English being seen as “the world language” or whatever, so it being reinforced like “you HAVE to learn english because it’s useful for blablabla” will end up putting them off even more

in my case, i was lucky and always liked language learning (learning my fourth and fifth languages rn :3) but, for example, my sister struggled more and ended up disliking English classes in general
and it really shows in how we both understand and use english even now as adults

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It’s the same here, we have 2 additional compulsury languages along with our native one. I’ve met a lot of people who hate language learning and just cheat on the exams anyway

Also true

It is unfair that English became the norm for everyone to know, because there’s nothing else that sets it apart from other languages. English speaking people won’t even need a second language in that case.

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oh dang, that’s a lot
i can imagine people feeling burnt out and resenting this, so them trying the bare minimum makes sense
and this reminded me of another point i had! not being allowed to learn things at one’s own pace will, more often than not, make them resentful of the classes, both for people who are faster and slower than the pace of the class

agreed! it’s really unfair!
and a handful of english speaking monolinguals have taken this as a reason to put down other people who may be learning english as a second or third language, which i hate

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It is? The second one is English, third one is usually another european language like German or French. A lot of people don’t know how to speak the third language they learn, it’s just for the grade.

Yesss schools definitely need to adapt, but that’s an entirely different topic. I wish school systems weren’t so outdated

Honestly I’ve seen so many people judge others for their grammar online, but not everyone speaks English as their first language.