Language Learning at School- Is It Worth It?


A traveler at a destination in Spain. Image via GoinGlobal.

Ryan Nelson, Staff Writer

This is an opinion article piece. Ryan Nelson is a sophomore at Mendham who is a staff writer for the school newspaper. All opinions expressed in the following editorial are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Patriot.

When living in a country that predominantly speaks English, it’s easy to forget how not everyone can always understand what you’re saying. About 21% of Americans speak a language other than English- and nearly 9% cannot communicate as efficiently in English as they can in other languages (Liberty Language Services). Learning another language opens up countless new opportunities and allows you to communicate with new people, both in America and outside of it. 

As someone who lives in a family that only speaks English, the process of learning Spanish in school was a completely new experience for me. I was introduced to a new way of communication, and learning the new language allowed me to better understand a new culture. I really enjoy learning about the traditions of Spanish-speaking countries, and this research has allowed me to get closer to two friends of mine that are Brazillian.  One of my favorite Spanish teachers I’ve had was my Spanish teacher in elementary school. She was the one that really introduced me to the language and helped immerse me in the culture. Without her, I would not be as appreciative and interested in the Spanish language and culture as I am now. Some of my favorite activities in Spanish class have involved choosing a country to research and presenting a project about it, and a restaurant project in middle school where me and a partner had to research Spanish cuisine and make up a menu for our “restaurant”.

There have actually been a few occasions where I’ve had to use my knowledge of the language outside of class. In middle school, while I was waiting in line for a ride at Disney World with my dad, an announcement came over the loudspeaker announcing that the ride would be delayed for a few minutes. The announcement was in English, and there were two individuals behind us that were not very fluent. They tapped my dad on the back, pointed at the loudspeaker, and asked about the announcement in Spanish. Although I had a fairly limited vocabulary at the time, I was able to generally understand what they were saying and told them the ride had been delayed a bit. This was the first time I actually used by Spanish skills outside of the classroom, and it made me realize how important it is to know another language. Knowing Spanish allowed me to help those people, and as I continue my Spanish education and study American Sign Language independently, I hope I am able to communicate more effectively with others in the future as well.