Rise of new languages demands alternatives

Shivangi Singh

In a world where Internet is used by more than 50 million people, with the numbers doubling annually, where foreign-exchange markets have increased a thousand-fold between the mid-1970s and 1996 and where international trade has grown a 12-fold, it seems imperative we must be cognizant of the market.

But with RBHS deriving four out of its five language offerings — Spanish, French, Latin and German — from Western European societies, students are again taught the society they live in. The other, Japanese, isn’t enough to make up the lack of diversity seen in the foreign language curriculum.

Because of this shortcoming, not only are students not as linguistically aware but they are also not as culturally educated. For example, the French curriculum at RBHS, like that of other languages, does not only teach students the nuances of the language; instead, it combines the language skills with an exploration of the countries that speak French – the same European ones.

By not learning about other cultures, students are being left out of the globalization trend; they will not be able to keep pace with the countries that really matter today.

In addition, by offering languages that have slowed in growth, RBHS has further minimized students’ access to the global world. According to a study Modern English Education conducted between 2002 and 2006, Spanish had the highest enrollment at U.S. colleges in 2006 but only had a 10.3 percent increase in enrollment since 2002. French only went up 2.2 percent whereas Chinese classes increased by 51 percent and Arabic a 126.5 percent.

French and Spanish are still the highest in demand maybe because they have been for the last century, but other languages, such as Chinese and Arabic, are gaining more interest. French and Spanish may have been the basis of communication in the 19th-century, but in a world with booming competition, Arabic and Chinese triumph.

French and Spanish lost their statuses as languages of business when Mandarin Chinese and Arabic became the language of 845 and 221 million people respectively, according to Bloomberg.

These dominating languages, however, are not offered at RBHS. That doesn’t mean learning Spanish and French aren’t important, but if students want to be able to compete with the economies and cultures of today, a change is necessary.

RBHS should include more than just one non-European language in its course offerings. The language department must realize the transformation of “nice to have” languages to essentially “must-haves.”
By Shivangi Singh