Think back to your high school self: you’re in your second week as a sophomore in high school, taking five courses, and you’re home about to study for a foreign language test the next day. But studying for this particular class is different from the others.
For better or for worse, everything about studying for this class is unlike anything you’ve learned before. You pick up your notebook and read aloud to yourself:
“El Ella Ud. Habla”
“Ellos Ellas Uds. Hablan”
If this brings up sore memories of sitting in a classroom endlessly conjugating verbs in Spanish (or whatever your language of choice was), you understand the pain.
You sat for nearly an hour a day, every day, for a few years, because—since 1975—your high school required at least two years of it. And, if you were college-bound, colleges required at least two, if not three years of completed language courses to just apply. You had to take these classes simply to tick a box on an application.
For most, if not all, of you in that classroom, you lived through the boredom and frustration that often felt like a colossal waste of your time. You had other, more important competing interests, and this class, well, it was hardly your priority. And, to make matters worse, you were surrounded by classmates who also had zero interest in learning it. That certainly didn’t help your motivation to learn it. The class just slogged along endlessly. Your only goal then was to get an A for the sake of your transcript, whether you learned the language or not. It didn’t matter.
For Most, it Didn’t Stick
The sad truth of all this is, when Americans were asked if they actually use any knowledge from their foreign language classes, it was reported that .7 percent, or only one student out of one hundred, can claim fluency of a language they were taught in an American high school or college. Considering that means that less than 1 percent of almost nine million of our nation’s students who were enrolled in foreign language classes in 2008 actually became fluent, this is a noteworthy and disappointing statistic. It’s not hard to see why many Americans unfortunately feel studying foreign languages is a waste of time. But, the thing is, research proves learning a new language is good for us. It improves our cognition, makes us more creative, and helps us see things from other points of view.
My post isn’t to make a comment on the effectiveness of how foreign language is currently being taught. But rather, how important foreign language is … beyond simply knowing Spanish, French, or German, etc.
The Language Not Being Offered
There’s a foreign language more critical to your career than any other that is currently offered at high schools and even colleges. It’s a language that, if fluent in it, would:
- help you win friends and influence people
- master nonverbal communication techniques, including body language and intuition
- provide confidence to boldly deliver messages with purpose
- give you the ability to listen with intent
What language is this? The language of leading. A language that allows you communicate in such a way that you’ll be prepared to succeed in not only in school, but in your career, in your life.
Over the next several months, I’ll be posting critical elements of this new language and how integrating these skills will help you dramatically improve your ability to communicate in a way that will enhance your career and life in general. In the meantime, learn more about effective ways to communicate and improve your career in my book, A Climb to The Top.
 Bryan Caplan, “The Numbers Speak: Foreign Language Requirements Are a Waste of Time and Money,” Library of Economics and Liberty, (2012): http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/08/the_marginal_pr.html.
 The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, “Foreign Language Enrollments in K-12 Public Schools: Are Students Prepared for a Global Society?” (2008), https://www.ced.org/pdf/actfl-k12-foreign-language-for-global-society.pdf.
 Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, “Why Bilinguals Are Smarter,” New York Times, (2012): http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-benefits-of-bilingualism.html.