6 college tips for learning a foreign language

Many college students who study business are encouraged to learn a foreign language, such as Mandarin Chinese. But all students, regardless of major, can improve academics and boost their career opportunities.

There are many good reasons to learn a foreign language. (Credit: NAPPS)

There are many good reasons to learn a foreign language. (Credit: NAPPS)

Whether you decide to study Spanish, Chinese, Arabic or French, here are six college tips for learning a foreign language.

Six reasons to learn a foreign language

1. Boost your skills in a global economy. Whatever your major, endeavor to study a foreign language in college, advised Russell Berman, professor of Comparative Literature and German Studies at Stanford University, in “My View: Why language study should be part of your college experience,” posted on January 5, 2012, on CNN.com’s Schools of Thought. “Learning another language will open the door to another culture and enhance your career opportunities in the increasingly global economy. Having strong skills in another language may give you an edge when applying for a job,” said Berman. He adds that a foreign language strengthens your intellectual profile and will make you more competitive.

2. Decide which language to take. There are so many languages and so many reasons to be fluent in them. Mandarin Chinese is the go-to language for the budding business executive or entrepreneur. “Everyone’s talking about how China is going to take over the world. Whether or not that is true is irrelevant to the fact that if you become any kind of entrepreneur or businessperson, you’re certain to deal with China. Printing, manufacturing, outsourcing, construction, finance – it’s all there,” said Dr. Ali Binazir in “The Best Languages to Learn in College,” posted in Huffington Post, November 18, 2011. Also consider the difficulty of Chinese and the determination you’ll need to learn it, said Binazir.

For other language choices, Spanish and French are useful right here in the United States as well as much of the rest of the world. Russian, Arabic, Korean and Japanese are also useful in business dealings. German is good to know of if you want to read philosophy and literature from German authors in their native language. And Italian is the language of love, great food, and opera.

3. Take classes with a native speaker. Although apps and online language programs like Rosetta Stone offer convenience, an introduction to a language and easy access to vocabulary, sitting in a class with a native speaker is the most thorough way to learn a foreign language. With a teacher in front of you, you learn inflection, conversation, nuances of language and even things like facial expressions and body language. The language truly comes to life.

4. Immerse yourself in the language. “Many foreign language professors agree that immersion is the unparalleled method of absorbing another language. Students who want to learn a new language should take advantage of study abroad programs available to them during their college years to accelerate the process,” noted Brian Burnsed in “4 Tips to Learn a Foreign Language in College,” posted in U.S. News & World Report, February 9, 2011. Also, use your school’s language labs outside of class to hear the language in action, boost vocabulary and hear the flow of the language in conversation.

5. Improve your own language skills. The process of learning another language’s vocabulary and grammar actually improves your knowledge and use of your own native language. With a second language under your belt, you learn to compare languages, interpret between languages, communicate better, increase vocabulary in both languages, and think about word choice, usage and meaning.

6. Take a language just for fun. Remember, you can take a language just for fun, not just for career prospects. Maybe your grandparents are from Poland and you’d like to surprise them with some phrases from their native country. Maybe you love Japanese animation and manga and want to read some comics in the original Japanese. Or you went to Paris on a school trip, fell in love with the city and want to return speaking some French.

If you took a foreign language class in college, which language and why?

1 reply
  1. Joy Butler says:

    I agree that immersion can be a great way to develop your speaking skills when you are learning another language. Learning a language through online college course can be difficult but it could be encouraging to schedule a trip to a country that speaks the language you are learning. A study abroad can be a once and a life time opportunity.


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