The Power of Students as World Language Advocates

Global studentsWhat are the benefits of learning another language? As language teachers, we can recite a long list of reasons for learning another language and share numerous personal anecdotes to illustrate the benefits. But how do you think your students would answer the question, “Why are you taking French/German/Spanish/Chinese/Latin/ other? They might say “to get into college” or “to get a better job.” While those replies are accurate, we know that it reflects only a small part of the lifelong value of learning another language. It is worth taking time to make sure that students understand how knowing another language has much broader implications in the areas of academic achievement, cognitive benefits, and the development of world viewpoints.

How can you share and demonstrate the benefits of learning another language with your students?

Daily instruction: The best advocates for learning languages are students who feel that they can really use the language and can relate to the culture being studied. We need to make sure we focus on teaching within (rather than about) the language and that the students understand the interdisciplinary connections that can be made.

Visual displays: A quick image search for “benefits of learning a world language infographic” provides many links to promotional materials, many of which are available for download or digital display.

Links at your class website: If you have a website, you may already have a “Why Learn another Language” link. Invite your students to search for resources that show why knowing another language is beneficial and share them with others at the website. A scavenger hunt for these resources might be a World Languages Week activity.

Inspiration: Share success stories. Invite former students who have benefitted in some way through language study or international experiences. An inspirational speaker may be a former German student who is currently a businessman in Korea, who learned about appreciating cultural differences in your class. A page at your class website can be an on-going forum for former students to share their experiences beyond your classroom.

You can share student interviews that promote language learning. Stacie Berdan, an expert in international business and advocate for global competency, shares multiple student interviews at her YouTube channel. An example is Andrea Arreguin.

Your students may also be inspired by Tim Doner who speaks over twenty languages. A short video can be found here: Teen Speaks Over Twenty Languages or his inspiring TedxTalk called “Breaking the language barrier”.

Sharing Valuable Resources: In the September Evoice, I referred to the ACTFL resource “What the Research Shows,” a compilation of many research studies that document the benefits of language learning.

evoice image-mascot

School mascot promotes Latin at Wayland Academy

With the research results at your fingertips, you can share documented evidence with your

students. A reasonable challenge might be to make sure they can list at least five reasons why learning another language is beneficial. The next step is to encourage them to share that information beyond your classroom!

Note: In the next Evoice, watch for an article written by a Wisconsin student (Wayland Academy) about why she is taking three languages.


How does language learning support academic achievement?

How does language learning provide cognitive benefits to students?

How does language learning affect attitudes and beliefs about language learning and about other cultures?

Language is about being able to converse with people, to see beyond cultural boundaries and find a shared humanity. And that’s a lesson well worth watching: Go Global!

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