Removing the Language Barrier

Frances Wu, Contributing Writer

Although thousands of languages are spoken around the world, many of us consider only knowing English to be sufficient because of its international influence. However, when colleges present guidelines for “ideal applicants,” many students jump at the chance to gain an advantage when applying. This leads students to take years of foreign language classes, simply to appease colleges.
One important course requirements for college is foreign language. But because such a large amount of knowledge must be processed in such a short amount of time, students generally aren’t learning the languages very proficiently.
Students still only have four years, including summer breaks, to learn a foreign language in high school. Even if students manage to stay on top of everything that’s taught in class, they will still forget much of the class’ lessons by the end of the day. This is because most high school students don’t put in the extra dedication needed to master the language outside of their class period.
For those who juggle multiple AP classes and extracurricular activities, it can be tough to focus on a foreign language when there is so much other work to do. Due to the time and work required to learn a new language, students skip practices and do their homework carelessly. Simply scraping by with a basic knowledge of the language makes students’ grammar coarse and unrefined, something that can only be fixed by years of time and work.
Students aren’t the only ones at fault; teachers make a big impact as well. In most Spanish classes, teachers have their students play games that involve memorizing only the topics they are currently learning. This results in students being glued to their vocabulary lists and cramming frantically the day before a test.
This problem also exists in oral exams, in which students usually go in with almost complete certainty about the prompt. As a result, students can write down a whole speech and go off memory during the exam. Teachers should create new prompts to create an element of surprise.
To communicate in a different language, one cannot just memorize. Normal speech is spontaneous and on-the-spot. If students always take exams knowing the prompt beforehand, their speaking skills will remain basic and stiff, and they will never learn how to speak colloquially.
Changes need to be made in order for students to retain more knowledge. More time should be spent with different learning activities that review prior lessons in addition to new material. Since students are so devoted to going to a good college and take difficult classes to look well-rounded on their applications, they might as well work hard and learn properly.