Busy students take on learning new languages

Megan Shovestull

According to a 2016 and 2017 Pew Research data, only 20 percent of U.S. primary and secondary school students are learning a foreign language. This data is almost completely opposite to the data in Europe where anywhere from 60 to 100 percent of students are learning at least one new language.

Miranda Smith, a freshman early education major, wants to eventually study American Sign Language to help children who are nonverbal or suffering from developmental issues.

Smith feels that it will be a while before she can devote time to learning a new language though.

“I’m a busy student and usually work at least 25 hours a week. I literally don’t have time to pick up more work right now, even if I really tried,” she said.

Smith’s sentiments toward feeling too busy or stressed to learn something new is not an unusual one among college students. In an annual 2016 report, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health found that 61 percent of students struggle with anxiety.

With students already enduring high amounts of stress and anxiety from their standard college work load, it can be difficult to learn a new language like their foreign counterparts already have.

Julia Tomlinson, a senior high school student, thinks it’s possible.

Tomlinson lived in El Paso, Texas, in her younger years before her family settled in Solon, Ohio, when she was about nine years old.

Living in El Paso, she was surrounded by Spanish speakers and was taught the language in school.

She remembers speaking Spanish fluently with her Hispanic friends when she was young.

After moving to Ohio, she stopped using her Spanish education because there was no longer a need to use it due to a lack of people around her who actually spoke the language. This led to her losing the fluency she once had.

“I eventually started learning it again when we had to choose a language to take in school. It felt a lot more difficult to pick up on than when I was learning it as a young kid,” Tomlinson said.

While there is some evidence that shows children may have certain advantages learning new languages, adults still possess the capacity to learn.

Tomlinson said that students who really want to learn a new language have great options, especially with the expansion of the digital education world.

“I use this app called Duolingo to brush up on my Spanish. It sends me notifications to practice and it’s completely free. There’s also a ton of other languages on the app for free,” Tomlinson said.

She also suggests studying abroad, making friends with native speakers, or trying an online class during the summer or a semester with a lighter workload.

“I will definitely consider trying to take a sign language class sometime soon,” Smith said. “I see the need for more Americans to be willing to learn a language besides English, even if the language isn’t verbal.”

Megan Shovestull is the humanities reporter. Contact her at [email protected].