If you took foreign language courses in high school, you might not even have them as a requirement when you get to college. But if you have yet to take a foreign language when you arrive at the ivory tower, chances are you may find yourself with a couple of semesters to fill in your schedule. Luckily, most colleges offer several options for languages, so you can choose from a wide variety of Asian, European, Middle Eastern, South American, and even dead dialects (like Latin). In some cases you’ll have access to rarer languages, as well. It all depends on the institution of higher learning you attend. But with all of these options to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which language you actually want to learn. So here are some things to consider before you pick.
- Your Interests. Most college students have dreams of seeing the world. But amidst this blanket statement you can usually narrow it down to just a handful of countries and cultures that make your bucket list. And if you’re interested in one locale in particular, it’s probably a good idea to learn the language so as to bring your dreams of international travel a little closer. In this day and age, you hardly need to learn the language of every country you visit – many speak English and if not, there is plenty of translation software to help you get by. But there’s a level of respect you show when you know the native language and it will only help you to immerse yourself in the culture and enjoy a more rounded experience when you travel.
- Your major. Suppose you’re going for an MBA with an emphasis in international business. You might want to think about learning Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Spanish, or any number of languages that you might find useful in the course of your career. Where you plan to live and work may also play a role in your decision. For example, those who live in south-western states like Texas, Arizona, and California will probably find bilingual studies in English and Spanish conducive to professional interactions.
- Cultural heritage. The language you opt to learn need not be decided by your future; instead you could make your selection based on your family history. If you are descended from other cultures, as nearly all Americans are, you might be keen to learn the Irish, German, Russian, Asian, or African dialect your family spoke before they adopted American English.
- Sister schools/study abroad. Many U.S. schools form partnerships with schools overseas as a way to promote learning in its many forms and ease the transition for students looking to study abroad. So you might want to ask about the study abroad opportunities offered by your college or university, as well as sister schools in other countries. This could help you to choose a foreign language to study and a country to visit during your time in school.
- Helpful apps. If you’re still not sure which language is calling to you, try checking out introductory lessons through a variety of apps for your mobile devices. Some, like Duolingo, are totally free, while others, like Rosetta Course (from the makers of Rosetta Stone) let you sample the first lesson in any language for free. And once you’ve selected a language you prefer, you can always use Rocket Italian or Rocket Spanish review courses to keep you up to snuff.