There are numerous documented benefits to learning a second language, beyond the ability to converse with others with different cultures and backgrounds. But should the study of foreign language be mandatory at any point in a student’s educational career? There are many who believe that it should not—and support for this idea has numerous reasons for believing so.
There are presently around 6,000 distinct human languages but only 250 or so are included in the curricula of national school systems around the world (Coyne, 2013). The migrations of peoples from Europe into the Americas is the primary reason why only a few European languages are taught as first languages in these several countries. The expansion of the European world-system also meant the spread of the interstate system and nationalism, which suggested that every country would choose a language that best represented much of the population (Coyne, 2013). Within school curricula, second languages are general understood as providing access to culture and information beyond one’s own (Clark, 2007). When a second language is forced to be taught, it is usually due to colonizers or conquerors (Pecherskikh & Shishkina, 2015). The languages of the most prolific colonizers—namely English, French and Russian—are the most widely-studied (Coyne, 2013).
In North America, the incredible number of immigrants that were welcomed into this country were mostly assimilated into the English-speaking majority culture. Because of this, the United States is predominantly an English-speaking population and English is the first—and in many cases only language—spoken or read. Because of the spread of the English language after the Second World War, there is an overwhelming belief in this country that Americans do not need to learn a foreign language, because the rest of the world understands English—or ought to (Marcos & Peyton, 2002).