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As our world continues to globalize, speaking more than one language has become essential.

Learning a foreign language allows for better communication and collaboration. It also improves a person’s analytical and memory skills and most importantly, provides more career opportunities.

Being at least bilingual allows you to connect with more people. Think about it: learning Mandarin would allow you to speak with over a billion people around the world, while studying Hindi would allow you to speak to 650 million people. Additionally, speaking with someone in their native language leads to a better understanding of their culture and allows for a truly immersive experience.

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Numerous studies, including at York University in Toronto, Canada, have proven the benefits of being multilingual. Brain scanning has shown that bilingual people have more gray matter in regions of their brains that deal with executive function, improving their short-term memory and attention span. Additionally, the ability to switch between two languages ​​helps bilingual people handle multiple complex topics at once and keep their brains active.

Meanwhile, studies with babies under the age of one who have been exposed to more than one language show they have better cognitive abilities than babies who haven’t. Research also shows that children who study a foreign language improve their math skills, excel in other disciplines, and are more creative.

Learning a foreign language is good for your health and allows you to explore the world. Photo: Shutterstock

Language learning is also good for our health; it can delay dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by about 4.5 years or even prevent their development. Even the most effective drugs can only delay the symptoms of these diseases for 6-12 months.

Speaking more than one language can expand your career options. It could also make it easier to find internships or jobs in different countries and help you earn more money. In fact, MIT economist Albert Saiz calculated a 2% salary premium for bilingual American college graduates.

Being multilingual has countless advantages. As such, I believe the study of at least one foreign language should be compulsory for all students.

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Against: Valerie Chiu, 12, St Mary’s Canossian College

If you google the phrase “learn a new language”, there are plenty of websites showing how it can help you become a global citizen, better understand a different culture, and improve your listening and memory skills. Given its many benefits, it’s understandable why so many people think that learning a foreign language should be compulsory in school.

Nevertheless, let’s dive deeper into the process of perfecting a new language, which takes time, effort, and enthusiasm.

To begin with, learning a foreign language is difficult and time-consuming. According to the Center for Applied Studies in Second Languages, only 15% of high school students can converse fluently on everyday topics in a second language, even after four years of classes.

Students are already stressed enough – why add more to their plate? Photo: Shutterstock

In addition, everyone is interested in learning different subjects. For example, some enjoy studying a foreign language, while others are obsessed with math, science, art, or music. If students were to spend time learning a language that does not interest them, they would miss the opportunity to develop their skills in a subject that interests them.

“It is unwise to insist that students spend five years in a subject for which they have no interest or show no aptitude,” said Dr Kevin Williams, of the Institute of Mater Education. Dei of Dublin, Ireland. “I wouldn’t want to deny any student the opportunity to study another language, no matter how weak. But this is different from trying to force reluctant learners against their will to study a foreign language.

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Learning a language requires enthusiasm. If someone is not interested in studying, say, Spanish or French, then learning will not be a fun experience.

Students should have the opportunity to study the subjects they love. Then they are more likely to succeed in school and use their skills to become something big.

It is not wise to force students to learn a language against their will. Instead, schools should offer a variety of learning options to choose from. The foreign language could be one of them, but there should be other choices like art, music or sports, to name a few. Since students already have so many required courses, this would give them more flexibility in their learning.