Virginia should eradicate world language requirements for some counties


Photo used with permission of Siddhi Surawkar

Caroline Parmentier from the University of Virginia joins French teacher Joellen Delamatta to speak about the importance of language in college on Jan. 11.

Siddharth Dhadi, Opinions Editor

As students flip through dozens of papers with dismay trying to find the French translation of a specific word, junior Krishiv Parekh questions the necessity of taking a foreign language in the first place.

“None of the languages offered at Chantilly or the academy are my first language,” Parekh said. “So, it is somewhat unfair that I am required to take foreign language courses to receive an advanced diploma.”

This problem is not faced just by Parekh, but by FCPS at large, which has over 200 languages spoken. As such, a majority of Fairfax County students already have the knowledge or access to learn foreign languages through their families. 

“I personally speak Gujarati and Hindi at home,” Parekh said. “Almost occasionally do we ever speak English.”

Even more than the ethnic and linguistic diversity of Fairfax County, linguist Stephen D. Krashen suggests that languages are best learned when they are acquired from parents, not when they are taught at schools. He posits that the emphasis on the mastery of grammar and vocabulary at schools often results in only superficial fluency. 

Thus, foreign language requirements are often nothing but an impediment to multilingual students who want to take courses that aid students in their chosen career paths.

“I remember not being able to take courses related to engineering and cybersecurity in my junior year because I had to take French,” senior Hamza Zaman, whose first language is Urdu, said.

On the other hand, advocates of foreign language requirements often cite the globalized nature of the world. According to Lead With Languages, almost every field ranging from healthcare to engineering to law enforcement requires the mastery of a second language, Spanish being the most in-demand in the U.S.

While there is substance in the claim that foreign languages aid students in succeeding after high school, every region is different and the foreign language requirement is best utilized when the requirement suits the linguistic diversity of the region it is enforced. As such, regions with majority multilingual students should install a foreign language requirement. 

 For instance, Tennessee is nearly 80% white compared to Virginia and Fairfax County, which are much more racially and linguistically diverse. Thus, requiring students to learn foreign languages in these diverse regions when many already know at least one foreign language does not make sense.

Currently Virginia requires three foreign language credits in the same language or four foreign language credits, two in each course. However, instead of requiring students to learn foreign languages to prepare them for the globalized world, Virginia should waive this requirement for majority multilingual countries like FCPS to enable students to better utilize their four years and potentially three to four course spaces.

“People will choose to take a language if they really want to learn another language,” Parekh said. “[Forcing] them to take these courses just takes away their freedom to use high school to truly explore their interests.”