How to Choose a Foreign Language to Study

Most high schools require students to take a foreign language course for at least a year or two. But many of those high school students will choose to continue their studies of that foreign language from the beginning of their freshman year to the end of their senior year — and perhaps into college!

Aside from fulfilling academic requirements, studying a foreign language has many advantages. From helping improve your decision-making skills to increasing your chances of getting into the college of your choice to boosting your understanding of the world around you, learning a foreign language can enhance your life academically, professionally, and personally.

Your high school may offer just a few or up to a dozen foreign languages for you to study. So when it comes to deciding which foreign language to study, how do you make a choice?

The short answer is: It depends — on your interests, your goals, and your future career path. Asking yourself the following questions and practicing some self-reflection can help make the decision-making process a little easier:

1. Which language do I find the most interesting?

The first thing to think about is simply which language is most appealing to you. Learning a foreign language requires a lot of effort, and you’re more likely to be academically successful if you actually enjoy studying it.

Before making your choice, go online and do a bit of research about each of the languages you think you’d like to study. Language is about more than just the way the words sound; it’s about culture, too. So before you choose a “romance language” like Italian or Spanish just because you think it sounds pretty when spoken, consider the various cultures associated with the languages you’re choosing from and see if those equally interest you.

Learning a foreign language associated with a culture you’re intrigued by can teach you more about it in an in-depth way. Hopefully, that will even lead to future travels to the country where that language is spoken so you can really immerse yourself in it and learn even more!

2. Which language might I use the most?

When choosing which foreign language to study, it’s also worth considering the amount of use you could actually get out of it. For instance, if you live in a very diverse area where a particular foreign language is regularly spoken, you may want to consider studying that language so you can converse with more of the people around you.

Don’t forget to think beyond your hometown. Do you travel, or wish to travel, frequently? Do you plan on studying abroad for a summer to complete a pre-college program, or do you hope to study abroad in college? If so, you may want to consider studying a language you will be able to use during your time overseas.

3. Which language could be best for my future studies and/or career?

While college may feel a long way off, especially if you’re a high school freshman, it’s important to give some thought to what foreign language could most benefit your future studies — and eventually, your career.

Having a foreign language on your transcript can look great to colleges, but choosing a language that specifically corresponds to your chosen field of study can look even better, and in some cases can help you bypass early language prerequisite requirements. Similarly, knowing a foreign language can be very beneficial in certain careers — perhaps those in the business, medical, academic, and political fields.

For example, you may choose to study Latin if you plan on pursuing a humanities- or arts-based college major or career. Conversely, you may want to study Spanish if you want to pursue a political or business major/career in which it’s advantageous to know how to converse with people internationally.

[RELATED: What I Wish I Knew About Picking a College Major]

Even if you’re not sure of what kind of major or career path you’d like to pursue, think about the things you’re good at and enjoy. Which academic subjects are you most successful in? Which academic subjects do you appreciate most? What kinds of skills do you have? These questions can help guide you in the direction of what you might want to study in college and then later get involved in as a career, helping you decide on a language to study in high school and beyond.

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