College of Arts and Sciences

Foreign Languages & Cultures

Why Study Foreign Languages?



The world is full of languages

How far do you have to go from your front door to know that this is true? Think about how many more people and places you could really get to know, newspapers and books you could read, movies and TV programs you could understand, Web sites you could visit with another language!

Give yourself a competitive edge

Did you know that studying a second language can improve your skills and grades in math and English and can improve entrance exam scores -- SATs, ACTs, GREs, MCATs, and LSATs? Research has shown that math and verbal SAT scores climb higher with each additional year of foreign language study, which means that the longer you study a foreign language, the stronger your skills become to succeed in school. Studying a foreign language can improve your analytic and interpretive capacities. And three years of language study on your record will catch the eye of anyone reading your job or college application.

If you've already learned a language other than English at home, expanding your knowledge of its vocabulary, grammar, culture, and literature -- at the same time you are learning English -- will also improve your chances for success in school and in your career.

The job advantage in a global economy

More and more businesses work closely with companies in other countries. They need many different kinds of workers who can communicate in different languages and understand other cultures. No matter what career you choose, if you've learned a second language, you'll have a real advantage. A technician who knows Russian or German, the head of a company who knows Japanese or Spanish, or a salesperson who knows French or Chinese can work successfully with many more people and in many more places than someone who knows only one language.

There are lots of Americans who speak languages other than English. Nurses, doctors, or police officers may need to speak more than one language to do their jobs well. Hotel managers or journalists who know English and Spanish or English and Korean may look much better at promotion time than people who know only English.

Professionals who know other languages are called on to travel and exchange information with people in the United States and other countries throughout their careers. Knowing more than one language enhances opportunities in government, business, law, medicine and health care, teaching, technology, the military, communications, industry, social service, and marketing. An employer will see you as a bridge to new clients or customers if you know a second language. You are also more likely to win the trust and friendship of people whose languages you know -- even if you know them just a little.

Learning other cultures; your world and beyond

Discover new worlds! Get an insider's view of another culture and a new view of your own. Studying a new language, reading other people's stories, and connecting with people in their own language can be a source of pleasure and surprise. Connect with other cultures. Learning about other cultures will help you expand your personal horizons and become a responsible citizen.

Your ability to talk to others and gain knowledge beyond the world of English can contribute to your community and your country.

Go for the excitement; new ways of language learning

What can you expect? You will learn a second language in exciting new ways, using technology and focusing on communication. Learning a language is not just learning grammar and vocabulary; it is learning new sounds, expressions, and ways of seeing things; it is learning how to act in another culture, how to know a new community from the inside. When should you start and how much can you learn? You are never too young and it is never too late to begin. Depending on how long you study, you can gain different levels of fluency. You will probably not sound like a native speaker who has spoken the language at home as a child. Don't worry; you're not expected to. To a greater or lesser degree you will, however, make yourself understood, read magazines or books for pleasure or information, and meet and talk with new groups of people. Of course, it doesn't happen overnight. Like learning math, history, or playing the piano, language learning takes time. And it adds to who you are.

Should you continue language study after high school? Yes! Don't waste your investment of time and effort; whatever you have learned is a foundation for further study. Stick with it. Use your second language on the job; seek out opportunities to use it in your community; in college, take more courses, study abroad at intersession or for a summer, a semester, or a year. Some programs teach languages in conjunction with engineering, business, nursing, or journalism. And you might decide to start yet another language. When you study a language, you learn about how to learn a language, so learning the next one is easier.


National Security Language Initiative (NSLI)

In January 2006, President Bush announced the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI), an inter-agency effort coordinated by the White House to dramatically increase the number of Americans learning, speaking, and teaching critical need foreign languages. Foreign language skills are essential to engaging foreign governments and peoples, especially in critical world regions, to promote understanding, convey respect for other cultures, and encourage reform. These skills are also fundamental to the economic competitiveness and security interests of the nation.

The Secretaries of State, Education, and Defense and the Director of National Intelligence launched this comprehensive and coordinated national initiative with new programs and resources to expand U.S. critical foreign language education beginning in kindergarten and continuing through elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education and into the workforce.

Read More About the National Security Language Initiative (NSLI) Here


A few thoughts on the importance of knowing a foreign language

Toward the end of the novel "Bram Stoker's Dracula", when the characters Professor Van Helsing, Jonathan Harker, Dr. Seward, Lord Godalming, and Quincey Morris (the American) -- are trying to hunt Dracula in order to destroy him, Mina Harker writes this detail in her journal:

"30 October.- Mr. Morris (the American) took me to the hotel where our rooms had been ordered by telegraph, he being the one who could best be spared, since he does not speak any foreign language."

Knowing other languages brings opportunities!

Download the Brochure(pdf)

Which language should you learn?

There's no one answer. Here at WSU we offer courses in Chinese, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Latin, Russian and Spanish. Whatever language you choose, learning it will make a difference in how you see the world, and in how the world sees you.


Language Study in the Age of Globalization - The College-Level Experience 

- brochure from the Modern Language Association (pdf)


Speaking two languages into old age can stave off dementia, study finds


Top 10 Reasons To Study A Foreign Language

10. You wont have to read the subtitles at foreign films.

9. You will increase the number of brain cells you have.

8. You will impress your date at a fancy restaurant by ordering dishes like Boeuf Bourguignon, using correct pronunciation.
7. You can drop names like Ibsen, Confucius, Nietzsche, Camus, Cicero, Dostoevsky, and Cervantes at cocktail parties after having read them, in the original !

6. You will know what words like dj vu, Perestroika,Tiananmen, smorgasbord, Zeitgeist, and macho REALLY mean.

5. You can get on track early with foreign language classes to prepare for study or internships abroad for a year, a semester, or a summer.

4. When you travel abroad you will be able to talk to people in their language, thus experience up close and personal the local culture.

3. You will understand the English language and American culture better through exposure to another language and culture.

2. You will acquire a highly marketable supporting area of study enhancing any major from Anthropology to Zoology, and thus get a job that will make your friends envious and your parents relieved.

1. You will become a more well-rounded WORLD CITIZEN.

Find Out More-->

Extend your reach!
Know another culture!
Get a better job!


"Dr. González,

I wanted to take some time to thank you and the faculty in the Department of Foreign Languages for a wonderful undergraduate experience. I graduated from WSU this past May with a double major in Economics and Spanish and completed a semester abroad in Bogotá, Colombia as a part of my undergraduate degree. I recently accepted a position with the Washington Association of Community and Migrant Health Centers working as a project coordinator for our Dental Access Program. I have found that my bilingual capabilities have made me particularly effective and productive, especially in working with minority populations, as we often do. I consistently utilize the skills and knowledge that I gained through WSU and the Department of Foreign Languages. Please pass my gratitude on to your departments staff and faculty and remind them of the great impact they have on students like myself. Thank you for being a part of my academic and professional development.

Tishra Mattox, Special Projects Coordinator
Washington Association of Community and Migrant Health Centers"



Foreign Languages & Cultures, PO Box 642610, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-2610, (509)335-4135, Fax:(509)335-3708, Email Us