Fluency is fundamental for the future

Opinion Column by J1 Writer Samantha Fabian

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Samantha Fabian, Columnist

Today we live in a world that is always globalizing, always connecting, always moving forward. But what happens if you find yourself unable to communicate with those around you? What would you do?

In today’s world, learning a second language is becoming less and less popular, as students both in high school and college are opting out after they’ve met their requirements. With our world becoming more and more globalized, why don’t students pursue another language? With no clear answers, and a yearning for colleges graduates to be fluent in two languages, the government has stepped in to protect the futures of the next generation.

To ensure a diverse knowledge of languages, they have added programs that allows students to study what they call “critical languages” at little to no cost to the student. Programs such as the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange Program and Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange let students travel abroad at no cost. These scholarships are awarded to students who yearn to learn a language that they may not otherwise learn at their high school. They take the students across seas to countries where their selected language is most commonly spoken and allow the students to prosper in their language learning by immersing them in the culture and language of the country. These aren’t the only steps that the government has taken to preserve language diversity in America; they have also set up STARTALK programs which allow students to study various languages in the U.S. by immersing them into varying lengths of language-intensive classes.

Last year, I participated in a two-week Chinese STARTALK program at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. There, 18 other high schoolers from across Nebraska and I underwent intensive Chinese classes where we learned about both the culture and language of the Chinese. While staying at UNL, we didn’t have a dime come out of our own pockets because the government had funded the program to provide us with an enriching experience. Because this experience was fantastic, I wanted to go more in-depth with learning uncommonly taught languages. So, this year, I applied to NSLI-Y for the chance to study Korean in South Korea. Although I only made it to the semifinals, it was an enriching experience and opened my eyes to all of the possibilities out there.

The government really has it figured out when they offer these types of programs, because not only do they offer young adults chances to learn languages they may not otherwise be able to learn, they also provide them with the opportunities to meet other people and become globally aware.

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