Foreign Language

So what’s the deal with foreign language in high school? Seems like so many students on CC aren’t aware that many competitive schools want to see 3 -4 years. It also seems that this is a subject where there is a big disconnect with HS graduation requirements and what colleges expect.

DD’s own experience at a college prep high school weren’t great either in regards to FL advising. It seemed like FL was the first class the GC would suggest cutting if there was a schedule conflict. The only reason my DD made it to a college level Spanish DE course was because she had Spanish in middle school and was able to place into a higher level course as a HS freshman.

I always cringe a bit when students are worrying about college in 9th grade but this seems to be an instance where it would be good for students to understand that they need to make room for FL in their schedules.

Wonder if it would do any good to pin something in the High School Life forum about FL requirements?

One is pinned.
https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-admissions/1802227-faq-foreign-language.html#latest

With the exception of English, which is almost universally a 4 year HS graduation requirement, in almost all cases, top colleges “suggestions” for HS preparation exceed HS graduation requirements.

It’s also important to know that all colleges will view transcripts in context, particularly for those colleges that “suggest” 4 years of everything. At some high schools, including my own, it is physically impossible to do 4 years of everything without summer work (which has its own drawbacks) while fulfilling HS requirements for gym/health/music/art/computers/religion. Colleges know that.

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DD’s HS experience was the same. There weren’t enough class periods in the day to get in 4 years of every core subject without summer work or self studying.

Do HS students looking at course selections look at the college admission board? Can a thread be crossed pinned in a second forum?

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No, but there is a pinned thread in HSL which discusses courses that one should take as preparation for college, which has a link to the foreign language FAQ
https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/high-school-life/2055289-faq-high-school-college-prep-base-curriculum.html#latest

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D19’s HS (and other schools in its district) handed out to everyone at their HS orientation and again when high school began, a very clear diagram showing the requirements/suggestions for (1) graduating high school (2) Cal state universities and (3) the UC’s (and by extension top 20/50/whatever you consider upper tier), so that the students were clear on what was necessary and what was recommended. It’s also on the school website. They also got a 4-year schedule with compulsory subjects filled in & blanks in the other available slots to enable the students to plan around that to meet the requirements of whatever tier they were aiming at. And yes, some things had to be planned from freshman year to ensure you got where you needed by senior year.

Of course, many college websites list their own recommendations/requirements, but I guess the vast majority of students don’t start looking at those until some way through junior yeat.

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Our Curriculum Guide has a grid in it: this is what you need to graduate, here’s what a two year college wants to see, here’s what State U and typical four years want to see, and here’s what highly selective schools want to see - and a warning to check individual college’s requirements. It couldn’t be more clear. Kids ignore it anyway.

Most students and parents don’t even read the guide, much to their detriment and the mental health of the overworked GCs… I wouldn’t blame them at all if they tell families they won’t answer questions if the answer can be found in the guide.

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This is very common in CA, since so many HS students go on to CSU/UC. Sadly, the other 49 are not so great at this. Yes, you may get a 4 year grid and the HS requirements, but other than a bland “some colleges expect more than the minimum,” not much else. And really, what 13 y/o is thinking that far ahead particularly if they are the eldest and don’t have their sibling’s experience to draw upon? Even if the parents went to college, even a top highly selective college, they will be shocked how much the landscape has changed when they go through it with their first kid.

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DD’s HS had the graduation requirement grid and a sentence that 2 -3 years of FL was recommended. Nothing was really given out until junior year about what 4 year colleges might want to see which could potentially be too late. I like what your school does @SJ2727 but yes, students and parents would actually need to read the guide!

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@skieurope (sorry, I don’t know how to quote) “This is very common in CA, since so many HS students go on to CSU/UC. Sadly, the other 49 are not so great at this. Yes, you may get a 4 year grid and the HS requirements, but other than a bland “some colleges expect more than the minimum,” not much else. And really, what 13 y/o is thinking that far ahead particularly if they are the eldest and don’t have their sibling’s experience to draw upon? Even if the parents went to college, even a top highly selective college, they will be shocked how much the landscape has changed when they go through it with their first kid.”

I have to say that as new immigrants, arriving just before D19 began HS, this table probably saved our lives!! I didn’t realize it was that unusual nationally.

Also, as a “guide”, it was just a one-page table so easy to read/reference. As i recall, it was referred to in the orientation, and it was also used as a basis for D19’s schedule (for freshman year and an outline for beyond) at the compulsory pre-HS meeting between D19, us, and her school GC. It’s a real pity that this sort of thing isn’t done more routinely elsewhere.

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s1 took 4 years of Latin as his “foreign language” but one of his majors was English so Latin made sense. I am a supporter of kids learning another language as the fundamentals apply in so many ways.

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Agreed. @SJ2727 And you brought up a good point, because I was not even thinking about immigrant families who are totally new to the US educational structure.

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Complaining about high school advising regarding foreign language course is a bit like complaining about the placement of deck chairs on the Titanic. The much more serious issue is that, for the vast majority of American students, foreign language instruction is just abominable. They can take three or four consecutive years of a language and have no significant speaking competence, reading competence, writing competence, or comprehension, and nothing but the most superficial engagement with any culture other than their own . . . and have been both stressed and bored stiff in the process.

American (U.S.) children are literally the only students in the world who can imagine calling themselves educated while remaining fundamentally monolingual. Notwithstanding that, I always sympathize with the students and parents who seem to regard foreign language as a waste of time, because so often it is. I respect that elite colleges are trying to keep the principle of foreign language instruction alive, but unless they start caring about the quality of instruction, it’s not going to work.

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Agreed @JHS. The biggest problem, IMO, is that the US system starts FL much too late. It should be part of the elementary curriculum and continue through HS to be effective.

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“American (U.S.) children are literally the only students in the world who can imagine calling themselves educated while remaining fundamentally monolingual.”

This phenomenon is more English-speaking world in general than just American. In fact arguably worse in some other countries where there is no or only the most basic requirement to learn a foreign language. (Could extend to other aspects of requirements for college entrance but that’s getting too off-topic.)

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I agree with @SJ2727 . The same argument can be made for the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, among others. While Canada is officially bilingual, in reality, it is a nation of anglophones or francophones, with a relatively small percentage of individuals being bilingual.

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Sure, people in English-speaking countries don’t feel compelled to learn English, unlike most of the rest of the world, but I don’t think they are all in the same boat. I’m not certain about New Zealand, but I know Australia has quite a demanding foreign language component of its educational system, focused mainly on Asian languages. Maybe it’s just hype, but my impression is that Australians who go to university generally have decent competence in at least one language other than English.

Students in the UK who wind up going to university certainly seem to have more foreign language competence than their American counterparts.Canada is probably more like the U.S., but there’s an awful lot of bilingual education there. My raised-in-Toronto nieces spent years of public elementary school in French immersion, and both are competent (and more) in French. My four year-old Canadian grandnephew, who lives in Montreal, is completely bilingual.

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In Canada far more Francophones are bilingual than Anglophones, the reality of living in a country and world dominated by English, though there are plenty of monolingual Francophones living outside the larger municipal centres in Quebec and to some degree New Brunswick. The proliferation of English is a sensitive subject with the Quebecois and they are very protective of their language rights. Outside of these areas, and to some degree Ottawa (due to the federal government presence and it’s proximity to Quebec), there aren’t very many fluent French speakers. The new Ontario government did manage to upset the minority French speakers in Ontario recently with their cancelling of a proposed French language university. The reality is however that for most Canadians, French just isn’t part of their cultural landscape.

In the Ontario public school system where my children attend, regular French language instruction begins in grade 4 and is mandatory until grade 9, providing 6 years of instruction. DS19 actually had to take an additional year in grade 10 because of the requirements of the special program he attends. Neither of my children are anywhere near being bilingual and most students drop it as soon as they can.

No child whose sole source of French language learning is through the regular school curriculum becomes fluent. The only students who manage to attain functional bilingualism outside of French speaking communities are those who are enrolled in French Immersion which usually begins in grade 1. There is extended immersion which begins in grade 7 but I don’t know how effective that program is. Demand for French Immersion programming has skyrocketed for a variety of reasons but the school boards can’t find enough qualified teachers to meet demand. There has been a suggestion that the province should recruit teachers from France in order to address the shortage of qualified French Immersion teachers.

As an anecdote as a child I had 2.5 years of French Immersion from Sr. Kindergarten to half way through grade 2 at which point we moved to Puerto Rico for a couple of years. When we returned to Canada I did not have French instruction until grade 7. I managed to make it all the way through 2 years of middle school, 5 years of high school, and 1 year of university French instruction without ever having to study, solely based on those 2.5 years of immersion instruction I received in early elementary school and I am in no way bilingual. That’s how bad French language instruction is in the Ontario public school system. I suspect that it’s not any better in any of the other provincial school systems either. It’s not that people don’t want to be fluent French speakers it’s that the instruction is very poor.

DS21 opted to drop French after grade 9 and take Spanish this year in grade 10 instead. He is enjoying it far more than he ever has French class and intends to continue with it for the remainder of high school. Based on the progress he has already made I suspect that he will gain far more fluency in Spanish in 3 years then he acquired in French even after 6 years of instruction.

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It’s hype.

https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/australia-s-spectacular-failure-in-languages

Hence my use of qualifiers. Montrealers being an exception amongst Canadians with a higher concentration of bilingual speakers. But of course there are exceptions amongst Americans as well.

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Really the only effective way for non-native French speakers in Canada to become fluent without moving to a French only language community is via early French Immersion programs. The regular French program does not result in fluency without significant external tutoring and the majority of students in Canada do not attend French Immersion programs.

Even in Montreal that’s often only the norm for Francophones, due to the dominance of English in the rest of Canada and the world. The minority Anglophone population in Montreal tend not to speak French. I have a good friend who was born and grew up in Montreal in a Greek family and while she has some French facility she’ll be the first to say that she isn’t fluent in French (or Greek for that matter). Her husband who immigrated from Greece to Montreal in his teens is bilingual in Greek and English, but he doesn’t speak French either.

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I suspect that there are far more Canadians bilingual in English/Mandarin, Cantonese, or Taiwanese than there are bilingual English/French speakers.

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