Poll: Did you have to take a foreign language in school?

I’m curious about the foreign language requirements in schools and the idea that many people, Americans in particular, only speak one language since they were never required to learn any others.

By “have to” I mean was taking the class a graduation requirement?

I was not required to take a foreign language in high school. However, since I went to high school in California, we were all strongly encouraged to take a foreign language if we planned to go to college, since the University of California system had a foreign language requirement. In fact, much of our high school curriculum was designed to meet the UC requirements, so that we would all be able to attend if we wanted to.

I was able to meet the college foreign language requirement with an Advanced Placement exam, but I ended up taking a new language anyway.

In my HS it depended on what track you were on. Math & Sciences and Arts & Humanities both required at least 2 years of a foreign langauge (unless you were an ESL student). I’m pretty sure Business students had to too (or at least they were strongly encouraged to). VoTech students didn’t have to. The guidence counselors encouraged everybody too take a langauge because “all colleges require it for admission”.

My school offered Spanish & French. I took 4 years of French and 3 years of Spanish. It would’ve been 4 of each, but my counselor would only let me take one Freshman year. The district didn’t have any FL programs before high school, but by the time one of my younger neices went to the middle school they’d started teaching Spanish.

In Canada, or at least in the district I went to in BC, French was required in grades 4-7 but after that no foreign language courses were required. My high school offered French and German initially and started a Japanese program my last year there.

I didn’t have to take a foreign language in high school (although I did), nor in college (where I didn’t).

The Seattle Schools strongly encourage students to take two years of foreign language. My daughter didn’t (on my advice) and got into her first choice college. I started a thread about it once…worried that I had doomed her chances.

My Alma Marta flirts with the idea now and then of requiring students to be fluent in another language to graduate, in order to better become “global citizens.” I always tell them they’ve seen my last dollar if they do such a thing. I think speaking more than one language is a great thing for people who want to, but by no means necessary to be considered “educated.”

California. I think we had to take one year, and two years were strongly encouraged to meet CA public college admission reqs.

I had crap teachers and didn’t learn a thing, which is a shame because knowing a second language is essential to my career, and it turns out that once you are out of school it is ungodly expensive.

Anyway, being fluent in another language opens up doors you never even knew were closed.

For an Electronic Engineering Technology BS a foreign language was required. I believe the choices were Russian or German. I should have taken Russian:

“Where is the safety?”
“Is not safe, is gun.”

But I choose German.
To misquote Mark Twain, buying peas at the grocery store:

“I am going to buy him, I will boil her, I will eat it.” :slight_smile:

Yup, two years of a foreign language was required for a B.A. at my undergrad school.

I attended a charter school in Korea that focuses on foreign languages, and my major was Chinese. All Korean high school students are required to take one foreign language.

As an English literature major in college (also Korea) I was required to take a “Western” language. Obviously my background in Chinese proved completely useless. I chose French.

Now, several years later, I have a scanty knowledge of both.

It was required in elementary school, but that was on an army base in another country, so they were teaching the local language. It’s never been required at any of my other schools, though they did recommend it.

My BA required two foreign languages (!) so even though I didn’t need to take any in High School, the amount I did (Spanish) transferred over for credit, so that only left one (French) to contend with.

My high school had a two-year foreign language requirement; I took 4 years of one foreign language and two of a second. My college had a requirement that students either take two years of the same foreign language or pass a proficiency test. I majored in one foreign language and minored in a second (a different one than the second one I’d studied in high school) and obviously tested out - they made me take the proficiency test at the beginning of freshman year even though I’d gotten a 5 on the Spanish AP exam and declared a Spanish major at the start of orientation.

IIRC these requirements were only for the liberal arts college; engineering students, etc. had a different set of requirements, and I simply have no idea what they were.

I have an “other” answer. I was not required to take a foreign language to graduate from high school, but by taking 2 years, I fulfilled my college requirement. That’s not why I took it, I just wanted to speak German. Which I never really did, unfortunately. Maybe I should buy Rosetta Stone.

Yeah my answer is sort of like Pai325’s. I’m sure I could have taken something other than Spanish and graduated high school, but I wanted to take Spanish. In college, they lumped math and language and “foreign studies” together in one requirement for journalism and I leaped at the chance to take Spanish II and III.

So, no one required me to choose the path that included those requirements, but I did.

I think I’m a bit older than most of you guys, and when I was in high school in the mid '70s, there was no foreign language requirement for high school graduation. I did take two years of French though, but prior to that, before my dad was deployed to Vietnam, we lived for a couple of years in Nuremberg, Germany, so I picked up German because it was a requirement in grammar school there.

When I became an adult, I realized I had an affinity for languages and began teaching myself Hebrew and Arabic (I was dating a Yemeni girl at the time, so I must admit my motivation was not purely academic). I then met my wife, who’s a native Spanish speaker and it was simply easier on her for me to become proficient in Spanish. In my mid 30s, I became enamored with Japanese culture, and have been a student of the Japanese language ever since.

When people say Americans tend to speak only one language, I have to agree. I know very few Americans two or more generations removed from an immigrant relative who can speak a language other than English, and by speak I mean converse.

Perhaps there’s a heightened emphasis on learning a second language in American primary and secondary schools now. I certainly hope so.

In high school, we weren’t required to take a foreign language. We all had to take French as a second language, but French is not a foreign language in Canada. The school also offered German as an elective, so I took that. :slight_smile:

Interestingly, the school now offers Spanish instead of German as a third language.

In both university and college, I didn’t have to take a language, unless you count math as a language. Architecture (university) and electronics (college) had other things on their mind.

Yeah, but you also speak Esperanto, Sunspace, for which I am insanely jealous. :slight_smile:

That’s not really other. It’s the “not required in high school but required in college” answer because the poll is about the requirements, not how you fulfilled them.

By the way, and slightly off-topic I know, but don’t waste your money on Rosetta Stone. A great marketing strategy/business model, which I admit they have, does not mean the product provides any value to the language learner, which Rosetta Stone doesn’t.

Had to in both college and high school. My impression (from the number of younger cousins and family friends I know who are struggling through Spanish or French to fulfill their language requirement) is that it’s required rather more often than not.

However, whether you were required to study a language or not has, I think, very little to do with why most Americans can only speak one language. Taking a year or two or even three of a language in high school isn’t going to mean much in the long term if you don’t consciously decide to keep studying it. The vast majority of Americans just aren’t exposed to another language on a regular basis, so most of the time their language skills die. My mother took French for years and can still ask for directions if pressed, but no way is she as proficient as she was when she’d just graduated from school - there are just no French speakers around or any demand to use it.

The sole exception, of course, is Spanish. And - just as you’d guess - most Americans seem to have picked up just as much Spanish as they might need. I’ve never had a Spanish lesson in my life, but can understand every word in (for example) comedy skits where they making fun of Latin American soap operas. Presumably most other Americans can, too, or else they wouldn’t do it. (For comparison, you’d never see a parody of a Chinese drama without subtitles.)