LanguageLandon cafeteria is where I met Amin, a North African native who shared his booth with me as the cafeteria quickly became over capacitated.

Amin, without a prompt, dove into how many languages – three, to be exact — he is fluent in. I lifted my head from my lunch to see why a stranger was gloating about his multi-lingual traits. He proceeded to ask me, like we had been friends forever, three questions.

Amin: What does trilingual mean?

Me: Fluent in three languages.

Amin: Yes, what does bilingual mean?

Me: Fluent in two languages.

Amin: Yes, what does unilingual mean?

Me: Fluent in a single language.

Amin: No, it means American.

Naturally, I reacted with a joyful laugh, and said something like ‘so true.’

But then I had a moment to reflect on his humor, or lack thereof, while back in line for seconds.

Was that the perception of Americans? Was speaking one language, even in rhetoric manner, really that shameful?

After that encounter with Amin, whom has remained a close friend, I was inspired to discover if learning an alternate language was profitable to one’s future.

Clearly, adding any language to your arsenal will prove viable, but is it necessary to spend thousands of dollars, let alone put in the time? Two years ago, I ultimately decided against the extra workload.  

My plan was to get a journalism degree as swiftly as possible, then begin my career. Signing up for a French, German or Spanish class sounded like unwarranted stress, effort.

Now, I’m kicking myself for making those excuses. A second language is critical for any area of study, and would turn heads in all job interviews.  

Derek Wallbank is the First Word breaking news team leader at Bloomberg News, one of the largest, most prolific media organizations in the world. Wallbank says potential applicants who are bilingual are not only a higher priority, but filling into positions faster and getting paid sooner, also. Wallbank went on to list just a few languages that are an asset in business situations.

“Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and German are all extremely helpful,” Wallbank said. “If it’s something you really want to do, there is no harm in starting whenever. Dual languages are huge for us.”  

Opting out of a second language will not render a student jobless, however. Jeffery Hogan, the editor at The County Press in Lapeer Michigan speaks English only, and has progressed substantially. Hogan did say that, if he had done anything differently, it would have been to study Spanish. But he did further say that sticking to your native language will not be the death of your career.

An additional language can come in handy not just for the future, but while attending college as well.

Any student with aspirations to study abroad should consider taking courses on the predominant language spoken in the country of choice. Getting a cultural leg-up prior to an international trip will surely make the experience more dynamic. Preparations include, but are not limited to, taking classes, studying online, utilizing a tutor, or listening to a podcast.

By the time the student returns from an international voyage, along with the preceding education, he or she will be practically fluent.   

If learning a new language doesn’t suit you, then I advise you to become mindful of the scores of extracurricular opportunities Michigan State offers.  

As you’re walking to class, take five minutes to recognize the fliers on the walls eliciting volunteers, hiring interns or promoting school clubs. Those seemingly trivial opportunities will be advantageous to building a resume. Not to mention make the Spartan experience more fulfilling.

Michigan State has a driven faculty that want to help all students become involved. The earlier a student takes advantage of after school opportunities, the quicker he or she will be primed for life after MSU.




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