The Value of Learning a Second Language

Teetering back and forth on a seat of the New York subway, suitcase in hand, I sat slightly anxious awaiting arrival at my station destination. As a fresh wave of people entered from the next stop, an evident brother and sister pair hopped on my cart and sat directly across from me. As they settled into their seats they started speaking rapidly in a thick (what i presumed to be) ivorian french accent. Enthralled by their vibrant french, I intently listened as they talked about the family dinner they were having that night and how their days had played out so far. At first a restless college student in the New York City transit on my Fall Break, I transitioned to a cultural observer who was blissfully using my acquired skills from school to understand a conversation of complete strangers.

If not blatantly obvious, learning a second language at its core provides people an ability to connect with others unlike anything else.Even more so, it is a way to connect us in an increasingly integrated global community on a meaningful level. With English as the primary language for a majority of Americans, broadening communication beyond monolingualism is extremely beneficial. In a career, having a second language in your pocket allows you to be more well-rounded, have stronger global awareness, and be a better communicator. Socially, learning a second language opens you up to a world of new individuals, experiences, and customs you would never have the opportunity to experience. And if you’re like me, pursuing a degree in Communication with a  minor in a second language enhances your learning experience in the field of communication, provides a competitive advantage among talented fellow students, and opens doors that otherwise would not have been available.

Wrapping up my first semester of sophomore year, I have to admit that much of what I’ve gained from my Communication major is due to pairing it with a minor in french studies. Minoring in French studies, I’ve gained international connections, friendships, internship opportunities, and have decided to spend my next semester abroad in Paris, France —a wonderful Clemson Program that will only enhance my educational experience. Studying abroad has so many great learning opportunities but a main reason I’m so excited is because I’ll get to have real world practice of my communication and French skills.  Having a background in French gives me the chance to study abroad in Paris with confidence and excitement instead of fear, something that often holds students back from stepping out of their comfort zone and growing further academically. The confidence gained has come from practicing and an unfamiliar language.  I not only pushes my current boundaries of knowledge but is making it easier for me to speak confidently in my native language. This is one of the ways learning a second language enriches my learning opportunities as a Communication major. In order to travel the world, a desire and willingness to adapt to new cultures and methods is necessary, an eagerness I have also gained from studying french. Additionally, I credit the combination of my communication and French skills to my internship offer this summer with the Department of State in Washington. DC. Many organizations and groups hiring in the field of Communication, like the Department of State, look for individuals who have cultural adaptability as it is important to communicate effectively and harmoniously with persons of other cultures, value systems, political beliefs, and economic circumstances in a work environment.

I truly believe that what we learn from a communication degree will only be strengthened by pursuing another language because it enables you to apply communication skills in an area of unfamiliarity and variety. An expansion of your knowledge in communication and an enablement to enhance your experiences is irreplaceable.  Skills that are integral to being a strong communicator such as adaptability, includes the ability to communicate with new people in various dialects, something that learning a second language provides. An effective communicator thinks about the receiver’s knowledge, ability, interest, origin etc. When you study a second language, there is a flood of new understanding you are able to gain about others that speak this language that aids your effectiveness as a communicator.

As majoring in communication shows students how to effectively communicate different types of information in various field, knowing a second language increases the utility and acceptability of their communication. Allows me to see communication from a different culture, really understand cultural differences, and grow from it.

Eagerly awaiting my semester in Paris (and hopefully becoming fluent in French), I have started to reflect on my decision to keep up with my second language in college, and it could not have been a better choice for me! Maybe it’s the right one for you as well!

Until next time ~ a bientôt ~ ,

Brooke Tannehill


Written By: Brooke Tannehill


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