Foreign Language in High School: What Homeschoolers Need to Know

I spoke to another group of parents home educating their high school young adults. 

One of the questions I am asked most often is,

"What about foreign languages?"

This is tough question to answer. There are many factors, perspectives, and varied college requirements.

Considering why a language is being pursued is essential. Motivation is important. Oh yes, I know we all have to do things we don't like--and that may include learning a language--however, motivation remains a prominent factor in learning and retention for any subject. In the case of world languages (the new term often used for foreign languages), a student motivated to learn a language due to interest or as a means to an end goal (desiring to apply to a specific university), will be more likely to stay the course (with limited nagging and fighting). In the case of foreign languages, staying the course (no pun intended) may mean TWO YEARS or MORE of study in one language. Most young adults--and we've worked with many--couldn't achieve this goal without some type of personal motivation...because learning a language is hard!

Knowing the college admission requirements may answer the question for you. Not all colleges require foreign language for admission. Check college websites for admission requirements. Knowing whether or not language is required may help alleviate unnecessary aggravation and stress and most importantly, preserve a relationship. In part 2, I will dig into another factor to this equation. Consider:

Asking important questions may help. Knowing a college requires foreign language for admission is not enough. Unfortunately, some colleges will not accept foreign language credits if they are completed with certain curricula. Or, they may accept the credits only if a student passes (or gets a certain score) an entrance exam, SAT II Subject Test, CLEP, or AP exam. The only way to know what the college will accept is to ask. Don't assume or fear the worse, even if your friend told you their experience with a particular school. Always ask the source and get it in writing if necessary.

Learning a language is difficult. It will take work, unless a student has a natural gifting for linguistics. In twenty-four years of seeing hundreds of families, many children and young adults have had to work fairly hard to complete two years in the same language. 

Counting the cost is wise. All four of our high schoolers had different reasons for pursuing a language. One completed two years because his universities of choice required such. There were no questions asked because, well, it had to be done. The second learner completed two years of language in high school because the alternative would be to take it at the college (usually more difficult). His story will be told in part 2 of this series post. Another high schooler of ours was determined to finish her two years of foreign language in ninth and tenth grade to "get it out of the way" so other courses could be pursued. She knows according to her top college choices, foreign language will be required for college admission. A fourth scenario, a friend of ours, tried and tried with valiant and diligent study to no avail because learning challenges made study extremely difficult if not impossible. The lessons learned by that family will be told in part 2 as well. 

All four high schoolers--as well as the high schoolers we work with--benefited from counting the costs of ALL possible options and choices, at least all that were known at the time. Each situation was unique. Each young adult would have to live with their decisions and choices, including how, when, where, and whether to complete foreign languages. As with any decision parents and students must make in the high school years, fear should not be the basis of our educational choices. 

Up next, Part II in this series-- Foreign Language Questions YOU Need to Ask


This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children.