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The Contender
Con (against)
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Learning a Second Language

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/8/2016 Category: Education
Updated: 7 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 509 times Debate No: 87845
Debate Rounds (4)
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The theme for the debate is: Should Learning a Second Language be mandatory in the United States?

First Round: Acceptance
Second Round: Arguments
Third Round: Rebuttals
Fourth Round: Conclusions


I hereby accept this challenge with the role of Con. Good luck to my opponent.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you, good luck to you as well.

My argument is the following: I think students in the United Stares should be required to learn a Second language because it provides them with several benefits. For example: learning a second language allows people to communicate with more parts of the world; and given that the U.S is so involved in other countries it can provide many benefits in business, international affairs or just personal relationships.
By learning other languages, people also learn about where those languages are spoken; therefore, providing them with more awareness of other cultures and places.
Being bilingual, or even more than that, brings along benefits like better paying jobs as well.

Apart from those, there are improvements on how your mind works when learning a second language. According to an article in The Telegraph, there are 7 ways in which your brain gets better when learning a second language:
- You become smarter
-Learn to Multitaks
-Stave Alzheimer's
-Your memory improves
-You become more perceptive
-Decision making skills improve
-Improvement of Native language (in this case, English).
I believe that learning a second language is just as important as learning other things, and maybe even more, because it develops different areas of the brain while providing more opportunities in different fields.

Thank you.


I thank Pro very much for enabling me to debate this subject, and for making such arguments as they had.

1. It is important to note that a major part of school is learning information that will better your ability to survive on your own in the world. What this all comes down to is the difference between excess information and necessary information; teachers will be given certain curriculum that they must fulfill in each course, and will be expected to manage their time by lesson planning to fit the 180 days of school. Classes like math, language arts, science and history are often recognized as imperative to human academic growth and thus become part of 'core education' [common core]. This concept essentially mandates the enrollment of certainly classes upon students, making them graduate requirements. This, however, is detrimental to a student's ability to learn. While Pro has not given a specific "student" age group, it is assumable they mean middle school or high school level education. If this is the case, this is piling on more work and more attention-seeking activity to an already overwhelming stack of classes that come with inherent classwork, homework and major assessments. Therefore it is logical to conclude that making it manditory to take a second language, plus math, science, language arts, history and gym/some form of physical education or activity would be will overwhelming to the students at hand. I would like to introduce a quote to make people think about this:

"If no teacher can teach every subject, why then must a student learn every subject?" - this is quite literally the most true statement regarding education I have ever read: no teacher may teach every subject because the burden of how much time, effort and strenuous hours of absboring oneself in work that would take would be an atrocious amount. So why are 6 or 7 core aspects of edcucational careers core and mandated?

2. Making the learning of a second language mandatory in an educational facility is also an enormous waste of time and money. According to an article posted by econlog, only 7% of students that were part of a conducted study actually spoke their learned second language in school or put it to use on a regular basis. Another detail of information from the same article and the same study, stated that only 1/100 of students taking language courses were likely to attain fluency by the end of their mandated two-year learning course. What is the point of forcing students to invest 2 years of their time in school to achieve knowledge within the boundaries of a foreign language, if they aren't going to learn the full language within that span of time, and they aren't going to be able to put it to good use because of that? An article from the thinktank rationalconspiracy also spoke out on the issue, saying: "26% of Americans can speak a language other than English well enough to hold a conversation." Clearly a very small minority of people in America can actually fluidly speak a second language, therefore not supporting the claim that it somehow puts to use the idea that it can improve life in any way. There is also the fact that people who study in college for many years language arts of foreign languages would suddenly become useful, because their ability to translate and communicate where others can't in foreign languages is nullified by the fact that now most people can. However, the article also cites the U.S Census, saying that, "18% of Americans speaking a language other than English at home", doing some subtraction, the author deduced that only 8% of Americans would therefore apply the knowledge of the language course to everyday life; once again nullifying its use in the outside world. But yet, 90% of high school students had, at one point, taken a language. Many seem to fail in applying it empirically.


I wish Pro luck in the next round, and conclude my first round argument.
Debate Round No. 2


Thank you for your arguments.
In response to number 1:
You claim that "a major part of school is learning information that will better your ability to survive on your own in the world," and the distinction between necessary and excess information. I believe that speaking a second language is far more important than learning let"s say History. Yes, it does teach about our past, but it does not have much utility in the day to day living, and even less when we talk about survival.

Since you mentioned age groups, I would actually say that this be focused on younger kids. After kids have learned some of the basics of their native language, it becomes easier to learn a second language while improving their native skills as well.

While your argument of "no teacher can teach every subject, why then must a student learn every subject," provides a good point, I believe that the efforts of learning a second language should be put above other subjects.

As for number 2:
There is still a requirement to learn a language, at least two years. Those classes are taken very lightly, therefore students don"t learn too much.
Precisely because only 26% of people in the U.S. can only hold a conversation, don"t you think it would be better for people to learn more?
People fail when applying the knowledge of a language because they do not look for opportunities to improve and practice; much like the other classes that they took, they do what they need to get good grades and that is it. But given the nature of learning a language, they would need to put in their own effort in practicing. I do realize that people are more likely to not want to put in the effort, but requiring them to learn more might motivate them and giving them better results.

Would you maybe agree with more encouragement to learn a second language, not necessarily being mandatory?

Thank you.


Thank you for your rebuttals, Pro.

1. "I believe that speaking a second language is far more important than learning let's say History."

Well the issue with this argument is that 1) it's strictly based on opinion with no facts to support it, and 2) it does not take into account just how significant history really is. Contrary to what Pro is espousing, History is more than learning about humanity's past; it's actually about using History to shape the future. By teaching students history, teachers are enabling them to better understand the world around them - why their computer exists, why America is currently fighting two wars, why certain countries exist, and certain jokes, and what people are talking about on the news, and what political philosophies they would follow. History is a way to open up the floodgates for students become politically involved, which America needs now more than ever, but that's for a different day. This is also not taking into account that History is a significant aspect of a lot of different subjects: sciences [who discovered what], language arts [writing and explanation of context, etc].

2. "I believe that the efforts of learning a second language should be put above other subjects."

Yes, because before children learn how to add, multiply and divide, they need to learn how to speak a second language. Before students develop to understand basic sciences like evolution, how the weather works and what gravity is, they have to be concerned about being bi-lingual. This is simply unnecessary. The source I provided earlier explains the concept that mandating foreign language classes would actually be incredibly expensive for something that should, logically, be considered a huge waste of time. I am no true fan of 'core curriculums', but enough is enough when you are putting language arts of foreign languages above math and science, etc.

3. "Precisely because only 26% of people in the U.S. can only hold a conversation, don"t you think it would be better for people to learn more?"

Not particularly. My whole intent in citing that percentage was to demonstrate that the knowledge of learning a second language would not be very applicable in "day-to-day" life, considering only 26% of the population can speak these languages well enough to reasonably hold a conversation. But you also seemed to dodge the 8% of students who actually manage to hang on to the languages they learn and manage to apply it in life. Once again, 90% of high school students took a language class at one point or another, and many fail to apply daily. Now, what also needs to be considered is exactly what this is saying: Pro is making the argument that when people immigrate to America, the American government must mandate languages of other nations to adjust to the status quo. Would it not be more appropriate for the immigrants to try and adopt to English and the language of the country they are immigrating to, not the other way around? Would it not make more sense to perhaps mandate the learning of the English language for foreign students who do not already speak it?

4. "People fail when applying knowledge of a language because they do not look for opportunities to improve and practice..."

This might be a remotely credible and valid argument if Pro cited sources, but as one might observe they have failed to do so; therefore the point should be considered null, because no statistical data supports the claim that students who had learned the language fail to apply it in daily life.

5. ..."much like the other [language] classes that they took, they do what they need to get good grades and that is it."

Okay, so two mandated years of learning a foreign language would enable students to just barely get by [i.e do the work without interest in the language], but giving obviously uninterested students who feel no need to learn a second language more years of mandatory language learning would somehow stop them from doing that exact thing? What about math classes? Students take math class for basically their entire school life, you don't think some of them are disinterested? It is more likely that more students will just do the work for the grades than not. Pass the class and you get out. Forcing students to do more work revolved around a difficult-to-apply subject is not necessarily going to encourage them to focus more on the subject at hand, enjoy, or remember it better. Nor it will make the knowledge anymore applicable.

Once more, thank you.

Debate Round No. 3


Thank you Con for your response; as well as taking on the debate.

1.I was just using History as an example, but I do agree that it has its importance even in the modern day. But I do have to say that while it may help people understand why the United States is doing certain things, or decide their political philosophy to a certain degree, I think that learning about other cultures and other languages can also provide a lot to the same things. Also, if we are talking about America (not just the United States as it is commonly poorly referred), more than half of the countries that make up the continent have Spanish as their first language, and are more encouraged to learn English than vice-verse.
2. Yes, it may be far more important for students to learn math better and put more effort into that; but in order to learn everything else, the more English they know the better. Learning a second language provides them with this opportunity.
3. I was actually not taking into consideration immigrants and communication with them as much as people from the U.S. going to other places. If we want to even consider requiring people learning English when they come here, what can you say about other places wanting the same?
Finally, I believe that you have made some good points as to why it should not be mandatory. However, I do still believe that it should hold more importance and be more encouraged than it currently is. It provides people with more benefits than negative effects.

Thank you.


Thank you, Pro for your responses.

1. While it is true that History was only used as an example, it also contradicts the point that Pro was making, and therefore was conjured in poor taste and bad aims. He did not help his agenda by using the example, and admittedly hurt it when he said that it has importance "even in the modern day". What can be found in the second part of this argument is that Pro is saying that while History and such other subjects are significant and serve one purpose, the ability to learn other languages might also fulfill the purpose of those particular academic subjects. What I am proprosing is that this is false; history provides people an incentive to not repeat it [to some extents], for any mistakes made that lead to horrible disasters or catastrophes because morals of stories from humanity's past. But History [as I mentioned in the previous round and as Pro conceded henceforth] plays a larger role than the past, it in fact helps to guide people along in the future and make political decisions that affect what we live in now that are 'countries'. Meanwhile, languages would be useful for communication with those of foreign cultures and to be able to reach out to the rest of the world in unity of human civilization. But is this conformity that Pro is proposing should be mandated in academic environments really be mandated? I don't think so, and for reasons explicitly stated before; whether it normally fails to play out in everyday life, whether it cannot be held on to by the students who took the classes, or whether it's just a big waste of school funding and student-teacher time, language classes should not be mandatory unless it is under the circumstance that a foreign student is immigrating to a nation and needs to be able to communicate in that nation's language.

2. I would not necessarily say that knowing a second language would make learning other academic subjects easier. Though, if I might, I would like to cite a short anecdotal piece from my own memory.

Once in a History class we had been covering the origins of World War Two, and of course with this particular subject Germany is bound to be brought up, the History teacher was attempting to read small German words that were placed in the text we had been reading simply for effect and realism [i.e Kristallnacht, Reich, Wehrmacht]. They had difficulty reading the words because, well, German was not a language they fluidly spoke.

While it would have made reading such text less of an obstacle, it does not mean that language-learning should be mandated because it is convenient. Anything forced on students in schools should be of absolute importance and priority.

3. I was not denying the same would apply for foreign nations, the truth of the matter is that if you are going to a country where a different language is spoken you should try your best to adapt to that language. But if Germany has an immigrant from America, that immigrant should have mandated German courses, not German students having mandated English, Spanish or Quebecois courses. That's not quite how it works.

4. Thank you for complimenting the points I made, while typing them I was rather proud. Now, to get on to this argument you are making. The overall topic question for this debate is whether or not language learning should be mandatory in schools [that is the prompt you offered in the opening round], if you are not sticking to that belief, then you have changed your opinion and conceded to my side of the argument. Which would therefore declare my implicit victory. However, you went on to say that encouraging language learning in schools provides more benefits, let me explain why that is also false.

  • Tutoring is expensive. Budget-savvy parents spend big bucks on language lessons because they're investing in bigger paychecks for their kids down the road—but the return on your investment may be smaller than you think. Contrary to popular belief, second-language fluency isn't a golden ticket to the next tax bracket. According to a 2007 study by University of Pennsylvania economists, the pay bump for learning a second language is small. The most common languages, Spanish and French, only earn speakers a 1 to 2 percent bump above grade.
  • School years yield a higher return. If you're looking for a way to make sure your kid rakes in the big bucks, skip the language lessons and invest that money in graduate school. For each year of extra schooling you give them, their pay check will increase 8 to 12 percent. By the time you're ready to retire, they'll have more spare bedrooms than their bilingual counterparts. Even those who speak German, Mandarin or Arabic—the most in demand languages—only earn about 4 percent above average.
  • The older you are, the harder it is. Let's face it—all most of us remember from 4 years of high school Spanish class are basic phrases like baño and gracias. However, that failure to retain foreign words may not be our fault; we may have missed our window of opportunity to learn languages easily. "Young children can acquire native-like fluency as easily as they learned to walk" says Leslie Lancry, CEO of Language Stars. Schools like Language Stars capitalize on this window and are able to teach children a new language simply through immersion. But according to Lancry and other experts, this window closes around age 10. After that, even years of tutoring may not make a language stick.
  • Your kid's schedule is full enough. The closer he gets to college, the busier his schedule gets. It's best to focus his energies on the subjects admissions officers care about. Jeff Fuller, Director of Student Recruitment at the University of Houston says "Most universities will look at the full depth and breadth of the students' course selection—especially comparing it to what the high school offers." Admissions officers won't ding a student for not taking classes their school doesn't offer, but they do expect you to take a healthy helping of AP and honors courses, and join sports and clubs. Adding language tutoring a few times a week can swamp your child and bring his overall performance down.
The source for the above text:

Ladies and gentlemen [and those inbetween] who have read and followed this debate, you have heard the arguments. You have heard Pro has now twice abandoned his original claim tied to the prompt which he was meant to defend. He has subtly given up the debate. I respect his arguments, I respect his debating and patience, and I thank him for this opportunity. But I would like for everyone who will be voting to consider voting Con.
Debate Round No. 4
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