Every person has some sort of regret. Some regret that they did not go for a certain jobs, while others regret they did not ask out that cute guy or girl that lived down the hall from them. But a regret that seems to be almost universal among many people is the regret that they did not study a second language while they went to college.
Second languages are, in essence, the life blood of the world. While we, as a global community, have certain languages like English and French that are used universally, speaking to a person in their native tongue really helps connect both you and the other person together because it shows that you went out of your way to try to learn some of their language and, by association, a part of their culture.
On top of this, learning a second language really helps you see something from another persons’ point of view. I cannot even begin to describe how many stories I have heard in Spanish about the lives of so many people coming over to America in hopes of a better life. In fact, I still remember one time at my job when one of my bosses was surprised to hear me speaking Spanish with one of the cleanup crew men, who was regaling me with the story of his travels to America and the hardships that he faced just to get here.
On top of showing a profound cultural respect, learning a second language can really show you how big our society really is. Though I have not been granted the opportunity to study or go abroad, many of my friends and colleagues have said that by learning the language of a place you plan on going to visit/live in really shows “how the other half lives,” so to speak.
I would almost liken the experience to driving a car: I could read a thousand manuals on how to drive a car, but until I actually give it a go, I would never what it is like. The same principle carries over in this scenario; I can read a thousand books on the history of Germany, but until I go over there and see how the people live I will never truly know what it is like.
Now the problem that I see at Stony Brook, and really in the United States public education system, is that second languages are not really all too stressed to students. I know that for a lot of public high schools, foreign language programs are normally the first programs to either get cut or lose funding should budget issues arise.
On the flip side at Stony Brook, I know that a number of students can place out of taking a second language if they met a specific grade requirement when they took a second language in high school. But that does not mean that we should not take any more language classes because we can not only broaden our job prospects, but our cultural aspects too.
So go out and explore all of the language opportunities offered at Stony Brook; take a class in German or Japanese, French or Russian. Try one out because who knows, you might fall in love with the language and culture that you decide to study which might open up doors you would have never had known existed.