Education About Asia

Advice to Students Choosing a Foreign Language: Go Asian

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Having been a college professor for more than three decades, I have come to expect that one or two students will ask—almost weekly— what language he or she should study in college and why.
First, I tell my students that studying a foreign language requires a considerable commitment of time and energy, and it should be viewed as a lifetime endeavor; thus, the choice deserves careful consideration. Then I tell them that to answer the question, one must ask: What languages are going to be the most important in the future?
Learning a language that is spoken by a large and/or an increasing number of people is obviously preferable. As August Compte once said, “Demographics is destiny.” Thus, I suggest studying a “big language”—meaning one that a lot of people speak.