Did we pick the wrong foreign language? help ASAP - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 09-06-2010, 01:58 AM - Thread Starter
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Please tell me if we did the right thing. I let my children pick the language they wanted to take in school. DS15 picked Latin. It is required they take 2 yrs but they really need to take 3 years for admission to many colleges. Once in college, they will likely have to take even more for that degree.

In a meeting with the school, which is a very small school (the one I have posted about, 250 kids total for 4 yrs of high school), they offer virtual classes whereever in person classes are not available. Fine. We actually like it. My daughter is taking French and it turned out that everyone in her class period for that is taking French, even though it is virtual. Also turns out that her teacher speaks French. The teacher is more of a facilitator as the class is actually online. My daughter, who is 14, is having tons of fun with it.

Back to the meeting, it was for my son. They told us that his choice of class, which was Latin, is a very difficult class and the only other child they ever had taken it was miserable and really struggled with it. They told us we should reconsider and put him in German. They have a great German teacher on campus, a very active German program. The teacher really is supposed to be great and he has a lot going on with it, including student exchanges and such. So, I went to my son and discussed it with him and told him how awful Latin would be and how difficult (even though he has had Latin in the past) and how he really needs to consider German, but that it would be his final choice. He ended up agreeing to switching to German.

THEN, my daughter made friends with T. Turns out, T has been at this school the last 2 years and has been taking Latin. He must be the one they were talking about. He says he likes the class. He says it is virtual so you can work ahead and that he really enjoys it. He said it is not hard at all, you just sign in and everything you need to know is right there.

Now I kind of feel like perhaps the school was pushing me to push my son in to taking German because there was a big drop in German enrollment. The school doubled in size, but most of the new kids did not opt for German and of those already there, some had finished and were not taking anymore.

I am also worried that when he gets to college, and he has to have a language to graduate, what if his college does not offer German? Then what? He has to start completely over on foreign language?

Should I just let this go? German started Friday but Latin is not set to start until this upcoming week. Thanks!
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#2 of 14 Old 09-06-2010, 02:22 AM
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hmmm, well I took 3 years of Latin in high school and then switched to German in college. And then moverd to Germany for about 5 years. I also studied some Czech and French - all this just to say that i really enjoyed taking Latin. I think it gave me a great foundation for learning other languages and in really understanding how English works on a nuts and bolts level.

Personally, I think it depends on what your son wants to do - go into law or medicine - Latin for sure. Go live in Germany - German for sure. Other then that, I think that whatever he is motivated to learn is the better choice.

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#3 of 14 Old 09-06-2010, 02:31 AM
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The right language is the one that your child is interested in. Trying to learn a language any other way is just too painful. If he has a choice, let him make it.

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#4 of 14 Old 09-06-2010, 02:43 AM
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At 15 this should be completely up to him. Latin and German are both good choices for college. Whatever he wants to take should be the one he does, it'll make it much easier for him.
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#5 of 14 Old 09-06-2010, 03:25 AM
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Funny. I wanted to take Latin and was discouraged by my father. I took German instead. Now here I am learning Latin in grad school and wishing I had ignored my father way back when!

I say let him make the choice, but also don't stress too much about it. Any language is going to make easier to learn another language in the future.

As for colleges, I've never heard of a college not offering German, but I don't think that should stop him anyway. There are all sorts of creative ways to get college credit for learning languages not taught at your college.
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#6 of 14 Old 09-06-2010, 10:02 AM
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I've never heard of a college not offering German, either, so I wouldn't worry about that (but I've seen many that don't offer Latin). I also agree that the language choice needs to be up to him! Just present him with his options and let him decide, then don't worry about it anymore.
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#7 of 14 Old 09-06-2010, 10:18 AM
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I think you're over-analyzing. First, I don't know of any universities that don't offer German. It's a standard language offering. Second, you say "many more years" will be required in college. That's not true. It depends on so many factors, and I don't think you should push your son to learn a language based on what you think will happen when he's in college.

For example, I needed only 2 semesters of a language and tested out of that, which was pretty common at our university. At the school where I did my graduate work, undergrads needed 3 semesters, and in our department, graduates had to prove fluency through an exam or classes. I don't know what he thinks right now will be his college major, but he can figure all of that out as he goes. (I also don't agree with the "most colleges want to see 3 years" statement. Again, there's tons of variation there.)

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#8 of 14 Old 09-06-2010, 11:36 AM
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I also agree that it should be his choice.

I don't recall Latin being all that difficult, although it's been many years since I studied it in high school. I've never studied German, but DD has and she enjoys it more than other languages she's studied (French and Japanese). But those are individual personal observations.

I also wouldn't worry a lot about college-level courses. There are a lot of majors that don't need any kind of prior language prep. Even Latin is only minimally useful for medicine and law. It's not like he'll be reading original case law from centuries ago. Learning the Latin phrases still in use isn't any harder than learning newly invented jargon in the computer industry. Language learning is best if you have a passion for it.
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#9 of 14 Old 09-06-2010, 11:38 AM
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I agree with the pps.

  • German is a VERY common offering at colleges and universities.
  • Latin is a good foundation language.
  • Though colleges may require 3 years of a language for a degree they often accept 2 years of a foreign language from high school and one year of college level for a degree, so your son may only need 1 year of foreign language in college. If I had known that I would have saved a lot of time--I found out when I was ready to graduate that my university had never received my high school diploma and did not know of my hs foreign language credits (I was a transfer student).
I would tell your son what you found out; that you think the school had an agenda in convincing him to take German, that he made that decision under false pretenses, and that there is still time to register for Latin if that is his choice.

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#10 of 14 Old 09-06-2010, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Lisa1970 View Post
I am also worried that when he gets to college, and he has to have a language to graduate, what if his college does not offer German? Then what? He has to start completely over on foreign language?
At the college I went to, and all the colleges I've ever had experience with, they actually encourage students to start fresh with a third language anyway. I took Spanish in juniorhigh/highschool, and French in college. My sister took Latin in jh/hs and Russian and Spanish in college. DH took Latin in hs and French in college. I only know of one person who just continued the same language from highschool in college, my other sister, and they made her take a series of placement tests.

Since the language requirements are based on # of credits taken, there is no particular advantage to taking the same language all the way through, and beyond 3 or 4 years, one really isn't going to get much more out of a classroom setting.

Whether he wants to stay in German, or switch to Latin, I wouldn't view either as carrying over into college.

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#11 of 14 Old 09-06-2010, 11:57 AM
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I haven't had any experience with a college that requires a foreign language to be taken while in college. The one I graduated from did not, the one DH goes to does not, the one my sister goes to does not, the one my other sister went to did not. Also, my best friend was not required to take a language in school either. (I will say though that the college I did go to only offered French and Spanish, they were pretty small.)

As far as picking the "right" language...talk to your son and see what he wants to do. The right language is the one that's right for him. I don't believe there's any one "right" language. However, I do think that EVERY high school student should be required to have classes in Latin and/or Greek roots. Having had one myself in high school, I know how much insight that gives into language in general. It makes the english language easier to understand, and makes it easier to pick up other languages as well. So, IMO, if you son wants Latin, I would highly encourage him to switch back.

Having said all that...my 14 year old's high school forgien language selection? Japanese Because that's what she is interested in.
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#12 of 14 Old 09-06-2010, 12:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the good advice! I was just feeling guilty for having pushed him in to German when he picked Latin years ago. The school has a German club and German exchange students and the German teacher tries to make class all fun. But I suspect the school tried to push me in to pushing him because they were losing enrollment for German. I have been feeling guilty over that.

I guess I will let him know that if he wishes to switch back to Latin, fine, if not, fine too. And leave it alone to him. Thanks!
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#13 of 14 Old 09-06-2010, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by whatsnextmom View Post
The right language is the one that your child is interested in. Trying to learn a language any other way is just too painful. If he has a choice, let him make it.
I also would ask and see what he is considering (it can change) as a professional. Some languages are more useful in certain professions.

German would be helpful (as would spanish or french) for business/sales/traveling/ interpreter. It is spoken by a large percentage of the world and also is a good language to build from if he wants to learn more languages. Actually Spanish is the second most common language and would be helpful if he is thinking of teaching in the southern/western portions of the US.

Latin is an excellent choice for academic studies/science/medical/biology/scientific degree since many many many medical words have a latin basis and/or if he is interested in historical/religious studies than Latin is also used extensively.

The large university I attended offered Spanish, French, Chinese (Mandrin), German, Latin, Russian, sign language and Italian. Smaller colleges may only offer Spanish/French and maybe Chinese or Japanese (it is quickly becoming a popular business major option).

Talk to him and I would let him choose.
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#14 of 14 Old 09-07-2010, 03:12 PM
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I think taking Latin in high school is an excellent idea.

I took 4 years of Latin and 3 years of Greek in High School.

Latin is not difficult to learn at all. Easier, in fact, because it's just translation, and you don't have to worry about getting an accent correct because everyone who spoke it is long dead.

In fact, if you can, why not see if you child is interested in taking both Latin and German? I had a classmate in high school who did that. He said that Latin made learning other languages easier. (Other friends who took both Latin and French said the same thing.) He did really well with both, and still managed to do varsity sports, all AP classes, etc.

Latin really helped me with the SATs, because I spent years building up my vocabulary, instead of just a few weeks of cramming in test preparation courses. I was pretty good with English grammar when I finished junior high, but by the time I had just a year of Latin, I knew English grammar cold. Passive voice versus Active voice, infinitives, participles. English grammar becomes alive and interesting when you take Latin.

Now, when I went to college, there was a language requirement, so I did take a semester of German to satisfy it. (Actually, I took an intensive 4 week course that counted for a semester.)

Finally, when I went to grad school, there was a foreign language requirement. Since I had only had that little mini course of German and had already forgotten what little German I'd learned, I thought that I would have to take a foreign language course to progress in my Ph.D. in physics. As an afterthought, I told my academic advisor, "Well this is a long shot, but I did have 4 years of Latin in high school." Do you know what he said? "Well, you never know when you might have to read Newton's Principia in its original Latin, so I'll count that as satisfying the foreign language requirement."
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