Students Reflect on Language Choices, Possible Additions to Curriculum

The results of a school-wide student survey about language selection

The results of a school-wide student survey about language selection

Languages are an important part of life, and many students do not take the process of selection lightly. 199 students voted on the reasons why they chose their respective language on an online survey. A little over half of the respondents said that they selected their language because they wanted to, their friends were, or their parents wanted them to. While the influence of friends and parents is apparent, the most common reason why students select their language is because of their own personal interests and needs.

A key factor in deciding which language to take is the challenge level and learning differences. The Language Department Chair Agnes Matheson explained that research does not show a correlation between learning differences and learning a language. She asserts that all around the world, students have the ability to learn multiple languages. It wasn’t until she came to specifically Minnesota that she heard families and students making the assumption that certain languages are easier to learn than others when one has a learning difference.

Matheson remarks, “Sometimes we need to realize that not all students with learning differences have the same learning difference. Depending on the kind of learning difference the student has, maybe it is a factor in their learning of a particular language. More and more, teachers are teaching language in a different way than what was being taught a generation ago, it’s a lot of multi-modal techniques to meet the needs of a variety of students.” The way that languages are taught today use a variety of learning techniques that make it easier for all people with different learning styles to be able to learn regardless of the language. While it is hard to generalize all learning differences, teachers work hard to ensure they don’t impede student’s abilities to learn whatever language they would prefer.

Many students have a personal connection with the language they choose ranging from hosting a foreign exchange student, wanting to work in a particular part of the world, or wanting to connect with their own culture. Betsy Fries ‘22 chose to take Chinese because she  “wanted to be able to connect with my background more and because I want to visit China so learning Chinese would be helpful for that.” She had wanted to take Chinese since she was in the Lower School. Clare Wagner ‘22 responds quite differently when asked why she took her language. For her, taking Latin was inevitable because both of her parents teach it. Wagner states, “It was kind of a required thing in my family to take it, but I also wanted to take it, so there wasn’t really much pressure on me.”


Even with four language options available, many students would appreciate the addition of another option. When asked, students responded to what languages they would like to see added into Blake’s curriculum. While Matheson noted that at this point, there is no plan to add a language into Blake’s options because a language would need to be taken away in order for that to be possible. But, there are still language learning clubs that allow for opportunities to learn more languages. The top five languages that students wanted to see added to Blake were: German (14.4%), Italian (12.6%), ASL (10.8%), Japanese (10.8%), and Arabic (9.9%).


While different pressures and ideas are deciding factors when a student selects which language they’d like to take, the most common reason remains interest. Matheson says, “[It is] important to know, the language that the student wants to learn is going to be easier for them. Motivation is the number one factor in success.”