I could very possibly be the worst advocate of an educational foreign language requirement. That would apply to any level of education, be it junior high, high school or college.
For me, the issue is context and need. As the internet has proven to us, you can learn anything, anywhere, and pretty much free. The question is whether what you learn is valuable.
When my son was five, he was frustrated because his teacher sent him home with a fresh new coloring page as homework. Apparently, his initial effort was too messy for her taste, and his assignment was to do a better job of it. He wanted to know WHY he needed coloring skills. Today, I could probably give him a better answer than I did then — perhaps he might lose out on an important internship when they found out he couldn’t color in the lines?
Again, my son has faced me with the WHY of foreign language learning. For me, I took French in high school. Since then, I have never used French in any meaningful way, and I have not had to look for the French library either. (Où est la bibliothèque?).
With regard to Japanese however, I must say that living in Hawaii my son does have context; additionally we’ve added context by scheduling a trip to Japan in the near future.
It is for me, the upcoming trip that fuels my desire to learn conversational Japanese. That, and perhaps one of those middle-aged — if only I had tried harder moments. In any case, if there is one thing I have learned about motherhood, it is that when your children are suffering in their classwork, you are too. It’s better for me to stay at least a few steps ahead so I can be a little useful.
With that, we embark on this foreign language journey in the new era of technology.