2 years ago
Admissions Advice

Should I take 4 years of a foreign language even if I already have 3 credits of my native language?

My school has a requirement of 2 foreign language credits to graduate. I took a foreign language test for students fluent in Japanese during middle school and got 3 credits. However, my school still requires students even with credits already earned beforehand to take classes that fulfil the credit requirement in while in high school.

I am deciding between taking another foreign language for 2 years or 4 years. On one hand, I heard that I should be taking foreign language classes beyond my native language for 4 years to be a competitive applicant and get into top colleges. On the other hand, taking a foreign language for 2 years in high school already gets me 5 credits. I could have 2 free spots for classes other than a foreign language and take AP classes to make me more of a competitive applicant.

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2 answers

Accepted Answer
2 years ago

I call your dilemma the 1st/2nd gen language loophole. At top colleges like Harvard, Ivys, Elites, and Top liberal arts colleges, you typically do not get a "PASS" for including your native language as your foreign language. There are plenty of Chinese, Korean, East Asian, Latina applicants who grew up speaking something other than English. When it comes time to complete the language requirement, the path of least resistance is to test out or place out of that native language as your foreign language requirement. So Chinese kids take the AP Chinese test, Latina kids take the AP Spanish test and so for. Nevertheless, top colleges do not give you a bonus for assimulating.

So to be considered top of your academics narrative, schools like Harvard want you to have 4 years of a foreign language that is not English or Native to you. This was the case even when my dad was applying to college. He spent 3 years in Japan as a kid and took 8 years of Japanese on Saturdays as in grammar/jr. high but still had to take another language to fulfill the HS graduation requirements so he picked German.

So to answer your question, I would pick a language you want to study for 4 continuous years and that will put you in the best position. And depending on where you apply for college, if you get say a 5 on the AP test for that language, you most likely will place out of the language requirement for the core requirements. So there is some future benefit if you do well and test well in that foreign language.

Hope this helps.

2 years ago

The answer largely depends on the schools you are interested in applying to. You are right that the nation's top schools, e.g. Stanford and Harvard, have a strong preference for applicants who have taken 4 years of a language not native to them. Less competitive schools will be more lenient about how many years of a language you have taken.

I would say that you should study a language for four years if you have a strong desire to attend a Top 30 school. If not, then you can take classes related to your intended major instead to create your application theme. Hope this helps!

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