The benefits of AP and IB foreign language courses

According to experts, high school students looking to better prepare for college and careers should consider taking higher-level foreign language courses.…

According to experts, high school students looking to better prepare for college and careers should consider taking higher-level foreign language courses.

Two ways to do this are the College Board’s Advanced Placement World Languages ​​and Cultures courses and the International Baccalaureate Diploma program’s graduate-level foreign language courses.

Although there are differences, with the IB curriculum being relatively small compared to the AP, both programs challenge students with a rigorous curriculum and offer a number of benefits. Through these courses, students can become proficient in a foreign language; earn college credit; acquire knowledge of history, literature and culture; and prepare for international education programs. According to experts, taking advanced language courses can also make college admissions easier.

“I always tell students that foreign languages ​​are the way to go,” says Christopher Rim, CEO and founder of Command Education, an education and admissions consulting firm. “When students apply to colleges, top-tier schools…mostly want students who have taken four years of a foreign language. It’s not necessarily required, but you become a stronger candidate.

Micha Langenberg, a counselor at Central Senior High School in St. Paul, Minnesota, says these classes are a way for students to demonstrate a diverse set of college interests.

“While it’s not an incredibly competitive university,” says Langenberg, “the more you can delve into a specific global language, the more attractive you are as a desirable candidate for any institution.”

In addition, foreign language skills are increasingly sought after in the professional world. Experts say AP and IB foreign language courses lay the foundation for developing skills that can open up new job opportunities as students enter the job market.

Students can take AP courses in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish, as well as Spanish literature. Many high schools do not offer all AP foreign language courses, so students will need to speak to their guidance counselor about availability.

Through the IB Diploma Program, students can take advanced courses in a wide range of foreign languages, including Latin and Classical Greek as well as modern languages ​​such as French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and German, depending on what is offered in their school.

Here are four of the many potential benefits of taking AP or IB foreign language courses in high school:

Earn college credits

For many students, the most immediate benefit of these courses is the opportunity to earn college credit.

Students can generally earn credit by scoring a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP test or a 4-7 on the IB exam, although colleges differ in their requirements.

Many colleges and universities require a certain level of foreign language credits, regardless of the major intended by the students. Earning this credit in high school can save students one or more semesters of foreign language study.

For students who decide to major or minor in a foreign language, an appropriate score on the AP or IB exam can place them at a more advanced level. This can save students money on tuition and give them more freedom for electives or part-time employment.

While he strongly encourages students to take higher-level foreign language courses in high school, Rim says students should consider their likely grade and determine whether it would ultimately benefit their college application.

“Of course, if you’re not good at it, don’t enroll in fourth year (of a language) just because you think it’s going to look good in colleges,” he says. “Getting a lower grade will end up being worse. You better not take it at all.

Study both the language and the culture

AP and IB world language courses typically immerse students in the language and culture they are studying.

Students deepen their knowledge of vocabulary and grammar and often only speak the foreign language in class. In classes like AP Spanish Literature, students also read and discuss texts in Spanish, just like in an English class. But it’s just as important to study culture, says Maritza Sloan, a Spanish language, literature and culture teacher at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis.

“We’re always looking at how language and culture are interrelated and how that culture compares to our own culture where we live,” says Sloan, who also leads AP Summer Institute workshops to educate teachers about the curriculum. Spanish AP. “It’s not to see who is better or worse, it’s to see what similarities there are and to understand better.”

She applies this in her classes by appointing each student as an “ambassador” to a Spanish-speaking country or state in the United States that has a large Spanish-speaking population. Students investigate and report on what is happening in their assigned location.

“It’s very interesting to hear our students communicate in the language on very important topics,” says Sloan. “It goes beyond describing their mother or talking about colors.”

This language and cultural immersion is an “essential” attribute students need to develop, says Jennifer Baker, principal of Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Maryland, which offers six AP foreign language options.

“I don’t think anyone can stress enough the importance of this in today’s world,” says Baker. “I think a lot of problems in the world would be solved if we better understood each other’s cultures and backgrounds.”

Prepare for Study Abroad or Degree Abroad

Studying abroad allows students to experience new places, cuisines, and arts while learning about a country’s culture and history.

AP or IB foreign language courses can spark students’ interest in studying abroad at university, or even earning a full degree abroad, and can help prepare them both linguistically and culturally. , Sloan said.

Baker says that many students at her school who have taken an AP foreign language course have developed an interest in majoring or minoring in a foreign language and have taken advantage of study abroad opportunities once they are. arrived at university.

And it has lasting benefits, she says. “If you think about the world today and how culturally mixed we are, just look at the world in general, being fluent in another language can only help you on your journeys down the road.”

Gain valuable and marketable job skills

Studying a foreign language can prepare students for jobs in fields such as international business, diplomacy, or nonprofit organizations, or open up other unique career opportunities.

Fluency in a second language is an increasingly sought-after skill, experts say. The demand for bilingual workers more than doubled from 2010 to 2015, according to a report by New American Economy, a research and advocacy organization.

It is estimated that about 20% of Americans who are proficient in English are also proficient in another language.

Studies show that fluency in a foreign language can boost your salary, although estimates vary depending on the amount.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that careers for interpreters and translators will increase 20% by 2031.

AP and IB level courses can put students on the path to foreign language proficiency and even provide practical experience that might not be offered in lower level courses.

Sloan students, for example, are frequently asked to translate for patients at a local medical clinic in St. Louis. They also work with local organizations to help teach math and English to Spanish-speaking children.

“Giving high school students the opportunity to use their language outside of the classroom so early is just an incredible opportunity,” she says. “They come to university with this experience – the experience of using the language with native speakers. For me, that’s very, very important. A lot of students, when they come to university, want to continue with that.

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The benefits of AP and IB foreign language courses originally appeared on

Update 9/16/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Sylvester L. Goldfarb