Foreign language classes are common to most high schools throughout America now and a good portion of students take them every year. With so much time being spent learning a second language, there are many who wonder what the benefits of learning one are. Sure, it has been proven that those who know a second language score higher on standardized tests, have better memory, and have more access to the world and its cultures, but what can it do for you financially?
When signing up for a French or Spanish class, most students don’t think about how the class could actually pay for itself later. If you were to look up how much knowing a foreign language can increase your future salary, you would find it is only about 2%. Not very impressive. However, an MIT economist, Albert Saiz, has stated that this is only the average and that the percentage changes by language. The true numbers are 1.5% increase in salary for those who can speak Spanish, 2.3% for French, and 3.8% for German.
While these numbers are still unimpressive as is, Saiz then calculated what those numbers would be if you were to save all that extra money over a period of 40 years (the average amount of time people will work before retirement). The Spanish speaker will have an extra $51,000 in their bank account, the French speaker would have $77,000, and the German speaker would have $128,000. Most careers that involve a larger raise in salary for knowing a second language will deal in either international trade or translating.
If you plan on taking the minimum amount of language courses to get into college, or plan on not taking any courses at all, you should forget the studies about second languages helping your memory or test scores. Instead, consider the fact that language courses will, in the future, pay for themselves.