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Parent Question: Can my daughter study 4 different languages or just 1?

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HS4CC parent from Ohio asks “We are trying to plan her foreign language, and she has 4 languages she is interested in, so I am trying to figure out if there is a reason for her to NOT do one language each year and just have a broad familiarity with four languages rather than concentrate on one language.”

I literally just consulted* with a parent last week whose teen knew 5 languages. Her high school transcript had 4 foreign languages (plus English) on it. Her daughter used AP, CLEP, and dual enrollment. It is possible for a motivated teen to earn high school and college credit in as many languages as your daughter wants.

The standard advice is to suggest 2 years of the same language in high school, but the intent of that advice is to cover the basic requirements that may come up later. Like all aspects of homeschooling, you have the privilege to go way beyond the basics and really let her dig into what she wants to study.

Really there are 4 parts to your question.

  1. Personal Interest
  2. High School Graduation Requirements (state-dictated)
  3. College Admissions (or other post-high school training)
  4. College Degree requirements

The quick answer is that you’ll want to look at each of the 4 parts each individually and then decide from there!

Personal interest is the strongest predictor of success, so if I were advising you, it would be to lead with your teen’s interests FIRST, and then coordinate possible requirements to you make sure she is checking the right boxes if or when necessary.

If your state has high school graduation requirements for homeschoolers, you’ll need to meet those as you make her high school plan. Most states only have high school graduation requirements for public school students, and have nothing to do with homeschoolers, so be sure you check your state first so you can proceed confidently.

While it is true that some colleges and universities ask for “2 years of the same language” don’t assume this is the case. Often colleges only list that as a suggestion or recommendation, and, if yours does, read the wording very carefully. Asking for “2 years” is different from the much more common request for “2 units of a language other than English.” A “unit” means a “credit” which is not the same as “year.” If her target college is asking for “2 units” then she can easily do this by taking 2 courses at the community college or through dual enrollment. College courses are shorter than high school courses (1 college course = 1 semester = 1 high school credit) When done through a college, she can accumulate “units” much faster. Many colleges offer short or accelerated semesters (5-8-12 weeks) allowing the 2-semester sequence to be completed very fast.

College degrees, contrary to popular myth, do not all require foreign language credit, but some colleges build this into their requirement because they have determined that it is important for their brand of education. A liberal arts college, for instance, generally does require foreign language for a degree… but a community college or public university rarely does. If her target college has a foreign language requirement, you can resourcefully plan her high school credits by choosing a method that will also later count for her degree. This is especially useful when your state offers free dual enrollment tuition, because after high school, you’ll pay full price at every college.

Bilingual home?

If your family speaks any language in the home besides English, you should arrange for your teen to earn college credit in this language. It will be “low hanging fruit” and a great place to start. If your teen can also read and write in this language, testing out will be the fastest and most economical way to earn college credit. Read more about foreign language test-out options.


Fluent U offers this valuable tip, “When you’re learning two languages at the same time, you can practice translation by cutting out the middleman of English: Simply translate between the two new languages you’re learning! Besides giving you a chance to work on both languages at once, this exercise helps get you “thinking” in the languages you’re learning rather than constantly returning to your habitual language.”

*Homeschool Exit Strategies is not affiliated with Homeschooling for College Credit and operates as Jennifer’s private consulting business.

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