How many years of a world language must I take? What are the benefits/risks of starting in 8th?
Students do NOT need to take a world language to graduate from high school. However, many colleges list world language as an entrance requirement. It is difficult to determine how many years of a world language you will need for college because every college is different. The general rule of thumb is that 2 years of any world language should satisfy the entrance requirements for colleges.
In many cases, it is a good idea to plan world language classes during the last years of the student’s high school career, unless a student is planning on taking 4 or more years of the language. Colleges often require a minimum amount of a world language to get in, and additional years of that language during college. It is difficult to retain language skills if they go unused, and many colleges will test to measure the student’s level of mastery. This could mean that a student has to retake world language classes during college if there is a gap between the time the student took the language course and the beginning of college. In most cases, a student with 4 or more years of a world language will not need to take any additional classes in college, and will not have to take a proficiency test.
Deciding on a plan for world language can be difficult, and there is no “right” answer. For example, The University of Iowa requires a minimum of 2 years to get in, and for most majors, two more to graduate from college. A student taking all 4 years in high school would not need to take any while at Iowa. Iowa State requires 2 years to get in, and a third before college graduation. Three years in high school would prevent the student from taking the course during college. UNI does not necessarily require world language to get in, but requires 3 years or either high school or college world language before graduation. On the other hand, Drake does not require any world language during high school or college.