IELTS essay, topic: Is learning a foreign language essential or a waste of time (opinion)?

This is a model response to a Writing Task 2 topic from High Scorer’s Choice IELTS Practice Tests book series (reprinted with permission). This answer is close to IELTS Band 9.

Set 5 Academic book, Practice Test 25

Writing Task 2

You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.

Write about the following topic:

Some people feel that learning a foreign language is an essential component of a child’s education. Others feel that learning a foreign language is often a waste of time that can be better spent on learning about technology and other more vocational subjects.

Discuss both views and give your own opinion.

Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your knowledge or experience.

You should write at least 250 words.

Sample Band 9 Essay

Throughout the history of education, learning a foreign language or languages has been a constant component. Of course, many people feel that this is really an unnecessary part of education for everyone, but this is not a point of view that I share.

The opponents to learning a foreign language might argue that most people do not travel that often outside their own country. In addition to this, out of all the countries of the world, comparatively not many share the same language. Therefore, learning a foreign language will only be useful for the very limited time that one spends in a country where this language is used. For some people, the language might never be used in their entire lives. When one thinks about how much time and money are spent training language teachers, buying resources, going on trips and delivering lessons for such a negligible benefit, this would seem to be a very inefficient allocation of resources.

However, the benefits of learning a foreign language go further than just the ability to use it from time to time on a holiday or business trip. Firstly, through learning one language, one gains an understanding to some extent of how all languages work. Thus, no matter where people might end up around the world, the knowledge of language can be of use. Secondly, with the study of a foreign language, one also opens oneself up to other cultures. This allows in turn an appreciation for different points of view and belief systems. With an ever-shrinking world due to globalisation, the ability to empathise and understand the people from other countries is vital to reducing conflict and creating a more tolerant society. Finally, quite simply learning languages is excellent for the improvement of general cognitive skills.

It seems to me that learning a foreign language, therefore, is more than just gaining the ability to speak a few words of a foreign tongue. It is part of intellectual and social development and needs to be continued for everyone in today’s schools.

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