I spent a lot of time recently thinking about the value of learning a second language, not just because I am a part of the World of Learning Institute, but also because I think that there are so many benefits. I was curious about what would be in the news, the Top Stories, so I went to google and searched. Much to my dismay, most of the top articles are about the need for more world or foreign language study and the lack of it here in the United States.
I think about my own experience as a student, what I saw as a Principal, and how I stop and start my own learning of Spanish all the time even though I know it is a valuable skill. Like many language learners, immersion seems the most beneficial way to learn a language (before the age of 17 is optimal). In a recent blog, we talked about the many reasons to learn a language along with its many advantages, academically and socially, yet there is little to applaud about our approach to languages in the U.S.
Let’s start with the Opinion article in the NYTimes on March 23, 2019, Do You Speak My Language? You Should, by Bénédicte de Montlaur the cultural counselor of the French Embassy in the United States. Without apology, she tells us “In an increasingly global world, Americans should be adding, not slashing, opportunities for their children to learn another tongue.” Her story and those in the comments of Jeremy Engles’ column, Student Opinion, tell us not only the value a second language but also the downside of slashing programs in colleges and K-12 programs. The voices of students tell this story best.
Here are some of their responses and replies:
- “In the article, Bénédicte de Montlaur states “The necessity of foreign-language education could not be clearer right now.” which was very relatable for me and I completely agree. In America, there are many languages being spoken, which I find so interesting and incredible.” Ana (see more)
- “I think that only 20% of people are learning a foreign language in America, compared to 92% in Europe is crazy! Learning how to communicate with other people in their foreign tongue is a great skill to have, especially in today’s world, with thousands of languages in almost two hundred countries around the globe.” Emily
- “The importance to learn a foreign language is that a new language could expand your mind and open many opportunities in your life as for example in a job because when you know more than one language, you can help other people to communicate. For example, I work in an Italian Restaurant where most of the people speak English but when tourist come and they are Latinos and how I can translate to the server the orders because I speak Spanish, and satisfy the costumers’ service.” Leddy
- “I have been learning French since I was 12 years old, I’m now 25, and learning French has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. When people who haven’t taken a foreign language class, speak about foreign language classes, it is usually about the practical use of the language itself. However, foreign language classes are by structure interdisciplinary, we talk about literature, film, science, business, culture, nothing is off-limits. We want students to be able to talk about their passions in this language. A foreign language class allows students to become culturally competent, they can explore cultures in the classroom of their school and learn cultural differences as well as how to communicate between cultures.” Tim
- I am a middle school student, and I have already seen the effects of a foreign language in my daily life. I have taken German for the past two years, and it has significantly helped in my Language Arts and Literature class. Alison
Do you have a Foreign Language program at your school? What is your opinion about language learning? What are your students, parents and community members opinions? Should foreign languages be taught to everyone starting in Elementary school?
Learning a language has so many benefits, from increasing standardized test scores, improving English and Language Arts skills, enhancing listening and memory, and many more. (See our blog on the benefits HERE)
More stories here:
Spanish Language ballots and Voter Turn Out, Gabe Osterhout
Foreign Language Classes Becoming More Scarce, Kathleen Stein-Smith