Language Education & Immersion in the Unites States
Among the rest of the world, the Unites States often falls behind in its language education. Americans are notorious for being hesitant, unwilling, or just downright too lazy to learn a second language. And while it is improving, there is still a lot to improve on. In many countries, particularly in Europe and Asia, people often learn 2 or even 3 languages in addition to their native one. In Lebanon, for example, everyone is required to learn French and English in primary and secondary school, on top of their native Arabic. This has caused Lebanese Arabic to have a very distinct sound and vocabulary than Modern Standard Arabic. The people have become so multilingual, that the common greeting "Hi! (English) Kifak (Arabic) ça va? (French)" is a perfect example of this.
We need to begin implementing language education in schools earlier. High school is not early enough anymore. The younger you learn a language, the better you absorb it and gain proficiency. Also, the younger students are when they learn a second language for the first time, they are then well equipped with the skills and strategies to learn more languages in the future.
I personally think that, across the board, all public school students should learn Spanish first, from grades 1st to 4th. This will help bridge the communication gap between English-speaking Americans and Hispanics. 5th through 8th grade and high school would vary on the area and available funding. In Texas, it could be German due to high concentration of German speaking communities. In California, it could be Mandarin , due to high rates of Chinese migration. In Florida, it could be Haitian Creole. Then in high school, students would be able to select from a variety of languages. I think good options to start with would be French, Arabic, American Sign Language , Japanese, Esperanto, Russian, and Swahili.
This would give America a competitive edge, with most of the population being able to communicate in at least 4 different languages, with a wide variation of languages being spoken by people. This would also help bridge the gap between the native-born Americans and the immigrants. It would also help America catch up to the rest of our increasingly global society.
Comment your thoughts and opinions and critiques below.
Ugh, what if they don't want to learn Spanish though? They should at least be given a choice of languages. I remember being pushed into learning French as a kid, hating it, thinking I was a failure at languages for a long time, and forgetting almost everything I learned in French class soon after it ended. The sound of French still gives me bad flashbacks of my French teacher yelling at me and other students & crushing boredom to this day.
I'd say that kids should at least have a choice of languages. If they don't they might just grow to hate the foreign language that was forced on them.
I fully agree.
At high school I had to learn the 3 foreign languages of the neighbour countries of the Netherlands (English 6 years, German 3 years and French 4 years), despite I had chosen a "science" profile.
I still don't like learning (foreign) languages, but I need them every day in my profession, hobbies and for reading the news from a different point of view than only the Dutch one.