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Foreign Language Education: An Increasing Necessity
My whole life, I have loved traveling. Because of this, I have a never ending list of places I want to go that keeps growing that includes places like, Paris, Spain, London, Maldives and Egypt, just to name a few. The problem with my never ending list of destinations, besides the fact that I am a broke college student, is the massive language barrier blocking me from all of these countries. Therefore, the language barrier needs to be taken down for the future nomads, up and coming businesses, and workers of tomorrow.
“How could a second language benefit Americans residing in America?”
Globalization has become more prominent and permanent than ever because of technological advances in recent years. The American economy is being harmed because we are unaware of the majority of foreign cultures and languages. Because of this, International business relationships are being harmed, while Americans are seen as disrespectful by the majority of the world. According to Ryan McMunn in US News, the job market offers a 10- 15 percent pay increase for workers who are fluent in a second language. Increased income would be beneficial for everyone and if learning a second language is what it takes to achieve this goal, that should be a priority. By learning a second language, America is taking steps to gaining an edge in the economy and creating a positive stereotype of Americans.
2. Reading and Writing Skills
Reading and writing skills are required to communicate across distances and preserve information. Although someone can speak a second language fluently, it doesn’t mean he or she knows how to read or write the language which is key to modern communication. But if students are given the opportunity to learn to read, write, and speak in a foreign language, they will improve their writing and reading skills in their native language. According to Dr. Francois Victor Tochon, he explained how “knowing one language and writing system helps the learning of another. Bilingualism has two effects on literacy acquisition: one, understanding reading and its print system and, two, transferring reading principles across language”. From this standpoint, a second language can only improve a student’s reading ability due to the overlap between the two languages. Writing has the same outcome; Tochon discussed how bilingual students “use their mother tongue with more precision”. This means that their native language is enhanced due to the second language which is important in a generation built around texting.
3. Cognitive Ability
Cognitive Ability is essential in every aspect of day to day life. According to Tochon when comparing bilingual and monolingual students, bilingual students demonstrate increased creativity, reasoning, problem solving, and conceptualization. These could further anyone in their career and every other aspect of their life. As you can see, cognitive ability is a crucial benefit of foreign languages and needs to be taken advantage of.
4. Traveling and Living Abroad
Traveling and living abroad is a passion for the nomads out there. While for business people, living in foreign countries and traveling is a requirement of their jobs. Right now, airfare is cheaper than ever and businesses are becoming international. Due to this, the chance of traveling or living abroad to keep a job is becoming more of a possibility than ever. Foreign languages are required in order to complete these tasks. In a New York Times article, the author discussed their personal experience with foreign languages being acquired from immersion while abroad. However, it can be more beneficial for a traveler or business person to learn the language and culture before traveling.
When should we begin teaching foreign languages?
“Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks”
This timeless saying means that it is harder to learn something new as we age. Since that is the case, we need to start teaching foreign languages at a younger age. The younger we start teaching our students a second language the higher the chance that they will become fluent. From that stand point, it is our duty to offer future generations the opportunity to pick up a second language. This gives them a chance to gain all of the benefits of a second language and over time America will become a bilingual society. According to Susan S. Lang, students have the greatest chance of speaking like natives if they start at a young age because as a child they are able to pick up the pronunciation easier. Fluency in a foreign language would be an extremely useful tool for all Americans and one that we should strive to gain.
What about the budget increases required for the schools to offer foreign languages?
There is an increase in cost from the foreign language classes to add teachers. However, the students would gain many benefits such as a possible pay increase because of their second language skills. This would lead school budgets to increase in some states because the schools are funded by taxes. In addition, once the next generation is fluent in a second language there won’t be a need for additional foreign language staff at the elementary school level because that generation of teachers will be able to teach their students the basics of a second language. This would work effectively if America focused on one language and then people had the option to learn a third language. Regardless of the cost, Americans should want the benefits of a second language for their children.
How would additional foreign language classes fit into an already tight schedules?
Time schedules are tight in schools with the hefty requirements put on the education system. At the high school level, foreign language classes are already integrated into the required course load. This means no extra time for classes would be required. As for middle school, there are already some foreign language classes offered in the schedule. While more classes could be added, if schools take study halls out of their schedule and required foreign languages in their place. Finally in elementary schools, foreign languages could be offered for a half hour a day to give students a break between core classes. These are just a few solutions for schools to integrate additional foreign language requirements despite the limiting time restraints.
In order for America to keep up with the rest of the world; foreign languages are a necessity. We need to put in the money and work necessary to make foreign language classes possible. If not, our future generations are going to pay the consequences of our decision. We need to make these changes to our education policies now before it is too late. It may cost some money and time but the rewards would be well worth it in the long run. Other countries have managed to produce bilingual societies, we should be next.