Our country is a melting pot, so why are we so against learning foreign languages? People from all around the world are learning English, but we are failing to engage with other cultures. America needs to put more emphasis and effort into teaching foreign languages the right way.
As Americans, most of us only take languages because we are forced to in order to get into college. Sometimes, they are a college requirement. So, as students, we struggle trying just to get by. Here is the real question: why do we care so little about it?
A new language allows us to travel the world and communicate with people from other countries, and it can even help us get a job. Certain employers find it highly beneficial to speak another language.
Europe is a fantastic example when it comes to teaching foreign languages.
“In most European countries, students begin studying their first foreign language as a compulsory school subject between the ages of 6 and 9,” Kat Devlin said in an article for Pew Research Center.
This is clear evidence that Europeans realize the importance of being involved and able to communicate with people from other countries. The United States, on the other hand, has varying requirements on learning foreign languages, especially at a young age.
According to an article by Kumon, “Experts say that children who learn a language before their teenage years are more likely than older learners to achieve native-like pronunciation. Furthermore, research has found that kids have an innate ability to acquire the rules of any language – an ability that disappears by adulthood.”
So America, why are we waiting to learn languages? Think about it this way, do you remember learning English? Your answer should be no, because you learn it over time as you are grow up.
Learning another language has resulted in many additional benefits. Accoring to Kumon, “Studies suggest that at a cognitive and academic level, children learning additional languages are more creative, better at solving complex problems and usually score higher on standardized tests.”
Not only is learning at a younger age proven easier, but it is also crucial to be immersed in the culture and language.
“Being immersed in a place where the language is spoken provides so many rich opportunities to practice and learn from authentic situations,” Lisa Loberg, director of Study Abroad at California Lutheran University, said in an email interview. “In class, we try to replicate those situations but again, it takes a bit more work to imagine the scenarios.”
I used an example earlier about how easy it was to learn English, so now picture growing up without your family speaking it around you. It would be incredibly hard to learn. Programs are being added in schools all around the world that promotes this idea of immersion.
“Immersion programs, which include developmental bilingual and other dual language programs, are characterized by an instructional day that includes at least 50 percent spent in the non-English language,” Samantha Cleaver said in her article for weareteachers.com.
The goal is to have children around the language. Instead, the common way of teaching right now seems to be putting students in a classroom a couple times a week for an hour, maybe two, and expecting that to be enough.
“Instructors operate with the understanding that, in order to learn a language, students have to use it in a meaningful, real-world way,” Cleaver said. “That means learning the language through culture, art and music with less emphasis on more common teaching methods like rote vocabulary memorization.”
So America, it is our turn to step up to the plate and join the world. It is time to start immersing our citizens in foreign languages at a young age.