It is simple fact that being fluent in a second language improves our abilities but that we [as Americans] are lagging behind in speaking foreign tongues. Our primary school systems do not allow for the development of languages other than English. Most Americans fail miserably when tested against Europeans in the practice of foreign language. Every day that our children are neglected of proper cultural education and language exposure, other children across the globe are ten steps ahead toward their futures. Nationwide, the American government needs to install compulsory language requirements into our education system that allow our children, our students, to learn to fluently speak another language.
With foreign language as a tool, our children will be able to function socially and compete economically on a global scale. Study upon study from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language tell us that academic performance, aptitude for understanding of others, and cognitive thinking are all tremendously improved by those students who become fluent in another language. Scoring better, particularly in vocabulary, reading and math, students who study a foreign language tend to have much more success testing. The memorization involved in retaining a second language aids in processing and strategic thinking. In addition, children gain the general understanding that throughout the world, people of various cultures think in different ways. “Speaking different languages means you get different frames, different metaphors, and also you’re learning the culture of the language so you get not only different words, but different types of words,” George Lakoff, University of California at Berkeley professor of cognitive science and linguistics, explains. This means that our children would go into the world with more open minds allowing them to build more meaningful relationships. It is also true that there is great improvement in cognitive thinking. Children who become fluent in a foreign language can more effectively focus on important information in front of them and justly perceive their surroundings. This, in turn, allows them to reason and retain incredibly well. Grades and test scores go up. Interest in travel and exploration ensues. Problem solving and intuitive thinking allow for success. How can we be so blindly stripping our children, the children of the American people, of these opportunities? Can we be so bold as to cut funding to this crucial area of study, for no other than reason than to give more to the study of math?! We need to convince our political leaders that our children deserve the right to be taught foreign language and to be taught it well.
In comparison with Europe, we are severely lacking. Most European children are required to begin studying their first foreign language between ages six and nine and are required to study a second language for at least one year before university. To compare, our country has no compulsory language requirement across all fifty states3. According to a European Union survey in 2005, half of European citizens are bilingual4 while it’s said that only twenty-five percent of American’s can even hold a basic conversation in a foreign language5. We are lead to believe that America prevails- that we are competitive in every subject matter with our global peers. It is quite clear that our children are not being given the sufficient opportunity to become fluent in comparison with the children of Europe. The generation of Americans to come will rely on foreigners to speak English. They will leave the responsibility to speak a common tongue to their international colleagues and friends. It will put them at a disadvantage and leave them feeling cultureless and lost. Europeans, specifically, will surpass our children in other fields of study as well because they will have developed their brains more significantly during their study of foreign languages. Can we change this downward spiral of the American Disadvantage?
Foreign language fluency is crucial to becoming a global citizen. With modern day connectivity due to technology, Americans cannot afford to lack language. It is time that we realize the importance of teaching language well in schools from an early age. A call is needed for an end to the disadvantage Americans have when we travel and when we work abroad- an end to the lack of language.
1 “Studies Supporting Increased Academic Achievement actfl.” 2012. 27 Apr. 2016 <http://www.actfl.org/advocacy/discoverlanguages/advocacy/discoverlanguages/whattheresearchshows/ studiessupporting>
2 “For a Better Brain, Learn Another Language – The Atlantic.” 2014. 27 Apr. 2016 <http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/more-languages-better-brain/381193/>
3 “Learning a foreign language a ‘must’ in Europe, not so in …” 2015. 27 Apr. 2016 <http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/07/13/learning-a-foreign-language-a-must-in-europe-not-so-in-am erica/>
4 “Europeans and their languages – Europa.eu.” 2012. 27 Apr. 2016 <http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_386_en.pdf>
5 “America’s Foreign Language Deficit – Forbes.” 2012. 27 Apr. 2016 <http://www.forbes.com/sites/collegeprose/2012/08/27/americas-foreign-language-deficit/>
1+4 Bridge Year Reflection Class