Why Should Kids Study Languages?

U.S. students lag far behind in their foreign language capabilities compared to students in much of the world. The U.S. has a lot to learn from these countries. There are so many reasons to learn a foreign language.

  • Learning a foreign language helps increase understanding of other cultures and introduces students to new ideas, customs, habits, and values.
  • Put another way, learning a foreign language increases global understanding.
  • It fosters respect for others of a different background.
  • Dealing with and learning about another culture enables people to understand their own culture better.
  • Knowing a foreign language makes travel more enjoyable.
  • It gives some students the opportunity to study abroad.
  • Learning a foreign language increases creativity and critical thinking skills.
  • Studying a foreign language also increases students’ analyzing skills.
  • study or work: Students might find that subjects they’re interested in are published/written in a foreign language.
  • the global economy: Business skills plus foreign language make an employee more valuable.

There is an informative infographic over at the Huffington Post about why it is beneficial to study a foreign languageAccording to their report, students who studied four years of a foreign language scored 140 points higher on the Math and Critical Thinking portions of the SAT and 150 points higher on the writing section.  Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Labor expects translation and interpretation to be among the fast-growing occupations by 2020.

In Europe, language learning has always been an important aspect of European culture.  When I was in the Peace Corps, I taught English as a foreign language in Hungary. Many of my students (7th-12th graders) had passed their English exams by 10th grade (which showed that they practically fluent!) — and most of them were also studying a second foreign language.
Just look at the proportion of students in primary education learning foreign languages in Europe in 2010:
File:Proportion of pupils in primary education learning foreign languages, by language, 2010 (1) (%).png
English has been the predominant language in most global languages, but it won’t necessarily stay that way. One source said that within fifty years time there will be five official world languages: English, Spanish, Urdu, Chinese and Arabic.
How are new languages learned? Through speaking, listening, reading, writing and culture.
What works well for other countries when learning a foreign language?
  • An early start – Many countries start learning a foreign language in the upper elementary grades; some as early as the age of 8. In 2008 only 25% of U.S. elementary schools and 58% of U.S. middle schools offered world language instruction.
  • A good framework/curriculum
  • Well trained teachers
  • Use of technology — Using interactive computer programs, TV, the Internet and entertainment (in foreign language instruction).
  • Interaction with speakers of the foreign language.
  • Integrating content and language learning (studying a subject area in the foreign language).
  • Foreign language as a core subject (in many countries it is compulsory to learn at least one foreign language). This means that they allow more time for foreign language study. (In Hungary, my students had 8 foreign language lessons per week!)

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing a few of the resources we’re using this semester in our study of German.  In doing the research for this post it made me feel like there’s so much more we (the kids and I, not just America at large!) could be doing… but I guess we all do the best we can.

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1 Response

  1. January 8, 2014

    […] You might be interested in yesterday’s post: Why Should Kids Study Foreign Languages? […]

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