FLAGS: Go National!

For the future. With so many schools recently introducing immersion programs and schools like La Petite Academy preschool where children are introduced to languages at an earlier age–but they come at a very steep price. This should be changed to help children acquire a second language sooner.  Places such as Seattle, WA are introducing immersion programs into every subject in school. The United States has an obligation to its students to help increase their knowledge and understanding of other cultures and countries.

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More and more books and audio tapes have come out recently to help aid parents in teaching their kids foreign languages at an earlier age, while schools fall behind in teaching. These tools are essentially for healthy brain development and allows kids to be bilingual without thinking too much about it. Books and CD’s for children have become more popular since the Baby Einstein program and can be essential in helping children learn more than one language at once.

Examples of books and CD’s:

Language has been studied since the time of Babel. We often study the great works in Latin, Greek and even old English (yes, I’m talking about you Beowulf) so why has the tradition broken? Our forefathers had strong backgrounds in both Latin, Greek, French and sometimes German in order to be a person of world, when there really was no necessity to learn other languages other than for studying great works. Here we are today, barely knowing English as a country and struggling to keep our foreign language programs alive. There has been a ton of research done as to why children should be learning languages as soon as possible.

There are books like this out there:

Fairfax FLAGS’s research on the topic is extensive and leads to other important sites. The statistics are increasingly showing that learning a language as a child is more conducive to not only retaining the foreign language later in life but also with English grammar. Although this is not the United States, here is a statistic sheet from Iceland about learning foreign languages.

They found that “7,335 pupils in grades 1-4 learned English or 44% of pupils in these grades (6-9 years old). Five years ago, during the school year 2003-2004, only 484 pupils in these grades learned English, or 2.8%.
Most pupils now start learning Danish in grade 7, or at the age of 12. In many schools pupils who know Norwegian or Swedish can select those languages instead of Danish. Last school year 230 pupils selected Swedish rather than Danish and 94 pupils learned Norwegian. Not since 2001 have more pupils learned Swedish.” They have so many choices to learn languages while most grade schools or high schools only stick to French or Spanish, which only covers so many people and interests.

Give these kids the chance to explore the world.

All over the U.S., we have been suffering from budget cuts in education. Usually the first thing to go are what school boards consider to be extras such as music, theatre and foreign language. Languages are just not emphasized the way they are in other countries, even in Africa, many students learn a home language and a state language, so they are ahead of us as far as that goes. There are so many examples of schools cutting languages such as:

Woburn, MA

Bronxville, NY

Boston, MA

Even Elon University looks at this epidemic in the United States and how they provide the most opportunity but are always the first to be cut from every school budget. Sandy Knox and Tina Meek, it’s your chance now to spread what you have done in Fairfax County to the rest of the United States and get this movement really going!

While I am not advocating learning either Mandarin or Spanish as a second language, it is important for US students to learn a second language for so many different reasons. First, English is not the most widely spoken language, although many people know it as a second language. Second, jobs can require second languages to be known; for example, the UN requires that an applicant be fluent in both French and English as the main languages with a third critical language asked. Americans around the world have been known for their animosity towards anything foreign, as I experienced many times throughout my European travels with certain people, especially the elderly. Now is the time for Americans, young ones in particular, to take a stand and say that they are willing to become part of the international community and want the better jobs to be in the United States instead of being shipped overseas. Language is essential to communicating with everyone. I try to use the excuse for myself that “oh, there are just so many languages out there, it would be impossible to learn all of them”. Well, yeah, it would be. But learning just a couple won’t hurt in the end, especially for the career you want to be in, and make you probably a better English speaker as well.

Perhaps this is why children cannot learn languages in schools:

After watching this video, I cannot believe that children act this way and maybe this is the reason that Europeans are ahead of the curve with their creative learning tools and teachers, at least at the grade school level which is where students needs to be cared for and nurtured for their strengths.

While I understand Europe is at a slight detriment due to its size and the countries proximity, therefore needs to learn surrounding countries’ languages, the United States needs to take suit. We are now in a global economy with many jobs becoming outsourced or unattainable unless you are bilingual. It is almost necessary in California these days to speak both English and Spanish fluently in order to have a better job. And looking at the most requested languages for government positions in the CIA, FBI or DEA, they all want critical languages spoken such as Middle-Eastern languages, Spanish or Mandarin. It is becoming more and more important for children to start learning languages at an early age in order to obtain the best possible career later in life.