LJWorld.com weblogs Spandrel
Language in the US
What has come to my attention in the past couple of years is the language curriculum in American schools. The consensus among cognitive social scientists is that language learning occurs much more readily among children. Other countries begin teaching their children foreign languages when they are still in the single-digit age-group. Here in America, we generally wait until 14 or 15 years of age to begin teaching foreign languages to our children.After spending a month in Peru last summer, I have become very aware of how important knowing a second or third language can be. I don't speak Spanish, so luckily I was with someone who did. Had I been alone, I would not have been able to get around as well as I would have liked.I began learning French in high school, but I would say that I am far from proficient in it. I continued French college for four semester and then dropped it when I had taken the requisite amount. These days, I might be able to communicate on a rudimentary basis with a French speaker, but it would be a bare minimum.Why do we not begin teaching foreign languages when our children are still very young--say in elementary school? Several large nations in Asia are developing at a rapid pace, and many of the people responsible for that success have been educated in American universities--thus, they must be multilingual.What I'm wondering is why we are not trying to be more competitive on the world stage. Having a young generation that is skilled in multilingualism should be one of the primary goals as a society if we are to truly compete on the international stage. But it seems to me that we have many folks among us who want to teach only 'American' things to our children. We don't want them speaking another language because it is un-American. Is this true or an exaggeration?I guess I'm just trying to figure out why we do not feel that a viable and fecund citizen future should include an emphasis on multilingualism. It seems to me that the broader our sources of knowledge and information, the better we can be.Any ideas? Do any of you speak foreign languages or wish you did?