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Should All Elementary Schools Be Required to Teach a Foreign Language?

Lifestyle & Opinion

By Jacob Wilson

There are approximately 7.5 billion people in the world and 1.5 billion of them can speak English, that is a whopping 20% of the World’s population. Only 360 million people speak English as their native language, this means that all of those people chose to learn English as a second language. Only 20% of the United States speak a second language while 54% of Europe’s population can hold a conversation in two languages. Many schools in the United States do not require a second language course until the student reaches high school, where the foreign language requirement is minimal. Instead of this method, America should attempt teaching foreign language at a much earlier age, as the results of learning a second language prove to be beneficial.

It has proven to be linguistically easier for younger children to acquire languages opposed to an older student. “The contemporary American educational system is one of the few in recorded history that allows its products to remain monolingual.” (McLaughlin 2013). There also lies great examples in American immigrants from other countries, of whom speak there native language at home, yet are in attendance of a strictly English speaking school, thus acquiring the knowledge of both languages at a very young age. Simply being exposed to a foreign language at a very young age has shown different and higher functioning cognitive patterns within children compared to the monolingual child. Once expose to a second language as an infant or child the brain is more likely to retain the ability to distinguish certain foreign sounds, making it a simpler process while learning a foreign language.

Another good reason to include foreign language in your child’s curriculum is the many benefits it will bring within your child’s future. Being bilingual will broaden ones career opportunities and also salaries. Dr. Albert Saiz states that, “College graduates who can speak a second language have a 2-3 percent higher salary premium than the monolingual graduate.” (Saiz 2005). A second language will also enhance one’s cross-cultural understanding and enable better opportunities, which can be life changing.

Yet another great reason to promote a bilingual education for your child is the fact that learning multiple languages will increase ones’ creativity and diversity. With the rise of technology, future jobs are also on the rise of becoming automated, leaving creativity and ingenuity to be more sought after human skills than they already are. “Bilinguals have been found to perform better than monolinguals on creativity” (Ricciardelli 1992). A foreign language allows children to see the world through a different lens, enabling the child’s ability to consider multiple viewpoints during problem solving.

With advantages such as an increase in creativity and diversity, benefits in the workplace, statistically proven higher salaries, and an opportunity to understand and appreciate other cultures. Why wouldn’t one promote second language classes or learning opportunities to elementary school students. The benefits of learning a second language will last a life time. I suggest you allow the children of the future to have this opportunity of learning a foreign language.

Work Cited

McLaughlin, Barry. Second language acquisition in childhood: Volume 2: School-age Children. Psychology  Press, 2013.

Ricciardelli, Lina A. “Creativity and bilingualism.” The Journal of Creative Behavior 26.4 (1992): 242-254.

Saiz, Albert, and Elena Zoido. “Listening to what the world says: Bilingualism and earnings in the United States.” Review of Economics and Statistics 87.3 (2005): 523-538.

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