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Should a Foreign Language Be Mandatory in Elementary School? MomTalk

School board members face off about adding a language requirement to the curriculum.

Recently school board members from Will County School District 92 met to debate the importance of earlier exposure to foreign language training. Proponents of the issue agreed that providing opportunities for children in elementary school to become fluent in a foreign language, in addition to English, would benefit them later in life.

Research has revealed that children who are exposed to another language from an early age tend to retain it and are better able to learn other languages. One school board member used her son as an example.

Despite six years of Spanish classes under his belt, he still was unable to speak it. She believes that had he encountered these classes at an earlier age, and not begun them in high school, he would have had a better chance at fluency.

She also cited that the United States was among the few countries to not require proficiency in a language other than English.

While the district superintendent agreed with the idea, other school board members stood opposed. They believed that more importance should be placed on math and science and that funding for an early foreign language program would do little to bolster children as they prepare for the job market.

One board member, who also owns his own business, stated that he had little use for someone who was fluent in French but would see someone with strong math and science skills as an asset to his company.

Should elementary schools enforce a mandatory foreign language curriculum? Would money allocated for this program be more useful for math and science enrichment?

Daina Tricou November 17, 2011 at 01:37 AM
I firmly believe that learning more than one language at a young age is invaluable to an individual's understanding of the ideas behind language labels, and to understanding his/her own language. Being proficient in more than one language makes understanding yet another that much easier. My first language, also, was not English, though it is now overwhelmingly my primary one. I rarely feel uncomfortable when encountering people speaking a "foreign" tongue, and feel I can communicate with others, be it heavily accented English or a truly different language, when there is a good faith effort on both sides to communicate. I erred raising my own children by not making my home multi-lingual. My youngest is the only one who is proficient in another language - German - and while I helped her, I cannot take credit for it. As in the comment above, Concordia Language Villages rocks! As an example, through them, she learned some scientific concepts - in German - before she came to them in her local school. There was no confusion, and she had yet another way to file/access her knowledge about the world. The benefits bi- or multi-lingual proficiency - both for the individual and for society as a whole - seem so great to me, that I believe it should be required in schools as young as possible. Spanish (our hemisphere is has quite a few Spanish speakers) or Mandarin seem like good, forward thinking choices. But learning any second language qualifies.
Christopher Paicely November 17, 2011 at 04:41 PM
Learning a foreign language at a young age has a lot of long-term benefits, and it doesn't seem to have any downside. My son is in third grade and his school does not teach a foreign language at that grade level, yet there are several Spanish-speaking children at the school. My wife and I are using Rosetta Stone to introduce him to Spanish and it is already showing results in the way he interacts with some of his classmates (asking them what words mean and having simple conversations using the Spanish words he's learned). Not all parents have the time or money to add foreign language lessons to their child's at-home curriculum, so I think it would be great if schools offered it. That said, public school's aren't rolling in dough, and that kind of undertaking often requires additional teaching staff and resources the schools don't have. This definitely isn't a black-and-white debate.
#occupyChicagoHeights November 18, 2011 at 08:36 PM
Even though I'm usually against government enforced requirements, learning a second language should be required. God it even hurts to say it... Though it should be taught in a more practical way than most language classes.
H. E. Kraeger November 21, 2011 at 05:20 AM
We are living in a global world that makes us neighbors in all parts of the world and not isolate ourselves into failure. Another. and best argument for early learning of a foreign language is the physical maturity of learning a foreign language. According to my French born and German born friends, Learning English after the age of 16 when the body matures will have a strong accent and vocabulary problems. A child foreign aid student learning English will be able to speak it without much of an accent where an adult with matured and hardening muscles will have problems with certain sounds. As I am not medically inclined I cannot explain the reason but I can hear it in my friends. one who had early learning, the other adult.
OakLawnGuy November 21, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Not teaching a foreign language in elementary school is a disservice to kids in this increasingly small world. Everyone can see how tightly the individual continental economies are bound, and the goal of every major corporation is to be a global force. Some of these kids' colleagues are going to be speaking something other than English when they hit the working world.

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