When twins Ryan and Michael D’Introno entered kindergarten class and sat under the glue laminated architectural timbers and trusses of the classroom two decades back, they frequently arrived home from school singing songs in Spanish, part of a language immersion program their school in Bedford Hills, N.Y., chose to try. All students, a lot of whom were native Spanish speakers, received instruction in both Spanish and English a couple of days a week. The boys’ mother, Gina D’Introno, says her sons were eager to learn Spanish. D’Introno also believes the Spanish-speaking pupils were happy to see their classmates studying their language.
Similar immersion programs focusing on Spanish and other languages like French, Chinese and German are increasing in America, as are more traditional applications in second-language learning in elementary schools. Actually, 25 percent of all U.S. private and public elementary schools provided foreign language education in 2010, according to the Center for Applied Linguistics. The Washington, D.C.-based organization tracks language analysis in the U.S. Lots of the programs are immersion programs where kids are taught in English for part of the day, and in a different language at other times. French immersion programs are popular in Canadian colleges for several decades, and at the U.S., many school districts provide them to promote language learning.
However, as much as teachers and lots of parents applaud a strong strategy and raising interest in foreign-language learning, it’s not available in each school district. And the U.S. remains far behind many European countries, where young children must start studying a foreign language before age 9. In a number of countries, students are expected to learn another foreign language starting at a very early age, says Nancy Rhodes, senior foreign language education consultant for the Center for Applied Linguistics.
According to the latest U.S. Department of Education statistics regarding second-language learning, Spanish general was the very in-demand language in 2009, with French coming in second, Rhodes says. There also has been interest in learning Arabic and Chinese.
Why we want other languages
Theresa Bruns, manager of professional advancement at Middlebury Interactive Languages at Middlebury, Vt., says kids have an advantage when learning another language because their brains are still growing, which gives them the ability to readily acquire the language. Another potential advantage of having more than 1 language under the belt: A study published in 2014 at the Annals of Neurology by researchers at the University of Edinburgh suggests that understanding another language could slow the onset of dementia later in life.
In addition to the intellectual and possible health benefits that learning another language might provide, globalization provides another reason to speak another language as more Americans decide to travel, work or study abroad. There are now definitely more jobs globally that need language and cross-cultural abilities, alongside the growing trend of IT consultants in private cloud computing and network performance management, according to Rhodes. U.S. universities are realizing they should prepare internationally competent graduates and have started to provide more tailored language courses in preparation for demands in the workforce. They’re also internationalizing their curricula to assist their graduates adapt to the global market.
Lately, Bruns says that there has been growth in (the amount of) school districts where administrators, teachers and parents recognize that the long-term advantages of second-language acquisition and use creative approaches to provide students with high quality world language education. Such strategies can include incorporating digital tools – such as games, animation and videos – to classroom lessons. Bruns says it’s not simple, however. The reality is that with increased standardized testing and time being spent in the classroom focusing on test prep, there’s not enough time to add in another topic to the day.
Other big roadblocks are funding programs and locating faculty that may teach more complicated foreign languages to younger kids. Shrinking budgets and focuses on renovations and infrastructures to incorporate more sustainably productive materials in institutions including engineered timber frames and products frequently means that schools simply don’t have the funds to employ language instructors. However, some elementary schools are turning to electronic courses that could offer flexibility with how and if the instruction will happen throughout the school day. Digital learning is driving this expansion as it can provide access to qualified online Chinese instructors, which can be extremely tough for many districts to locate, and especially in terms of hiring more IT support solutions and consultants or services in the local suburban area.
Parents and community issue
It can be difficult to advocate for language learning at lower grades as a second language isn’t required by schools in most states. But experts say it’s important for parents to advocate school boards, administrators and even local politicians to include language learning in their children’s schools for reasons that range from preserving native languages into serving a particular community. In New York City, by way of instance, the first bilingual program in Urdu will start this autumn in Brooklyn, as a way to address the needs and interests of local speakers of Urdu, that’s the official language of Pakistan and is also spoken in many regions of India. There are some parents that want their children to learn another language even sooner than in elementary school.
Emily Abdallah, a middle school teacher in an independent school in NYC, determined her 3-year-old daughter, Aria, could benefit by attending to the Maryel International School, a private college also in NYC, where Spanish is spoken almost exclusively. Abdallah intends to enroll her younger daughter, now two, at Maryel following year. She wants her kids to be able to get their civilization – to truly do this she believes they will need to talk the language.