Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Should Bilingual Learning be Required?

For those of us who have made a commitment to learning a second or third language, we know the commitment involved. It takes time, patience and usually alot of financing.  We know learning a new language is of benefit to us and we may have our own personal reasons for doing so but it is commonly agreed that being bilingual or trilingual is of great value and importance worldwide.   So why isn't it required of our American K-12 students? We require a foreign language study for high school graduation and we offer it here and there in major metropolis cities as a dual language program in elementary schools.  So instead of waiting for when we are past the point of being natural language sponges, during pre-pubescent years, lets make it a requirement for all students as they enter the school system early in their education careers.   
The obvious required language choice for the U.S. would be Spanish.  The U.S. Census estimates that there are 50.5 million Hispanic people living in America, and another 3.7 who are residents of Puerto Rico. This number represents a 43 percent increase in the recorded Hispanic population from 2000 to 2010 at a rate four times faster than the rest of the U.S. population.  
The learning of Spanish by young children, or any language has its distinct academic advantages. According to research bilingual children are able to focus more intently on the topics at hand and avoid distractions from academic challenges. They are also able to use higher levels of cognitive flexibility, or the ability to change responses based on environment and circumstances.  The truth is in order to fully learn a second language exposure to non-native languages should actually begin earlier than Kindergarten.  But according to Matthew Lynch, Associate professor of Education at Langston University, "Even children who learn their first Spanish words at the age of 5 can benefit from dual language curriculum though. Learning is learning. The more that children can take advantage of new concepts, the more in tune their brains will be to all learning throughout life." A dual language curriculum only leads to a student's perspective of the world to be a broader and more expanded one whatever the the native language of the student.  We need to ensure the collaborative potential of our students in a world that through contemporary communication technology has made our socialization and business with other countries limitless.  

So on to your continued, persevering work at learning a new language.  Wouldn't it have been nice if you had a head start, say as a 4-5 year old?  You could have been English-Spanish bilingual right now.