OPINION: Why the American School System should implement foreign languages earlier on

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Alexander Montiero | Contributing Writer

Thrown into the school system at the age of five or six, children are taught essential skills that will eventually serve as stepping stones to help them further their education and become higher level adults in the future. 

Upon first glance, one might look and see that their child is learning some basic math or writing skills and assume that this is all they need to be learning at such a young age; but what if I told you that was not necessarily true? What if I told you the school system was putting off one of the most modern aspects of education, and in doing so, stripping your child of innumerable amounts of opportunities.

Children should be learning foreign languages from their first day of school, up until their last. 

I am not saying that schools should stop teaching students how to add or read, these along with many other skills are critical for kids to learn at a young age; rather, I believe that by adding a foreign language class into the curriculum at a younger age would benefit children way more in the long run. 

Dr. Eva Lloyd, professor of Early Childhood says that “Children, especially in the early years, are like little sponges, absorbing all the information around them and then actively making sense of it.” This statement can be applied when talking about young children and their ability to learn and comprehend language. 

Think about it like this, in America, most children are able to fluently communicate around the age of four or five. Typically, this is without taking any sort of class, or having to do any kind of studying, their brains are simply wired to absorb this kind of information and apply it. 

So let me ask you this: If I have taken roughly seven years of foreign language from the ages of eleven to seventeen, why am I the one who struggles to comprehend a new language if I am smarter than the four year old?

There are many factors that can contribute to this, but what I think is most important, I started too late; and that is not my fault. It is not like I could have just sat down in my stroller and taught myself how to speak Spanish or French. 

Since my parents were not able to teach me any other languages at home, the responsibility falls on the education system to do so. You may be asking yourself, Why does it matter if you learn a second language? How would this benefit the school system?

The truth is this: if the education system was actually interested in setting students up for a successful future, they would install a foreign language system that starts at day one. 

Being bilingual or multilingual in today’s society holds a much greater power than it did 20, 30, or even 40 years ago. This is because of the rapid changes in society regarding diversity in the job market. If you were looking for a job 30 years ago, the odds are your competition was relatively local; meaning, adding something to your resume such as “being bilingual” meant practically nothing. 

In today’s modern society, with advancements in technology; when you apply for a job you are competing with people from all over the world. Companies specifically look for someone who can speak other languages. In fact, according to thelanguagedoctors.org, when applying for a job, being bilingual or multilingual directly places you above those who are not. 

Since multilingual people are in higher demand in the job market, the average salary of those who speak more than one language is actually higher than those who do not. Along with countless other personal benefits such as: improved memory, improved decision making, increased communication skills, and many more, speaking another language is something that everyone should learn to do in order to better themselves. With growing numbers of Spanish speakers moving to America, how could it possibly hurt to adapt to this new diverse lifestyle?

As former U.S Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, once said, “Our children are twenty percent of our population, but one hundred percent of our future.” The world is different now than it used to be, and it is only going to keep on changing. If the education system actually wants to help the future generations, it needs to change with it.

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