The Viewpoint: Foreign language program neglected
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Each day, around the world, kids as young as 5 begin to learn their second or even third language, gaining a leg up on their futures where they will be expected to compete against peers who have learned a myriad of other skills in every discipline. Students like these are able to excel early on and will have advantage in and outside of school. Understanding multiple languages will allow them to communicate their ideas to a larger audience, a skill necessary in today’s global society. This disadvantage, later on, could cause students to lose opportunities in everything from employment to education.
This stunting of linguistic growth is not uncommon; most of America is facing it, according to an article from the Atlantic entitled “America’s Lacking Language Skills.” Neshaminy is all but alone in the search for improvement. With expansion of languages offered, inclusion of younger students in linguistic programs and the intensification of programs, Neshaminy will be able to reach the standards set by our fellow nations in record time.
The expansion of Neshaminy’s foreign linguistics department in regards to languages represented is crucial. In order, Mandarin, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese, and Punjabi are the 10 most widely spoken languages in the world, according to Babbel Magazine. Our foreign language department offers only one of them.
Not only is this a great disadvantage to Neshaminy’s English speaking students who wish to expand their knowledge bases, but also to the large population of Russian speaking students who are unable to expand their linguistic knowledge beyond what they have learned at home – not to mention the students who are of Asian origin, who speak a hodgepodge of dialects between their classes.
Students at Neshaminy that have not been exposed to languages other than English during their childhood are only learning their second language in eighth grade. The main issue with this is that the prime time to be introduced to a foreign language is during the beginning of childhood. According to the course website for Pennsylvania State University’s SC200 course, “A child who is exposed to multiple languages at a young age has a much easier time processing and remembering the information they receiver.”
This is because the plasticity of a young child’s brain allows for language to be absorbed as a sponge would suck up water. As we get older, this malleability dwindles. Past this, since children have less complexes ideas that they wish to express, the content that they need to acquire is rather easy, and can be built upon as new topics are introduced parallel to their maturation.
If Neshaminy were able to create programs at lower levels, it would allow students to experience the world in such a different way. Rather than learning a plethora of vocabulary words relating to bedroom items and hair colors, students would be able to discuss foreign literature and converse with the diverse array of people they will come across in their lives, of all nationalities, ethnicities, and tongues.
Hopefully, an extension of linguistic programs to all ages will make the higher age programs much more intense. For students wishing to pursue a language in college or beyond, it is alarming how lacking these programs currently are.
Classes should be learning about the cultures, politics and literature of the language or languages of study. Currently, kids are unable to truly be immersed in a language because they cannot see it as a language. The way we are teaching foreign language is not being seen as extending lines of communication, but cutting them.
Current foreign language program could see improvements in several ways, specifically in regards to its higher-level courses. Use of outside materials such as movies, music, and books in the chosen language would greatly improve the level at which learners are immersed. More work in writing and debate would also improve understanding. If it is believed that these methods are too advanced, a class level above honors, with a faster pace, should then be implemented.
Learning different languages is a way to unlock different cultures and nations, and to be able to communicate with more people. Regardless of foreign language requirements to gain admittance into college, it is an asset that will be necessary after graduation in every field of study and will enrich every bit of life.