Renee Pinkston English 100 November 19, 2007 Professor Carr Mandatory Foreign Language The world today is growing

, not in size, but in its population and diversity. Diversity has become both a problem and a blessing for our nation. However, the problem not being with the people themselves, but with not being able to help them in some circumstances due to the language barrier that exists. Foreign language is perhaps one of the most important areas of education and learning today, but many people do not see it as important as other areas such as mathematics and the sciences. Because of this need for improved language skills today, elementary school children should be required to take a foreign language all five years before being able to move on to junior high school. According to some national linguistics councils only 31% of American elementary schools report teaching a foreign language, and most of these schools only teach a foreign language as an introduction rather than as a goal to achieve proficiency in a language; where as nearly 200 million children in China study English to achieve overall proficiency. American schools today tend to be more focused on subjects such as mathematics and science in order to increase the amount of future adults who will be able to join the workforce. So why is America-one of the countries with some of the best education programs-lagging behind everyone else in the world? Some people in favor for education requirement changes would say that it is important for children today to be exposed at an earlier age to more “worldly” things such as different languages which would lead to a better understanding of cultures around the world. They would also say that it may be needed today, maybe even needed more in some areas that a child learns another language because the US foreign population-as reported by the National Census Bureau, grew to about 28.4 million people-which is roughly 1 in every 10 residents-is

Pinkston 2 on a continual rise. It is important that children are able to adapt to and live with people who do not speak only English. Supporters could also mention that numerous studies have been done and results have shown that a child taught a foreign language, beginning in elementary school, continuing through high school, and in some cases even college; were more likely to become a fluent speaker. However, there are those who feel a foreign language requirement should not be added. One point they could mention would be the decrease in funding for the more important subjects in school such as mathematics. They could also easily bring up the issue of America being an English speaking country, not a foreign language. Foreign language should be required for elementary school children; it is much better for children today to be more open minded about people from other countries. The world today is not as “closed off” as it once was. People from all over the world come to live in America which means a higher diversity. Children should be taught that there are other countries in the world, rather than our own. Teaching them differently and limiting there educational exposure to these foreign countries only teaches them to be closed minded and maybe a bit arrogant about their own country, rather than accepting others no matter where they come from or what language they speak. Children should be taught a foreign language at a younger age because it is better the grasp and keep in the brain. This is the reason why we are taught to read and do simple mathematics at such a young age. When taught at an older age, such as high schools students are today; the brain has already grown too much to actually take in more knowledge, especially a subject that requires vigorous work from the brain. It would be easier on the children if you tried to teach them the basics for a foreign language at an earlier age, rather than waiting for high school. Without a basic foundation at a younger age it makes it harder for a person to learn a foreign language. Could you imagine how hard it would be to learn to

Pinkston 3 read in when you were 16 years old? It would be difficult and there would be a large amount of illiterate people in the United States. Teaching a foreign language at a younger age would increase the number of fluent speakers in our nation which in turn would increase the number of foreign language teachers in the United States as well as improve the nation’s foreign affairs. Without a doubt, the foreign population within the United States is growing. As mentioned before, the rates are rising and nearly 1 in every 10 residents within the United States is foreign born and could have the possibility of not speaking English fluently. Everyday interaction with foreigners-even if you live in a smaller town in the United States-is growing as well. In public and private elementary schools today there are more foreign language speaking children than there were ten years ago and because of this a foreign language should be required in order to try to bridge the gap between cultures and help make it easier on children today. In response to what many non-supporters would say about not needing such a “heavy” area of study at a young age, I would have to say that that is wrong. As mentioned before it helps to create the worldly identification rather than a more America-centered picture of the world. The environment for children should be a bit more relaxed at times as well as open and inviting. With the strong language barrier that exists today, especially with children of different backgrounds, the atmosphere is tense. Learning a new language at a younger age will help this barrier slowly fall and help more students learn and to be social. This will also help the children in the long run when they have to enter into a university, which is much diversified or even the work force which has become more diversified today. Non-supporters could also throw up the point that funding for more important areas such as the sciences and mathematics would be lessened due to foreign language programs. Mathematics and science are important in today’s world, just as they were ten years ago, but a

Pinkston 4 foreign language is just as important today. Funding would of course have to be lessened a bit, but it would be all for a good cause; the future of the children as well as the future of America. It could also be mentioned that today children have a lot expected of them in the areas of science and mathematics, and putting another subject that could potentially be more stressful than math and science would be harmful to the children and would hurt their performance levels in schools. This could be true in some cases, but there are programs for tutoring and extra help for a foreign language just as there for mathematics and science. It is not something extremely hard to teach to younger children, if you do not try to teach them advanced level languages. There would of course be certain things that were mandatory to be covered within elementary school. Everyone knows that it is not easily possible to teach a child to speak another language besides his or her native language, fluently within about five years. If introduced to another language at a younger age it could dramatically increase the number of fluent speaks the United States could have. It would also make it easier on the children’s brains in the future when they are required to learn a foreign language again in high school. As expanded on earlier, a foreign language should be mandatory for any child in elementary school. The world today is still growing, and will continue to do so for many years to come. Being exposed to the people, cultures, and languages of different countries would be more beneficial to the world today, the nation today, and to the children of today’s tomorrow.

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