Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My experience living here and trying to learn another language has lead me to one conclusion: If I have the means I want my future children to be taught a second language early on in their lives. When a seven year is teaching you how to pronounce the "z" sound in the alfabet because you forgot, you realize how even with six years of Spanish under your belt, at times you are on the same level as a second grader. Now I could blame this incompetency on three things: my own inefficiency, my parents, or the public school system where I was raised. Yes I think I should have payed more attention in my college Spanish classes but hey I got good grades and thats what mattered right? I could blame my parents but that would be unfair because private language classes for three kids and saving for college tuition was a little out of the question. To be honest I would like to blame our public school system which in turn would be a knock on the entire political agenda of our government, but when you think of the public school systems that exist which are lacking capable teachers, it easy to see why early bilingual education is put on the back burner. The more obvious explanation in my opinion is that English is such a widely spoken language that as a country we have put less stress on learning a second language.

I have met many people on this trip with unique backgrounds and nationalities including Canadian, French, Polish, South African, German, English, to name a few. Almost all of them began learning English or another language at a young age. It wasn't rare for me to share stories about travels with someone the same age as me to know five different languages. I was jealous of them. Granted, there are many people in South America who only speak Spanish. In South America and I am sure the rest of the world, the higher you go up the economical ladder the higher the number of dual-language speakers. 

I read a very interesting article in the LA Times today that claims that learning a secondary language at a young age can accelerate the child's development in their natural language. The subject of the article stemmed from a school's struggle to stay open but then decided to offer Italian, German and Spanish programs three years ago and now there is now a waiting list for children to get in.  I think people are realizing how beneficial it is to know another language and it is evident that children with their open minds and thirst for knowledge, can learn a language much faster than adults. 

Perhaps the U.S. is behind the curve in language fluency, at least compared to European countries. Maybe if we look at schools like the one I read about and after more scientific evidence is brought to the surface, more early learning schools with dual-language programs will start sprouting up across the U.S. 

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