World Languages: Are They Key To A 21st Century Learning Experience?
May 02, 2013
"Before you've finished your breakfast this morning, you'll have relied on half the world."
- Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was without a doubt on to something when he uttered these famous words describing globalization in the 1960s. Today, over fifty years later, technology has made it even more possible to interact with people from different parts of the world, all before you finish your morning breakfast.
At World Academy, we believe teaching different world languages to our students is necessary for a complete 21st Century learning experience. We begin by incorporating American Sign Language into our Infant program, and introduce World Language classes as early as Kindergarten. We believe educating our young students about different forms of communication will provide a strong foundation and prepare them for real-world interactions and experiences.
It’s no secret; children need to be taught and exposed to world languages if we expect them to be future scientists, physicians, artists, writers, foreign policy experts, diplomats, entrepreneurs, military leaders and perhaps most importantly- peacemakers.
World Academy parents seem to agree. Results from our 2013 parent-survey indicated an overwhelming support for world language education. Out of 58 parents surveyed, over 60% chose Spanish as their child’s world language class for the next school year. When asked which additional languages they would be interested in having their child learn as an enrichment course, nearly 36% chose Chinese, 32% chose Latin and 21% opted for French.
Our survey results seem to align with the breakdown of languages spoken throughout the world. According to Ethnologue: Statistical Summaries, the most predominant languages in 2013 include English at 1800 million, Chinese Mandarin at 1,345 million, Spanish at over 500 million and French at 500 million. Other popular languages include Russian and Arabic.
With today’s economic environment, many schools in the United States are struggling to provide language classes in the wake of drastic budget cuts. In March, a group of parents in Massachusetts sent a letter to the Cambridge School Committee asking school officials to honor the “rich linguistic and cultural diversity of our city” by including funding for a minimum of two full-time World Language teachers for the 2013-2014 elementary school year. Unfortunately, the committee responded back to the parents indicating that although they believed language was critical, the school district lacked sufficient teachers, resources and funding to extend the school day and accommodate these extra classes.
In April, a group of over 100 parents at the Tuckanoe Elementary School in Virginia petitioned to include language classes in their children’s curriculum, citing that once their children entered higher levels of learning, he or she would fall behind the other students. The school district responded by raising a number of budget concerns, stating that it would cost $450,000 for each school to add the necessary curriculum and staff.
As the United States continues to fall behind other countries with low test scores in the areas of Math and Science, many school officials are dedicating their limited budgets to cover other core subjects instead of a language program.
Learning a second language fosters the development of verbal and spatial abilities. Although there is no question reading, writing and arithmetic are essential to student learning, research also shows teaching children a second language will increase student testing in other core subject areas such as Math, English, Social Studies and Reading Comprehension. Studies also indicate that children who study a second language will have sharper listening and memory skills as well as a higher aptitude for creative thinking.
For more World Language studies and research findings visit: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/Curriculum/Curriculum_Root_Web_Folder/BenefitsofSecondLanguage.pdf