Although many schools had traditionally begun to include language classes at the middle and high school levels, there is increased awareness of the importance of multicultural education in preparing students for diversity in the United States and the global marketplace.
However, learning a second language can also benefit younger students who are still grappling with their primary language. Basic second language learning should begin as early as kindergarten or elementary school for students to reap the most rewards.
Why is learning a second language important for American students?
Living in a multicultural society
American society is become increasingly diverse, and while many foreign born students learn English as a second language, it's also wise to native English speakers to learn additional languages. Language is intertwined with culture and community, and the demands to acculturate or assimilate into American language and culture can lead some immigrant students to retreat into their own language and cultural groups.
Knowledge leads to understanding, and bridges gaps between students of the dominant English language group and those of non-dominant groups. This is especially true in school systems with large populations of specific language speakers. Teaching those languages along with English in local schools allows students to appreciate each other's cultures and embrace their similarities instead of their differences.
Competing in a global marketplace
Americans are specifically notorious for their lack of multi-linguistic skills compared to the rest of the world. There has been a general assumption that many Americans believe that everyone else should learn to speak English, the current language of commerce. However, as other countries are rising to claim their share of the global marketplace and become economic powerhouses, it is essential that American students begin to embrace the value of language learning.
Will learning a second language interfere with English education in young children?
Children that are still in kindergarten can benefit the most from learning a second language. They can acquire the lexicon and grammar of multiple languages simultaneously, and switch between them with ease. Learning an additional language actually increases a child's ability to master their native language, because it provides practice of basic language learning skills.
This is easy to observe in the case of immigrant children who speak their native language at home and English at school, switching between languages fluently. Prepubescent children can actually speak multiple languages without accents from their native language. Older students are at a disadvantage, as this ability to vocalize new sounds in a second language decreases after puberty.
There are only benefits for children to learn additional languages as early as possible. Technology has made the world a much smaller place, and it's important that each child can find their place in it by embracing other languages and cultures. Contact schools, like Carden Academy, for more help.