I know where I stand on this one!
I took Spanish in middle school and high school, but I really, REALLY wish that I had started earlier and it had been mandatory in my elementary schools to learn a second language right off the bat.
There are only good things that can come from it, right?
Folks on AskReddit talked about whether they think kids should start learning a second language as early as possible. Let’s take a look.
1. Start ’em young.
“At a young age children can learn information much easier as there brain is developing so they are more likely to remember stuff learned in that time period.
I think from a very young age children or their parents should chose between a few simple languages (Spanish,French or German) to learn through their schooling. When I was younger I would learn multiple languages in a not very good system so I would never actually know a good chunk of a language.
I would just know little bits of multiple languages which isn’t good.”
2. Need better funding.
“This would be awesome BUT people need to realize that in order to do this, schools need adequate funding AND better people at the top making decisions.
I’m a teacher and our foreign language department has been cut down drastically in recent years because of budget cuts and other educational red tape.
For example, if a student doesn’t score well enough on a state math test, they are put into two math classes the next year at the expense of other more diverse classes. Often times the class to go in that student’s schedule is foreign language or a class in the arts.
It sucks because funding is tied to testing but testing doesn’t always tell the whole story. SO MANY kids suffer unjustly because of the emphasis on testing. They miss out on classes that they enjoy and they lose the opportunity to expand their passions. All because they haven’t scored in the “advanced” category.
Educational funding is all about percentages. If a district has 100% of kids passing a state test, they can no longer gain positive points in that rating category. Having 100% of kids do well on the test is AMAZING but there is no room for growth so if they score 100% the next year, there are no improvement points and schools often lose points.
If you want more info on this, read up on “yearly adequate progress”. In theory, this should help schools but in practice it is a nightmare.”
3. It’s a good thing!
I grew up with an au pair that taught me French (I could still kiss her for that) and although I may be rusty it comes back easily and it made learning Spanish later in life so much easier.”
“I would like to agree with you but from my experience with language learning in school it is very ineffective. There’s a lot of factors required to make the experience enjoyable and retainable.
My teacher was an absolute *sswipe and was extremely rude to the entire class, and hence, no one liked going to her class. Also the language has to be interesting and enjoyable to learn, as well as actually useful in the world. My school’s choice was Indonesian.
It was not interesting to learn, the grammar was too difficult to be worth learning and is not really useful on a global sense. Only one country speaks Indonesian.
I think that is should be either compulsory or at least very much encouraged. There should be a range of languages available depending on where you live. But in all honesty the best few languages to learn would be English, Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin.
They are widely applicable globally as nearly anyone you could run into in the world would speak at least one of them or at least an offshoot of one. English will get you through most of the western world such as north America, western Europe and Oceania. Spanish through most of South America, and the Mediterranean.
Russian for anywhere in eastern Europe. And Mandarin for just china but seeing as there are a large number of businesses in that region of Asia, being able to speak Mandarin would be a huge step for growth there.
There’s my rant on language learning.”
5. Options are good.
“If something like this were to be done, then there had better be a larger range of languages to choose from.
Instead of forcing a student to choose between just French or Spanish, like in my middle school.”
6. Immersion is key.
“Without immersion they aren’t going to get anywhere near to useful levels in a language.
It needs to be all or nothing, not sure how they could do this across the board.”
7. Maybe someday…
“A lot of schools can barely teach kids to read.
This is a great idea but they need to improve a lot of things before we get this.”
8. Need to start early.
“I totally agree with this because I was 16 when I try to learn Spanish and it’s hard as hell to keep a second language alphabet because my brain doesn’t work as a sponge like 5 years old.”
9. Going on in some areas.
“That’s a good idea.
A lot of financially well off schools do this already. I was always jealous.
It forms new pathways in your brain. It’s a great idea.”
10. Depends on the place…
“Getting foreign language in elementary schools is a totally achievable goal and can be done at the local level. IF parents/voters get together and let the school board know they want it and are going to vote for members that support it, it happens.
With COVID doing a number on local tax revenues, many districts are making cuts to language, art, music, theater, anything they don’t have to give students a standardized test on.
The district I work in was thankfully able to save their elementary world language teachers at the last minute after laying them off. Parents made their voices heard. Not every area in the US values education to the same degree though.”
11. Sometimes doesn’t work out well.
“I went to an all-French school, where everything but our English and Spanish class was taught in French.
It’s a big part of the reason I’m fluent today. These schools are few and far between, however.
Most people put their kids in French Immersion schools, which are English-language schools that gradually shift toward mainly French education, but only for the children in the immersion program. The French immersion schools often teach their students “proper” French (read: European French) and deride the full French schools for teaching improper Canadian French.
But again, it’s the students who learned “improper” French who are actually fluent and able to communicate with other Francophones after graduation. Immersion graduates will sometimes pass with flying colours but then go to Québec and be shocked when no one understands them, and they understand no one.
The immersion program is also bloated beyond its limit which means several teachers aren’t fluent in French and therefore teach most of their material in English primarily.”
12. Not applicable.
“I live in Wales, and where I am we learn welsh in school but don’t really speak it otherwise.
That is, unless you go to welsh school which is just normal school except you have to speak and do everything in welsh. My cousins went to welsh school, however I did not. They are fluent and I know very little welsh.
I felt the lessons I had weren’t very applicable to conversations. I remember our teacher telling us we were learning ‘proper’ welsh not conversational welsh.
Whilst I got an A* in my welsh GCSE, I still don’t know much, because we talked more about the benefits of bilingualism in welsh than actual welsh that we could use.”
Do you believe that kids should learn a second language as soon as possible?
Tell us what you think in the comments.
We look forward to hearing from you!