By Matthew Lynch
This generation of K-12 students is growing up in a society that is increasingly bilingual. While foreign language requirements have long been a core requirement for high school graduation—second language classes at an earlier age would improve overall fluency for most students. It’s time to introduce second-language concepts to the youngest of K-12 students, and here are just a few of the reasons why:
1. Bilingual Children have an Academic Advantage. Studies in language development show that when young children have more exposure to all languages at an early age, it actually gives them a distinct academic advantage throughout life. There is often an argument that students should first master the English language before branching out to others – but why can’t both be taught simultaneously? Bilingual children are able to focus more intently on the topics at hand and avoid distractions from academic pursuits. They are also able to demonstrate higher levels of cognitive flexibility, or the ability to change responses based on environment and circumstances.
2. Bilingualism Improves Life-Long Learning Skills. For children to truly see the full potential multi-lingualism has on learning, exposure to non-native languages should actually begin long before Kindergarten. However, even children who learn their first Spanish words at the age of 5 can benefit from dual language curriculum. Learning is learning. The more that children can take advantage of new concepts, the more in tune their brains will be to all learning throughout life. Some studies have also found that the aging of the brain is slower and the employment rate is higher in adults with bilingual capabilities. Why not set kids up for success and strengthen long-term brain health while we are at it?
3. It Helps to Remove International Language Barriers. There are also the cultural benefits to children learning two languages together. The children who come from English-speaking homes can lend their language expertise to friends from Spanish-speaking homes, and vice versa. Contemporary communication technology has eliminated many global barriers when it comes to socialization and even doing business. It makes sense that language boundaries should also come down and with help from our K-12 education system, that is possible.
4. It Leads to Collaborative Learning. Dual language programs show students a broader world-view, whatever the native language of the student, and lead to greater opportunities for collaborative learning. We should not limit what children learn based on outdated principles masked in patriotism.
5. Early Bilingual Education Increases Fluency in Later Years. It generally takes 5–7 years to be proficient in a second language. Second-generation Hispanic children raised in the United States usually learn to speak English very well by adulthood, even though three-quarters of their parents speak mostly Spanish and are not English proficient. However only 23 percent of first-generation immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries—those that began learning later in life, say they speak English very well. Pew Hispanic Center statistics have shown that 88 percent of the members of the second generation—those children that were introduced to English at an early age, described themselves as strong English speakers. This phenomenon should apply to children who speak English as their first language as well. In other words, U.S. students should be introduced to a second language at a young age in order to be fluent by adulthood. In fact, I believe that all K-12 students should have Spanish and English fluency by graduation.
By implementing bilingual options even younger, K-12 students stand to benefit long-term – both academically and in life. There really should be no reason why these students are not introduced to a second language as early as Kindergarten.
What is your opinion on mandating bilingual education programs in the future?
Bilingualism is the ability to speak two languages. Bilingual Education is being taught school subjects in two different languages. The United States is home to millions of immigrants each with their own native backgrounds. The United States require the immigrants to learn the full English languages when settling into the country. The schools should give the opportunity to bilingual students, or new student immigrants the advantage to learn the English language or to be taught in two different languages.
This would give the students the advantage in learning two different languages that will help them in the future. They should be able to learn their own native language and speak it in private but also in public, however, they should also be taught the English language whether when entering the country, school, or private tutoring. Bilingual Education should not be forced by the government; it should be their own free chose. As the immigrants become more fluent in the English language they will have a better chance getting jobs, communication, and helping their own children learn the English language.
The United States should not focus only on English Only Movement they should offer the opportunity of Bilingual Education for its citizens, but also keeping English as one of the main languages in the country. First, the United States needs not to focus on making English the only language but work more on helping the new immigrants learn the English language. The United States needs to do more to prevent the problem of immigrants in the United States having trouble getting jobs or keeping up in the classroom because they are not fluent in English.
If the immigrants were taught the full English language coming into the country it will help the children in the classroom learn easier by keeping up with the teacher and also give the parents the advantage to communicate with their childrens teachers. The immigrants have a chose to choose to learn the English language freely they can still speak their own native language in wherever they want, but should be able to know the English language if they live in the United States. The United States needs to help improve the problems that the immigrants will encounter as they live in the United States and give the new immigrants an equal chance.
The United States is a country mixed with different native backgrounds and ethnicties; it is always undergoing assimilation of some sort. It is like a “salad bowl” where not everyone assimilates together but is mixed together. American has a common language and that is English, but American should also not force English only on immigrants or citizens, however, they should teach the new immigrants the English language and still allow them their own native languages. The United States should not single out the immigrants by now allowing them to speak their native language in public and only speak the English language.
Another reason for Bilingualism in the United States is Bilingual Education. Bilingual Education is the learning of school subjects in two languages, the “use” and “knowing” of two different languages. The United States should have certain schools throughout the country that offer bilingual classes. The students should have the chose to learn another language or to be taught English while in the mean time they still are able to learn in the native language until the learn the full English language.
As the students learn another language they become knowledgeable in the writing, reading, speaking and comprehension of that language. Students in the fourth grade who are Spanish speaking natives have learned the English languages are studied on their knowledge of the two languages. The gathered stories from their families in Spanish and were to rewrite the story in English. The study shows that by having children become bilingual in two languages gave them better opportunities in life and broaden their skills in the classroom and in the social and cultural world.
This study supports the argument on bilingual education for immigrants and also shows the advantages one will have by becoming bilingual. As they learn the English language, besides their own native language it can help them in many ways. As the students learn English in the classrooms they are not told to forget their own native languages. When students who speak a native language and have not learned the English language enter a classroom full of English speaking students will become intimidated and afraid.
The English language is a public language used throughout the country in all different areas. As the students who do not know the English language are forced into a classroom of English only are more than likely going to fall behind the other students from not understanding completely what is being taught and said by the teacher and their own classmates. Students should have the opportunity to be in a classroom where they are taught the English language but also learning the subjects that are being taught in school.
They should have the advantage to learn the subjects in two different languages so that they will have a better understanding of the subjects. After a year or two at least the students should be ready to be placed in a normal English only classroom and be able to do well. It must be a transition for the students as they are prepared for the transfer into a standard English classroom. Many student immigrants have made the transition for their own native language to the English language and become better assimilated with the country.
Although most student immigrants parents are fluent in their native language most approve of their children being taught another language and becoming bilingual. The parents have a role in their childrens learning another language, however it can be crucial on their childrens development of another language as they communicate with their children in that native language in the privacy of their home. In a study most immigrant parents support bilingual education for their children and few oppose it.
They believe that their children being bilingual will give them many advantages, as helping the children in the classroom or leading their children to a high career opportunity. The children are able to speak their native language at their home, but as they speak English at home they are helping their parents also learn the language. When the children know the English language it helps them be able to communicate easier with the rest of the country. Bilingual Education and Bilingualism is not something that can affect the United States in a harmful way.
The United States is a free country allowing all immigrants from all diversities come into this country. America should require the new immigrants to learn the full English language so that they are able to communicate with the rest of the country and able to get jobs. Schools should give the immigrant students who are not fluent in English the opportunity to learn English and school subjects in their native languages in a separate classroom, until they are fluent enough to keep up with the teacher and the material they are taught in a standard English classroom.
If America allows Bilingualism and Bilingual Education then it will give the immigrants a chance at learning English to live in the country comfortably, go to school in English classrooms and work in English jobs. They are still allowed to speak their own native languages in the public and in the privacy of their own home. Bilingualism should not be forced on anyone. It should be a transitional act to help them transform more into the United States.