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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why don't US elementary schools teach foreign language?

Why don't US elementary schools teach foreign language?

Related Tags: World Languages
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I am currently enrolled in a graduate program, which will certify me as a literacy specialist. We have studied many trends and issues in literacy education. One of the topics we have discussed is whether U.S. elementary schools(K-6)should be teaching foreign language in the curriculum. We are a global society today and the world wide web is connecting us in multiple pathways. We need to become more culturally aware of other students especially with the growing rate of ELL students in U.S. schools today. Researchers have also proven that learning a foreign language helps to develop cognitive skills that improve reading and even math scores. Does your school teach foreign language in elementary school? How is this improving their learning? If not, do you think foreign language should be taught in elementary school? How might we fit foreign language into the curriculum? I would appreciate any comments or suggestions. Thank you.

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Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center
Facilitator

Hello again,

As a follow up to our discussion, please see this article elsewhere on Edutopia! The data makes our case clear: Languages/bilingualism is profoundly beneficial to students, to cultures and societies, and ultimately, ought to be much more important, especially early on in a students' educational journey. Here is the link:

http://www.edutopia.org/stw-global-competence-research#graph2

Also, I am indebted to my ACTFL friend Thomas Sauer for many things, but as he pointed out to me today: schools and districts..."could teach a world language if they wanted to. Plenty of $$ in schools but WL isn't priority." I understand his point, and agree that in many places around the country (ie, USA in our case), and perhaps in other countries as well, World Language instruction is not a priority, especially before High School. Nevertheless, in the 30 years I have been teaching in California, World Languages have not been very high on the priority list for funding either. All in all, the key point is priorities! We find means for the things which matter most to us, even in education.

Best wishes to all,
Don

Hans Albanese's picture
Hans Albanese
English Language Arts teacher in Japan, Course Supervisor (past)

Hi,
Here in Japan, English is being taught in most elementary schools, but this is new. It tends to be taught once a week or two weeks and is focused on basic listening / speaking with lots of games and activities.

The government is moving toward making it a regular subject with a set textbook and dedicated teachers.

There is opposition. One reason is that Japanese is a complex language that takes several years to master. Some people in Japan think feel that kids should not be learning another language until they have fully mastered their own.

I think that any country that hopes to compete or cooperate internationally, and prosper, must make other languages an integral part of the curriculum, even in elementary school.

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center
Facilitator

Thanks for your post Hans. Other countries are doing some interesting second language programs, some successfully, some less so.

Does anyone else have an example to share? How can we successfully promote language programs in the early years of school in all countries? The need is great! Let's think of some ideas together!!

Best wishes, Don

tom n's picture
tom n
Elementary Spanish

It seems as if money is precisely why my district offers elementary Spanish. Oakland County, Michigan, where I work, is one of the wealthiest counties in the country. In order to differentiate ourselves from neighboring districts that only offer 3-5th grade Spanish, we offer K-5 Spanish. A lot of charter schools also teach WL and that ups the ante too.
Most parents in my area expect WL instruction. Spanish is by far the language of choice as the handwriting is on the wall as to Latino population growth.
Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Clarkston( Mandarin too), Royal Oak. Ferndale and Southfield are all communities with many years of elementary Spanish instruction.
Hasta Luego,

Tom Noes

tom n's picture
tom n
Elementary Spanish

It seems as if money is precisely why my district offers elementary Spanish. Oakland County, Michigan, where I work, is one of the wealthiest counties in the country. In order to differentiate ourselves from neighboring districts that only offer 3-5th grade Spanish, we offer K-5 Spanish. A lot of charter schools also teach WL and that ups the ante too.
Most parents in my area expect WL instruction. Spanish is by far the language of choice as the handwriting is on the wall as to Latino population growth.
Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Clarkston( Mandarin too), Royal Oak. Ferndale and Southfield are all communities with many years of elementary Spanish instruction.
Hasta Luego,

Tom Noes

vanenka mosqueira's picture
vanenka mosqueira
Spanish teacher/ Spanish Language Coordinator

How do you know the needs of your students with regard to their language background? In America if we focus on our student diverse population, we should integrate in our teaching practices awareness of different language heritage. It is a challenging situation of working to improve our students educational progress when we neglect or not value their cultural diversity. Perhaps we can discuss of ways in which you feel that your students' mother tongue language may have been neglected?
Thanks,
Vanenka

maski99's picture

I am in elementary school as a 5th grader and I've been wanting to learn Japanese in elementary school. (I am a Japanese-American) Can you please tell the elementary schools of America to allow foreign language classes in elementary schools other than English as a second language? PLEASE? PLEASE??????????????

maski99's picture

I think you are right Don. There are too many people in America that only speak on language. At least there are some people who speak more than one language. I speak a little bit of nihongo and I am only a 5th grader! (nihongo means Japanese, by the way) The American states and government need to stop worrying about money for themselves. >:-(

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Community Manager at Edutopia
Staff

Hi maski99, welcome to Edutopia. :-)

There are huge benefits to students learning more than one language. Even if your school doesn't offer formal classes, there are other ways to learn--both at home and through organizations or clubs. You should go for it!

Ganbatte!

Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center
Facilitator

To @Maski99-san,

doumoarigatougozaimasu
Doumo arigatou gozaimasu
Thank you very much !

I am not only impressed that you are learning some Japanese, but that as a 5th grader, you are also reading articles on Edutopia! Well done, and keep making the world a better place by working at becoming bi-lingual, and bi-literate, if not multi-lingual, and multi-literate! I admire your comments as well. Thanks for posting!

Don

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