George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why don't US elementary schools teach foreign language?

Why don't US elementary schools teach foreign language?

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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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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?

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
Online Community Engagement Manager

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!


Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
2015 California Language Teacher of the Year, Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

To @Maski99-san,

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!


florentina's picture

Hi everyone. I am a French teacher in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, a small community close to Savannah, GA. My daughters are in 2nd and 5th grade and they do learn Spanish in school, 50% immersion program. Our community is wealthier than others in the area, but we are also an IB high school ( International Bacalaureate). I truly believe that ALL schools in America, especially in Elementary schools should offer at least two languages to begin exploring from early ages. I am currently speaking 4 languages (Romanian, English, French and Spanish) because in my country of origin (Romania) learning language was an expectation. The younger you are, the faster you learn a new language
My students coming from middle school with little or no language skill face challenges and often give up on learning. We have an IB program in which by fourth year of language study, the students have to prove fluency and to write extended essays, graded in other countries. How do you think they perform when they compete with European students who learn languages from pre-K?

Many times I had an opinion that language learning facilitates mathematical skills and communication skills in the native language. But now, I know it is not an opinion, but a proven fact. The article from July, 2014 in Times magazine lists and describes the many benefits of a bilingual brain.
I believe that in our century, with a real technology revolution, we can come together and advocate for language learning as a norm, not a graduation requirement.

Thank you for reading!

Florentina Hartley

Fox Lehjika's picture
Fox Lehjika
World Language

At Oxford Preparatory Academy we offer Mandarin, Italian, German, and French in a K-8 program. From pre-K to 4th grades student learn Mandarin, which is a category 4 in difficulty. From 5th grade students choose a target language they study up to 8th grade. We use the multiple intelligences technique to create a learning setting based on the California World Language Standards. When it comes to world language we believe that starting earlier and staying longer is the best strategy for students to reach an acceptable proficiency level. All of this is made possible thanks to the school leadership that understands the need for students to develop the 21st century skills necessary to compete in today's global market environment. Such global minded leadership is what is needed in our elementary and secondary school. (See my previous post for more details).

Jackie's picture

Yes, Our children should be taught Spanish from Kindergarten through sixth grade. Many American in the US have not realized the importance of children learning Spanish. It is time to expose the truth that our native English speaking children that are not learning Spanish in the early grade will be out sourced in the job market. We need a group of advocates to wake up parents and help them realize that unless their children learn Spanish as a second language, their child may not have an equal chance gaining jobs in the future. I am for teaching Spanish in the Elementary grade and helping our native English speaking children Spanish as a second language. It is only fair that the government teach our children a second language also. Make it fair America!

Alexandra Marie's picture

Yes, absolutely! foreign languages should be taught in elementary schools started from our young age, cause it brings benefit in our future, and once I learned another foreign language in school and it was so fun and easy the way we improved it in a blend learning method. I'm learning Spanish and I get addicted to it so much :D wish I could make spanish as a second language for me, just in case I can teach in the future and Preply helps a lot.

JessicaLucinda Williams's picture

My daughter is a 5th grader and wants to learn German. She also asks why they do not offer foreign languages in elementary schools.

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