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Linguaholic

Why Doesn't US teach Languages properly?


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Sometimes I really feel deprived as an American. I feel like we are so behind in education, not only in math and science, but in languages as well. I remember when I was ten years old, I thought it was so cool that my cousin in Germany spoke three languages.

I traveled to Aruba, and natives are taught their native language, Dutch (they are part of the Dutch Antilles), English, and Spanish. It is mandatory in schools. This really made me feel dumb! Why is it that Americans do not learn them in early years?

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I am not an American, so i won;t e able to tell you about your education system. But things are not really good here as far as language learning is concerned. We concentrate one English apart from our native language. We never get a chance to learn other languages apart from these two.

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I am not an American but i've always thought that they do teach other languages to students at an early age. Here, children are taught Spanish in kindergarten and then in some high school other languages are added.

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I am studying to teach Spanish in KY. The reason we are so behind on language learning is funding and the fact that there is just now substantial research supporting that language learning may be the reasons that other countries are ahead of us in the education department. English literacy is the most important thing right now. Our main focus in schools is reading, writing and math. All other subjects just aren't held to as high a standard (well in my state for sure). Another factor is the availability of people who can teach these subject areas. There are very few people who are qualified to teach foreign language; language teachers are in high demand here. 

My personal opinion, however, is that in the next ten years we will see a huge difference in the United States in language learning. In the next two years they are planning to add it to the required curriculum here with higher standards and rules for teaching language. Hopefully we will catch up soon.

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I feel your pain here and as an American I've often wondered the same thing. As you mentioned, we're already behind on math and sciences, and it seems such a shame that we don't put more emphasis on language learning and such. I feel like there are so many ways we could do a lot better in terms of our educational system here, languages being just one facet of that, and I've known a lot of teachers and school administrators who agree. It's unfortunate :(.

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We learn three languages in South Africa in primary school as these three are our official languages. English, Afrikaans and Zulu. By the time we get to high school we do have a choice to alter one language and some of the schools give choices but most of them only offer the 3 languages. It is nice ot be able to speak other languages and I do know that in the private schools they offer French, German etc which makes sense if you would like to see the world one day!

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Guest wellpostlooper

I think there are a lot of issues in the education system. Even though English is supposed to be the most important language in the US, you still find some people commenting on the internet using broken English. As for learning the other languages, I think it is also a matter of interest.  You seem interested and that is why you will manage to learn a lot of languages. Other people just don't seem to care as much.

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I think it's just because your language is already so dominant that everyone seeks to use it so people there probably don't feel the need to do it the other way around. I don't think you should feel too bad about it since the country does shine in almost all other industries. Also, if you really want your kids to learn another language then you could just enroll them in an after school class. I think school systems everywhere are lacking in one way or another so it's probably wise not to rely on them as much as previous generations did.

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I think it's because we don't or didn't consider it a priority for a long time. But that's changing now. For a long time, English was the language to learn and was the most spoken language in the US. There's also the fact that before WW2, America was an isolated country while most European nations were the opposite. European countries have a long history of interaction and immigration. So, comparing America to that part of the world isn't fair. With all that said, notice that with the rising numbers of spanish-speaking Hispanics, schools are enforcing more and more Spanish classes.

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I think because its geographically somewhat, more or less isolated from the rest of the world, except Mexico of course, but truth be said, plenty of Americans speak Spanish, or is that just my personal feeling. Canada doesn't count as it is mostly a English speaking nation as well (correct me if I'm wrong), and French, well, for native English speakers it's just difficult to learn.

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In my public school, only "special" kids were taught Latin in sixth grade. The only reason for this was for an understanding of vocabulary, and to break down words to grasp the meanings. By high school we were offered Spanish, French and German. But by that time it seemed too late.

I have a niece in Hawaii who was taught Japanese from first grade, even the nursery rhymes were in Japanese. In hawaii, she is a minority, as most of the people in her area are Japanese or some form of Asian.

In my area, it is true that very few people speak other languages, including Spanish.

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Guest wellpostlooper

Perhaps all the schools in the world can consider teaching kids multiple languages. Kids seem to learn things faster anyway, so perhaps teaching them many languages would help 'save' the language in their minds for future courses. One language teacher recently said we can learn languages to fluency within 6 months. If that's true, we can teach ourselves multiple languages quickly.

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I'm not sure why America doesn't teach our students other languages properly. Heck, we can barely teach English. Our school system is badly broken and in need of serious reform. Other school systems throughout the world put ours to shame. That's unfortunate, because I think our kids are just as capable of learning.

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I agree that learning languages early would be beneficial.  Geographical isolation isn't really a reason because Canada teaches both French and English.  Students in elementary school have the option of attending school in French as well as English (at least that is my understanding).  Children are so much better at learning languages. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

That's simple, RhodaDEttore. It's a broken system over here. The experts always wonder why we're behind and they implement new teaching methods that only show a promise for a short time, then fizzle out. The reason for that plays into several factors.

  • The school has it where a curriculium is set up that the students HAVE to learn by a set date.

Now, that SOUNDS great, in theory, but we all know that even the BEST laid plans go awry. You have to facor in:

  • You're dealing with OTHER human beings. People that won't always want to follow whatever you have set up.

Example: You can try to teach little kids, but they're balls of enegry, it's a wonder that they can sit down for a school day period, let alone learn another language. If it's for older kids, they're going to want to talk to friends and text, more than likely they're going to fall behind because the teacher now has to play babysitter.

  • Learning curves.

Some students aren't going to get the material that the teacher will have to spend extra time trying to make sure they understand the lesson. In most cases, this ends up eating up more class time till the point of it backing up classroom learning.

  • Multiple classes.

Connected from the previous point, teachers don't always have the luxury of just teaching one class till they all get it. They have to teach different classes of the same grade. Some of them may be ahead of the others and are on schedule for the curriculum, while others are a week behind them and you'll have no choice BUT to skip ahead to try to teach them the new stuff.

Thus, we have improper learning methods of mastering a new language.

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Most of my American friends lament the fact that they are only able to speak English, whereas most Europeans often speak two or more languages. I grew up bilingual, and later acquired another two languages in school. And two years ago, I added a fifth one to my "repertoire".

I think growing up on a continent where almost every country speaks a different language, it seems quite quite natural that it leads to multilingual abilities, even if foreign languages weren't taught at school.

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Really? All of my life, I have never considered the American Educational system to be lacking in something. Much less behind in something. It's truly news to me. Here I was thinking that the kinds of problems mentioned here are applicable only to us Third World countries. In any case, I'll just hazard a guess that it's probably because the US has always been considered a super power. Thus, most people flock to your country (all having the ability to speak English), and there really wasn't a need for the locals to learn. However, because these days everything is becoming global, and even Americans now have the need to explore the world, it's only now they become cognizant of the need to learn foreign languages.

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I agree. I definitely feel like students in the US should be taught different languages starting in grade school. I am a senior in college who have taken Spanish twice in high school and twice in college, yet I cannot seem to retain the rules of the language or vocabulary. My knowledge of Spanish is very basic and minimum. Perhaps, if I had started learning Spanish beginning in elementary school or even earlier (parents should provide ways for their children to start learning other languages) I would most likely be very fluent in Spanish now. There is a video that I have recently seen of an eight year old girl who is fluent in 9 languages in counting. She is training her brain while is easiest to retain multiple languages. I admire her and her parents for setting up a bright future with any awarding opportunities.

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  • 11 months later...

Hey I'm also American (sad to say... TAT''') The reason that American schools don't have alot language courses is mostly due to the fact that since other countries learn English for political reasons, so America doesn't really put much effort into teaching their children how to speak other languages and becuase of this you have people in their early teens to adult year trying learnig to languages in school, that only goes to a certain level before it stops... So you have people semi-fluent in that specific language (unless you find/have those teachers who are dedicated to their jobs and are truly culturally acceptive and wants to truly help their students actually LEARN the laguage) and even then you only have two language choices which is French or Spanish (both languages of love, as if the pregnancy rate wasn't high enough... Sorry...)! Though (not to be racist, but it's gonna happen) they're too many majorities (Anglo-Saxons) up North for (I think) America to care so in the end maybe if my fellow minorites dispered more up north and started intermingling more we could make America notice that there needs to be boost in the education system (not Japan good, but still better than what we've got now...), but none the less, it's mostly due ignorance, racsism (no it's not dead yet...even though other countries do/don't hate our guts they still put with our shit...), and the fact that even though they say we're the "Great Melting Pot of the World" they still don't do anything to back up the meaning behind those words... Oh...Crap... Sorry for rambling, but I'm trying to get the hell out of America..... 636

Edited by DivaDee
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Is the US system really "broken"? Show me a country that gets better results, and I'll show you students who spend enough time outside the classroom to really learn the language. The biggest benefit of starting in grade school is that it adds time. That being said, it's usually still not enough to get really good at a language. So using the language, reading, listening, talking, writing or whatever, outside the classroom is almost always necessary.

Are students of non-US countries more motivated to use their languages outside of class than American students? For many reasons, yes, this is usually the case.

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That actually surprises me, because with America being a melting pot of all these cultures, I always thought schools taught foreign languages from a young age. I know UK schools start teaching what they call Modern Foreign Languages from a very young age, I know they're offered in primary school through to secondary school, and they're growing in popularity.

My country Botswana is a developing country, so funds are a little tight. Subsequently, if you go to a state primary school, chances are you won't learn a single foreign language. All private/international schools offer them from reception through to A'levels. I'm glad to hear that even state schools are now offering them in secondary school :) I wish iI'd had that opportunity during my time!

 

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Sometimes I really feel deprived as an American. I feel like we are so behind in education, not only in math and science, but in languages as well. I remember when I was ten years old, I thought it was so cool that my cousin in Germany spoke three languages.

 

I traveled to Aruba, and natives are taught their native language, Dutch (they are part of the Dutch Antilles), English, and Spanish. It is mandatory in schools. This really made me feel dumb! Why is it that Americans do not learn them in early years?

What do you mean? In California (where I lived), most children start learning a foreign language in middle school. I think that's a good age to start because before middle school, they have to master English first. In high school, foreign language is also a requirement (2 years required, 3 years recommended).

I don't feel deprived as an American. I'm teaching English in Japan now and the kids here don't start learning English, a universal language, until the 7th grade. They are exposed to English from 5th-6th grade, but they don't learn how to write until they're in 7th. And even then, they're learning super basic stuff like "She plays basketball". So I think America is doing pretty good with teaching foreign languages. 

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Yeah, this is so weird to me especially since America has so many different cultures thrown into one big nation. 

In my country, we had German since thirds grade (although that was optional), English since fifth (mandatory) and most high schools have a choice between second foreign language (aside from English) in French, Spanish, Italian, or Russian. Pretty much the same choices once you get to college as well. This is all in state schools.

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Here in the Netherlands, children are taught Dutch (native), English, German and French (and on higher levels they get Latin and Greek too).
However, it doesn't mean everyone speaks all of these languages!
In fact, most people here only speak Dutch, English and eventually the native language of their (grand)parents, in case they're not native Dutch people.

Why is that so?
Dutch is the official language and therefore, you can't avoid it here.
Their parents will talk to their children in their native language, so it's no surprise they are good at it neither (though it really depends, because Turkish and Moroccan people tend to find their parents' languages much easier than Dutch, while Polish or Indonesian people often find the opposite).
Then there is English, which is widely used in multimedia here (TV, internet, radio, video games, even newspapers), but English also often gets mixed into Dutch on purpose (like "dit is zo fucking cool").

Meanwhile, German, French, Latin and Greek are often seen as subjects at school, so they forget those languages as soon as they go to a college or to an university.
In my case however, I never had any of these 4 languages at school.
If I would have them, I would definitely expand my knowledge about those as much as I did with English (because my English was nonetheless horrible until I joined English speaking forums).

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