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Linguaholic

Schools should encourage students to learn a foreign language or two at an early age


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I grew up learning two other languages besides my own. Although I never questioned why I was learning them, now it has occurred to me that the educational system I was exposed to, though not the best in the world, has given me and many of my countrymen a language learning advantage. Here, English is a separate subject and taught from pre-school all the way to college. I hear in other countries (I live in the Philippines, by the way) this foreign language isn't mandatory and only those interested should learn it. However, little did other countries know, English has now become a very important language for diplomacy and globalizing businesses.

It would be great if schools the world over would include English in their curricula. There are thousands of languages across the globe. We should at least have one language in common so that we can better understand each other despite our differences.

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I agree.  For example, here in my part of America, we have had an influx in Spanish-speaking immigrants.  I cannot speak any language other than English fluently.  I grew up in poverty, so I didn't have the resources at home to learn (we couldn't afford electricity, so no Internet).  I had to rely on school.  I had one introductory class for one semester (half a school year), which was divided into French and Spanish.  On half of the semester was Spanish and the other half French.  All we really did there was pick a "foreign" name and learn the words for colors and some foods.  Then in high school we were only allowed to have two years of language.  Then we were forced to pick other electives. 

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I agree that schools should teach languages from an early age.  I think that by the time schools start teaching in in middle or high school it is too late to pick up.  I know I have studied Spanish for 8+ years and still have a difficult time with it.  I think that this not only is a vital part of a school's curriculum but also helps children develop learning skills from a young age.

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Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't this already being done? I thought just about every country starts it's students off on English from the beginning, or near the beginning. It seems to work really well for western Europe, not so well for eastern Europe, and really poorly for everywhere else. The Philippines is an exception for some reason, but the global success rate is pretty low. I think it has less to do with when it's introduced than how it's taught.

It takes thousands of hours to become advanced in a language; expecting a few hundred hours in the classroom to be enough is unrealistic. The kids need to really spend a lot of time with the language outside of the classroom. And if they are expected to become advanced speakers, they need to converse for hundreds of hours. Classes that focus on grammar aren't enough. 

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I think they should learn a foreign language, but not at a super young age. I teach English to 5th and 6th graders in Japan and they can't even write proper Japanese yet. I know and agree that foreign languages are important, but I think that before we start to teach kids a foreign language, they need to have a good foundation of their own language. Otherwise, the "foreign language" will be their mother language.

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I agree, I actually wish here in that they would not only teach a larger variety of different languages, but also due it at a younger age so we can adopt it better like our own native tounge. At about the ages of 7-10, because during that time our brains aren't completely (no where near) set in stone about speaking English so that way all of them (the children who want to learn) can become multilingual... Or if you want to you can teach your kids how to speak different languages (Cause I'd teach my kids about three, if not four different languages).

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It's definitely being done outside America very commonly. I know most young children in Germany speak at least a little English, for instance (which was really fun when I studied abroad there and we helped each other learn). But America is not taking initiative in this area, leaving foreign language education often until high school, which wastes a great window of early learning opportunity.

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I'd teach my kids about three, if not four different languages

Hopefully you wouldn't let them hear you speak with a non-native accent though, right? Kids can develop a native accent if you catch them early enough, but will also fossilize a non-native accent very easily.

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  • 1 month later...

There should be someone who would disagree with this, so let that someone be me.

Unlike us adults, children have much more things to learn than just languages.
We adults learn our core business either in universities or at work, but children need to learn languages, maths, history, biology, geography, etc. at the same time, many of which will be irrelevant for their future, but let's put this fact aside.
Add 2 more languages to the mix, and everything gets much harder to learn!

Other than the multi-tasking part, there are more problems to care about:

  1. Children still need to develop their way of logical thinking.
  2. Children at an early age don't know how to use technology beyond playing games.
  3. Children learn languages based on exposure, so good luck teaching them Russian through a Spanish-speaking teacher in Argentina!

The only reason why children would possibly have a greater advantage over adults in this case would be experience.
While adults are more likely to grab a textbook and quiz-based apps, children are more likely to learn languages by purely using the language verbally at first, and then learn the writing side of the language at school.
Unless the child in question is a 3 year old Einstein without any handicaps, I wouldn't see him or her pick up a book, app or game to learn whatever language they want to learn.

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Well, I also disagree with this, actually. I'm so thankful to my parents that when I was a child, they let me be just that - a child. Let me play, discover the world, run around with my friends..

These days I see so many children that are literally barely breathing under the weight of their parents' ambitions. English! French! German! Ballet school! Karate lesson! Vocal classes! Skating! Creative courses! It doesn't matter that the poor thing has barely learnt to walk and actually wants nothing but play and just be with parents. It's dragged from one class to another. The mothers seem to be competing between each other who gets to have more activities for their son/daughter. It's so pathetic. I sometimes feel like screaming, "Lady, get a life yourself and leave that unhappy little person be!".

When I was a tutor, I once had to  teach a boy of about 8. He had exactly that sort of life... I remember once he told me "I just want to play lego. I really do. But I never have time, because mummy says I should learn English, and French, and drawing, and martial arts, and other things."

I really don't know why parents force their children to do things they hate. And I don't mean things like eating healthy or brushing teeth, but "additional" stuff that you could do just fine without.

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Ah, I agree so much. There are so many benefits to the human brain to learning a language early. I learned this in a linguistics class I took years ago and it has stuck with me for whatever reason. I want to make language learning a part of my life, although I've already kind of missed the time in life when it is most likely to stick. If you start learning a new language at a very early age (like 2-5), your brain has a greater capacity to keep the language. Also, kids who learn subjects in two or more languages will have an advantage in that area of study. They get better grades and have more success in school. On top of THAT, you can communicate with more of the world! I'm sad because the United States puts almost no emphasis on learning other languages, one of the many reasons why our public education kind of sucks. I'm not saying that you can't learn a new language as an adult... I don't think I could believe that. It's just much, much harder to learn to speak a new language fluently. 

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@Alex_F....I wholly agree with you on this! I guess we'll just have to be in the minority LOL I too am a Linguistics graduate and learnt exactly the same theory as you did. I think most people aren't aware just how resilient young children are, and the extent of the capacity of their brains to tackle some things that we as adults would fail at. I learnt through Linguistics that the younger the child, the easier it is for them to learn foreign languages. What I found especially fascinating  is the fact that young children's brains fare far better at learning and retaining multiple foreign languages simultaneously. I think sometimes we don't give children enough credit. 

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I think its a very good idea to teach children foreign languages at an early age. Learning another language automatically add a new dimension in your educational avenues. I was very young when I started learning English and it has helped me study a whole new culture apart from mine. I have a wealth of wisdom in my access because I was made to learn the language.

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I agree, learning one or two other languages whilst growing up would greatly benefit everyone. Not only would it give the student an advantage academically, but it would also give a student a chance to learn and understand a different culture as well. With the world becoming more and more diverse, learning another language or two can only have beneficial results.

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That is so true, I also live in the same country, and I know that curriculum that you are talking about. I'm actually quite grateful that English is a mandatory subject here in the Philippines, because we Filipinos can now just easily speak and understand the English language as compared to other nationalities. Also, tourists can approach anyone and chances are they will be understood because most Filipinos speak English. So I hope that the schools from other countries also implement English into their curriculum.

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   I totally agree with this and I believe on or two is not the right choice here. Two at least. So the minimum of two foreign languages would bee enough. In Serbia we officially start to learn another language from fifth grade so that means when we turn twelve. I had started before that on private classes in the second grade at age of eight. It turns out languages help you throughout your life. I have learned, beside English, some Spanish and Maltese and both were very useful to me. I think that considering recent events and probable outcomes in the world, languages our children should choose from are English, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic. With paramount importance given to Chinese and Arabic, because English and Spanish are easier to understand still and the firs two will have greater use in near future.

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Yes, I can relate to this thread in a very common sense.

As I was growing up, English was a mandatory second language from the 3rd grade. We first got introduced to English in the kindergarten, mostly through songs, and small games. Then, It became a bit serious in primary school. From the 5th grade, we had the Russian language introduced to us, and the whole idea of learning a foreign language got a very different turn. It was also a mandatory one, and one had no choice whether or not one would learn it. So far we all thought that learning a language was such great fun, but once the Russian language was introduced, the teacher approached us in a rather serious manner. Perhaps, the fact we were older contributed to that. In my high school, I was introduced to the French language, that was, too mandatory, whilst at the University, I studied Greek.

All I am saying is that, I would prefer if the language was introduced at some earlier stages in a child's development, adding to that that I would also prefer for the languages introduced to be mandatory, not a choice though. The younger we are, the better we acquire any language, given that we have all the means and opportunities to learn the language in question.

 

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But have you thought about the children in question? What if they don't want to learn three languages? What if they are more interested in learning how to count, or how to draw, or whatever? I know people who were completely put off sports, languages or musical education exactly because their parents forced them to do it in childhood.

I love learning multiple languages but I think it should come as your own choice and not something you are forced to do. After all, it does take time and effort, even for children, and there are plenty of other, much more important skills they must learn as well.

 

 

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I agree with the OP :)  The world would be a better place if we could understand each other better :)  I just can't imagine what would have happened if I had never learnt English on my own when I was 16... I'd have never meet my fiance :o   I've heard of couples who can't really understand each other, but that has never been for me ;)   My school never had an interest in us learning English or any other language, I mean, was at the same low levels as us xD  I'm so glad one day I finally had the drive to actually start trying to communicate with people in English.  But yes, schools should start motivating their children more, specially when it comes to learning new languages. 

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On 22.12.2015, 15:55:01, Trellum said:

I agree with the OP :)  The world would be a better place if we could understand each other better :)  I just can't imagine what would have happened if I had never learnt English on my own when I was 16... I'd have never meet my fiance :o   I've heard of couples who can't really understand each other, but that has never been for me ;)   My school never had an interest in us learning English or any other language, I mean, was at the same low levels as us xD  I'm so glad one day I finally had the drive to actually start trying to communicate with people in English.  But yes, schools should start motivating their children more, specially when it comes to learning new languages. 

I totally agree, I just don't think children should start learning English when they are 2 or 3 years old :) When they are 7 or 10, that's a whole another story altogether.

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I've heard it's possible for a child to have up to 4 native languages: 

1) mother's language

2) father's language

3) nanny's language

4) country's language

But that's really pushing it. I think most kids in this situation end up not being native level in all 4 because of lack of balance. It's better to have complete mastery of one than problems in more than one at this early stage, imo. I've seen some people claim 4 or even more native languages, but they can't really pass for a native in all of them, or the languages are very similar.

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