What you’ll find when you travel to other countries is that their citizens are expected to learn a foreign language from an earlier age and to a more advanced level than American children. U.S. kids rarely are capable of conversational Spanish, German, Italian, etc. by the time they have fulfilled curriculum requirements for foreign language.
If our children were taught with greater intensity at a younger age, in a preschool immersion class where learning was fun and incorporated into play, music and games, they would be more likely to learn the foreign language quickly, enjoy It and have an easier time continuing learning into later years.
A foreigner traveling in Europe will find most teenagers (and older) capable of responding in English because they have learned English in school. Lucky for the traveler that it is so easy to find someone who understands them and can at least point them in the right direction. You cannot say the same for foreign travelers coming to the United States.
When given the choice to further second language learning in high school, many kids would prefer to take classes related to the careers they want to pursue. In fact, the opportunity to get college credit for AP classes can save thousands of dollars and shave a year or more off time in college. It’s easy to understand why a graduating senior would prefer to focus on college courses than take language classes, which are considered electives.
The benefit of furthering second language learning from an early age is increased cognitive ability which enhances reasoning skills in other areas. When the neurons are forming their connections, learning the second language is no more difficult than learning the first. This experience occurs within the first decade of a child’s life and is the reason why immersive language classes are so beneficial at these ages.
You are unlikely to find what you need in your child’s school district. For most parents, finding a local class for after school is the best option. Immersion classes are available for toddlers, beginning as mommy and me classes and summer camp. These classes offer the opportunity to learn through fun activities including music, stories, games, cultural activities, and play. Because learning activities are entertaining, children want to engage and do so only in the foreign language. This has proven to be the most effective way to learn a second language because the child associates words with activities.
As parents have become more aware of the content of their children’s’ curriculum, they have become more involved and begun expressing an opinion about the type of content they want their children to learn. We are now at a precipice where we can demand better quality instruction geared towards preparing our children for careers and skills required in real life. Too often, they graduate unprepared for available jobs and choose, instead, to remain in the education system for fear of initiating their adult lives. We should embrace additional foreign language requirements in the schools as they will help our kids be better prepared for their futures no matter their career path.