Buzzfeed has outdone itself with this irreverent bit about the pitfalls of language learning.
Here’s the link to “17 Things You’ll Only Understand If You Studied A Foreign Language at University:
Buzzfeed has outdone itself with this irreverent bit about the pitfalls of language learning.
Here’s the link to “17 Things You’ll Only Understand If You Studied A Foreign Language at University:
Here’s a column by “Mr. Dad” (a.k.a. Armin Brott) that argues the benefits of foreign language learning. Definitely worth reading! from heraldonline.com, June 7, 2013:
Dear Mr. Dad: The U.S. is the most powerful country in the world and everyone wants to do business with us. Since we speak English here, how important do you think it is for children to learn a foreign language?
Unfortunately, our education system doesn’t place a lot of value on foreign-language knowledge – for exactly the reasons you mentioned. But in my view, it’s very important.
Of course, you’re talking to a guy with an undergrad degree in Russian and a minor in French, so you can take that with a grain of salt.
But there’s plenty of research to back me up. Let me walk you through some of the benefits.
• It can make you smarter – Numerous studies have found that studying a foreign language improves students’ listening skills, memory, and attention span, along with their critical thinking skills, ability to solve problems, and creativity.
Foreign language learners also do better than their mono-lingual (knowing only one-language) peers on verbal and math tests. Yes, math. Some experts believe that learning a new language requires an understanding of patterns and deciphering puzzles – both of which are related to mathematics. Multi-lingual kids also increase their English vocabulary, reading, and grammar usage.
• It could help you get a job, and more – Participants in a recent study done at the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) in Glendale, Ariz., told researchers that knowing a foreign language had given them a leg up in being hired and improved their career paths. It also made them more aware of and interested in other cultures,
• It’s patriotic – According to the National Research Council, “A pervasive lack of knowledge about foreign cultures and foreign languages threatens the security of the United States as well as its ability to compete in the global marketplace and produce an informed citizenry.” In other words, the easier it is to communicate with people, the less they’ll be to go to war.
• It keeps your mind sharp – Knowledge of two or more languages has been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s and other similar brain diseases.
• It makes your brain bigger – Students in the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy have to become fluent in several different languages within only 13 months.
Researchers compared the students’ brains with those of others who also have to learn a huge amount of information in a short time, such as medical students. They found that the language learners experienced major growth in several areas of the brain (the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex). But the medical students’ brains didn’t grow at all.
• It can make the world a little smaller. Knowing another language – or developing the skills to learn one – makes it easier to travel and to enjoy other countries’ culture.
Rather than asking whether or not you should have your child learn a second language, I’d suggest that you ask: When? And the answer to that one is “The younger the better.”
Some studies indicate that starting at around age 10, we start losing the ability to hear and reproduce sounds from other languages. That explains why most people who move to a new country as adults can’t quite lose their accent.
But their children master the host language – including idioms, slang, and even swearing – accent-free. Each additional year of second language training increases the chances of experiencing the benefits above.
Armin Brott, a.k.a. “Mr. Dad,” is the author of “The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-to-Be.”
From heraldscotland.com, Jun3 6, 2013:
THE number of youngsters studying languages in Glasgow up to S4 has dropped steeply.
New figures show there were just 3822 entries for exams in the subjects last year, down one- quarter in a decade.
Council bosses expect the figure to fall even further in coming years as what was once compulsory becomes increasingly optional.
The total number of entries at fourth-year amounted to the equivalent of 77% of the total school roll.
Back in 2001 – the year then Education Minister Jack McConnell allowed schools to make foreign languages a voluntary subject – the equivalent figure in Glasgow was 91%.
A spokesman for the council said: “There is no reason why any child in Glasgow should leave school without a modern language qualification.
“But ever since 2001, languages have not been compulsory up to S4.
“Children have a choice and it is up to teachers to encourage them to make the choice to study foreign languages, with all the benefits there are for young people who do so.”
Glasgow yesterday admitted its overall performance with foreign languages at secondary level was “variable”, with the number of exam entries for children in S5/S6 holding up at 11% of the roll, compared with 12% a decade ago.
Figures show French holding up its popularity, with 275 youngsters sitting a Higher in 2012, the lowest figure for nine years but still higher than in 2001.
Just 55 fifth or sixth-year pupils sat Spanish at the same level, down from 65 in 2001 and 63 in 2011.
Only five senior pupils sat Higher German in Glasgow in 2012. That is one-tenth as many as in 2001, reflecting long-term decline in the study of the language of Europe’s biggest economy.
From languagemagazine.com, May 29, 2013:
U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) have introduced, in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the “Foreign Language Education Partnership Program Act.” The legislation would create a new U.S. Department of Education initiative to support revolutionary classroom programs that provide carefully sequenced foreign language classes from kindergarten through high school.
“We need to give our young people the best opportunities to master foreign languages to help them thrive in this global economy. By fostering innovative programs for our students, this legislation will help close the foreign language gap among American students,” Lautenberg said. “I hope my Senate colleagues will help make our nation more secure and prosperous by joining this effort to make foreign language education a national priority.”
“Because of poor foreign language education, American companies today lose international contracts, our scientists miss important opportunities for collaboration, and clues critical to our national security go untranslated,” Holt said. “We need to improve dramatically how our children learn languages by establishing a foundation at the earliest ages and building on it through high school, college, and beyond.”
According to studies funded by the Department of Education, only 30 percent of American high school students are enrolled in foreign language classes, and only 25 percent of American elementary schools even offer foreign languages. To address these problems, the bill would create a new K-12/higher education foreign language education partnership program. It would provide up to $50 million in annual funding for model programs of sequenced foreign language instruction from K-12, with the goal of graduating high school students with an advanced level of proficiency. Any foreign language is eligible, but the Secretary of Education may establish priorities on languages critical to national needs.
Information on successful programs and practices would be widely disseminated, with a goal of encouraging school systems nationwide to adopt similar approaches.
The bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Holt will be referred to the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, of which Holt is a member. The House bill is cosponsored by Reps. Jim McDermott (WA-7), Jared Polis (CO-2), John Tierney (MA-6), Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), James McGovern (MA-2), and David Price (NC-4).
Here is an excellent article by Kathleen Stein-Smith (from languagemagazine.com, June 2013) about the importance of foreign language learning and the dearth of language skills in the U.S..:
Why It Matters
In an increasingly globalized world, the U.S. is at an ever-increasing disadvantage due to the lack of foreign language skills among Americans.
Other than heritage-language speakers, it is estimated that only between one in eight and one in four Americans have the foreign language skills necessary to hold a conversation in a language other than English. According to the Modern Language Association, enrollment in a course in a language other than English at the postsecondary level stands at 8%, as opposed to 16% in 1960 — the same time frame in which globalization has increased.
Among executives in international business, the typical American executive may speak one foreign language at most, while European and other international executives routinely speak multiple languages at the business-proficient level. On an individual level, a monolingual English-speaking American runs the risk of being passed over for a promotion, or for a new job, in favor of an international applicant with the same professional skills but with the added advantage of knowledge of one or more relevant foreign languages. While exports are widely acknowledged to be an essential element of a sustainable economic recovery, companies struggle to find employees with the needed language skills.
As a consequence of the events of 9/11, the National Security Language Initiative was launched in 2006, and both the Federal government and the military have developed plans to increase language and global skills among their departments and branches respectively. However, many of these plans have taken time to develop, only to lose funding during the economic recession and subsequent weak economic recovery. As recently as 2012, congressional hearings were held to examine the language deficit at the federal level.
Challenges to Foreign Languages in the U.S.
Challenges to the development of foreign language skills among English-speaking Americans include the sense that English is the global lingua franca. While it is true that many internationals may speak English, it is estimated that 75% of the world’s population does not speak English. Those who do may have varying levels of skill and willingness to use English.
The lack of day-to-day exposure to other languages is another challenge, as most Americans would need to travel a significant distance to completely immerse themselves in a society where English is not the local or official language. Many Americans would even have to travel a significant distance to experience a large community of foreign-language speakers within the U.S. In many parts of the world, multiple languages co-exist, or travel to an area where another language is the predominant or official language is a matter of a short trip.
Even if an American has the desire to learn another language, challenges remain. Typically, foreign language instruction begins relatively late in school, at a time when other courses, social obligations, and even jobs compete for a student’s limited time and attention.
As has already been mentioned, at the college level, only 8% of students are enrolled in a foreign language course, and this relatively small enrollment is heavily concentrated in elementary levels and in the Spanish language.
Outside of a traditional school setting, challenges exist, as learning another language requires time and energy, both of which are typically in relatively short supply to adults. In addition, the adult learner also needs to select and determine the materials to be used in language learning and to resist discouragement as the inevitable plateaus in learning progress are reached.
Perhaps the most subtle and insidious challenge is a pervasive lack of interest in other languages and cultures among many Americans, as this interest, or intrinsic motivation, is the most effective driver of successful foreign language learning.
What We Can Do
As individual citizens, we can advocate for foreign language education opportunities for our parents, ourselves, and our children within our schools and communities. We can write to our government representatives at the local, state, and national levels. We can join groups to advocate for foreign languages, or even run for local office. On a personal level, we can choose to learn new languages and encourage our friends and family members to do so as well.
Educational institutions at all levels have the opportunity to offer more foreign language courses and to enhance classroom learning with experiential learning, ranging from the recruitment of local native speakers to the establishment of language living-learning environments on campus or during summer or short-term courses at all levels. Entertainment and social media, as well as other relevant technologies, can make learning more effective and more accessible.
Government can support language learning through policy and law, which tend to lead to consistent funding for language initiatives at all levels. Lack of a language policy in the U.S. has often resulted in inadequate or inconsistent funding for language learning initiatives, both for English-speakers wishing to learn another language and for new immigrants and others wishing to learn English.
Business can certainly support foreign language learning among employees through on-site classes or through partnerships with local educational institutions to support either international ventures or business within local multilingual and multicultural communities. Compensation and/or other rewards should be offered to those who develop the desired foreign language skills.
For decades, leaders in government, education, and business have confirmed the need for the development of foreign language skills in order for Americans not only to be secure and competitive, but also to live richer, more fulfilling lives.
Importantly, they have also provided a significant body of literature on what policies, procedures, and action steps are needed to achieve this paradigm shift. The following are just a few of the most timely and relevant examples.
• Senator Daniel Akaka held a hearing entitled “A National Security Crisis: Foreign Language Capabilities in the Federal Government” on May 21, 2012.
• The 2007 MLA report, Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World pointed the way to a renewed approach to foreign language education.
• In terms of education for business, the Modern Language Journal offered a special issue on Languages for Specific Purposes in the U.S.in a Global Context in January 2012. This followed two research reports published by the Apollo Research Institute (University of Phoenix): The Great Divide: Worker and Employer Perspectives of Current and Future Workforce Demands, in 2011, followed by the even more language-specific Current and Future Language Demands in the Workplace: Proficiencies and Gaps, in 2012.
Interest in another language or culture, or intrinsic motivation, has been shown to be the most effective motivation for learning another language, even more effective than career opportunity or advancement.
In order to increase the desire among Americans to learn other languages, government, education, and business will need to work together to develop the language-learning mindset among Americans through language policy, increased and varied foreign language course offerings, and compensation and career opportunities respectively.
In addition, foreign language skills need to become part of the popular culture through movies, books and music, highlighting bilingual and multilingual celebrities ranging from Olympic athletes to Academy-award-winning actors, and making foreign language movies, media, and books readily available to a now-interested public. In literature, fictional characters can be depicted as having and using foreign language skills.
A strategic marketing plan, developed in concert by government, education, and business, can achieve results similar to those achieved in the European Union and other parts of the world.
As Senator Paul Simon wrote in 1980 in The Tongue-Tied American, we can either be tongue-tied or fluent.
Kathleen Stein-Smith, PhD, associate university librarian and adjunct faculty at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, is the author of The U.S. Foreign Language Deficit and Our Economic and National Security: A Bibliographic Essay on the U.S. Language Paradox, Edwin Mellen Press, 2013.
Article by Rachel Baye in Washingtonexaminer.com, May 29, 2013:
Fairfax County school leaders are considering changes that would bolster students’ ability to study a foreign language from elementary school through high school without disruption.
Fairfax County Public Schools offers some kind of foreign language instruction during the school day at 40 elementary schools and countywide at middle and high schools. Some other elementary schools offer foreign languages before or after school in programs run by their parent-teacher associations.
But often students who study a language in elementary school are unable to continue learning that language in higher grades because the school feeds into a middle or high school that doesn’t offer it.
An advisory committee’s report is slated to be discussed at Thursday’s School Board meeting. As Fairfax County Public Schools continues to move toward its goal of expanding language offerings at elementary schools, the committee recommended the school system also create a pathway for students to continue studying a single language, rather than having to jump from one language to another without gaining fluency, said Carol Horn, the schools’ coordinator of Advanced Academic Programs in K-12.
“There are people from Mason District that participate in a German-language elementary program for which there is no German offered at middle school,” said Tara Rethore, an FCPS parent who represented Mason District on the advisory committee.
Students who attend the Spanish-language immersion program at Bailey’s Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences in Falls Church can continue their immersion program only at Poe Middle in Annandale, and if they don’t live in the district, there’s not always space, Rethore said. The students who study Arabic at Beech Tree Elementary are hard-pressed to continue it in middle and high school.
Since Mason District is the only part of the county where the sixth grade is part of middle school, seventh-grade Spanish is a repeat of the introduction that many sixth-graders take, the committee’s report details.
Even students who learned a year or two of French or Spanish before middle school lack a way to continue their studies.
For Beverly Jurenko, who also sat on the advisory committee, enrolling her seventh-grade daughter in French next year will mean she has to relearn the years of French she studied while living in Belgium or leave Kilmer Middle to attend a high school class in the middle of the school day, which would not have been easy. The school doesn’t offer any languages for seventh-graders.
“It would be fairly easy to offer another elective in the seventh grade, which is French I,” Jurenko said. “Why not offer a second-year language for eighth-graders for those that have completed seventh grade … just making sure that there’s a logical step from A to B to C.”
If this incident is true, then language speakers beware! What is the world coming to?!
Article from Huffingtonpost.com, May 26, 2013:
They weren’t drunk, nor were they fresh from a big sports victory. These Russians were kicked off their flight, they say, just for speaking Russian.
The six were headed to an anniversary party in Las Vegas last Thursday, reports 10News, when an airline worker aboard their Spirit Airlines flight approached them prior to the plane’s departure and escorted them off the plane.
“He just said, ‘This row needs to get up and leave now,’” said Sana Bitman, one of the passengers removed from the flight. “It was humiliating to be treated that way.”
Airline employees maintain the group had been talking too loud and ignored requests for them to lower their voices, though the Russians say they never heard any warnings.
Per Voice of Russia, they say they were speaking at a normal volume. A separate employee later indicated the stewardesses may have been intimidated by the group speaking a different language.
The group was given a full refund, notes CBS Las Vegas, though they missed their party in Las Vegas.
UPDATE: Sunday, 3:00 p.m. — A Spirit Airlines spokesperson issued the following statement to The Huffington Post regarding the incident:
We are conducting a complete review and reaching out to the customers. Our preliminary review shows that the customers were asked to deplane for loud and disruptive behavior.