The following was written by Stephanie Miele at Linganore High School in Frederick, Maryland. I think it’s important to share her views with you:
“In our profession we call a person who can speak 3 languages trilingual, we call someone who speaks two languages bilingual, and we call someone who only speaks one language American,” FCPS Curriculum Specialist, Ms. Susan Murphy said.
Everybody knows that learning foreign languages is extremely beneficial. When I asked Spanish teacher and World Languages Department chair, Mrs. Doughty, for some of the advantages she asked me if I had two hours.
What many people do not know is that learning a different language actually helps them to understand their own language better. In addition, it allows students to communicate with foreign people and comprehend their culture. Furthermore, studies show that a foreign language gives students higher verbal scores on the SAT. So it is obvious that being bilingual is important, but is it helpful to learn these languages in high school?
Frederick County Public Schools require a minimum of two credits in one foreign language but this is not enough. After passing only two courses of a language, students do not have education in order to actually use it. Mrs. Doughty agrees, saying that stopping after Spanish 2 does not allow students to manage any of the communication skills. So why only have students learn a tiny portion of a different culture instead of teaching them everything?
After taking up to Spanish three, I can barely comprehend or write any of that language. I was too busy focusing on studying for the tests each week, rather than taking the time to understand what I was learning. I am ashamed that all of my hard work and did not pay off, considering I cannot communicate in Spanish.
However, I do take responsibility for not be willing to actually use what I learned. Rather than reading, listening, or speaking the new language I only practiced it when I was forced to in class.
Just signing up for the class is not enough for students. They cannot persuade themselves to believe that they will become bilingual simply by taking the required course. Rather, they must take action to improve their skills and gain more knowledge.
“If students do not use what they learn, they will lose it. It is important to do anything in that language to make sure it is not forgotten. Reading is the most beneficial, so students can subscribe to newspapers or magazines. Watching TV and listening to the radio in Spanish is helpful too,” Mrs. Doughty said.
Learning foreign languages is crucial and would be easier if schools start teaching their students at a young age. We learned English when we were children and now we speak it without much thought. Therefore, it dominates over new languages that we are just beginning to use.
“We live in a global society; it is not enough for students to learn only two credits of a language because students will forget the language. Even a third credit is not enough for fluency. I certainly hope that foreign languages will soon be a part of the elementary school curriculum. Studying several languages throughout schooling will make it easier for students to understand and accept the different cultures,” Ms. Murphy said.