Students should be provided with foreign language instruction at a younger age

With such a diverse U.S. population, having young people remain uneducated in other languages isn’t sensible

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Students should be provided with foreign language instruction at a younger age

Anika Roy, JagWire editor-in-chief

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As a Spanish V student spending my fourth consecutive semester in the classroom of foreign language teacher Edith Paredes, I’m expected to form at least simple sentences in Spanish regarding my morning, the food I’m having for lunch, etc. each class period. While my classmates can attest to my American accent being painfully thick and the fact that I’m incredibly far from a “Spanish prodigy,” there’s nothing quite like the elated feeling I receive when expressing a coherent thought, (mostly) free of grammar errors, in a different language. I do wish, however, that it didn’t take until my senior year of high school to begin developing such a skill.

I enrolled in a Spanish class as early as possible for our district: sixth grade. At that time, I was only provided with a 45-minute semester course that was split with multiple other world languages; it wasn’t until eighth grade that I could even specialize in one. Compared to a select few other districts, other states, or even other countries, I feel as if I’m far behind.

According to Education Week, 91 percent of public schools nationwide offer foreign language instruction at the high school level, while only 58 percent of middle schools and 25 percent of elementary schools do the same. This statistic seems backwards though, as according to Newsweek, scientists have found that children must start to learn a new language by the age of 10 in order to achieve the fluency level of a native speaker. It’s frustrating knowing that despite all my studies, I likely will never truly become this level of fluent because no outlet was available for me at a young age.

The benefits of learning a new language, especially Spanish, are seemingly infinite .There are 41 million native Spanish-speaking citizens in the United States, according to BBC. Understanding the language therefore would assist in almost any career and would allow for relationships with more community members. It also would build a deeper understanding of the English language, as both are derived from Latin, and would make travel to any of the world’s 21 Spanish-speaking countries easier.

With this being the case, it seems almost ridiculous that a) not more people choose to learn a foreign language and b) even if they wanted to do so, couldn’t until they’re older. Not only this, but many districts, including De Soto, do not require any foreign language credits to graduate. The number of non-English-speakers in the United States isn’t decreasing anytime soon, so why should the number of people learning other languages? In light of the discussion about putting up barriers to separate people, it’s important schools or other easily accessible community programs make sure a language barrier is never one of them.

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