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Foreign Language In American Schools  
User currently offlineVulindlela From United States of America, joined Apr 2002, 474 posts, RR: 1
Posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 1513 times:

I wish I had asked this a few days ago, but I am still interested to hear opinions. Yesterday I had to write an essay about how the US military can be better prepared to deal with less common foreign languages like Pashto and Dari that are needed right now.
A big part of the problem to me is the situation of foreign language instruction in American high schools. In most schools, classes are available only in Spanish, German, French, and maybe a few others in some places. It has always seemed to me that language is not considered as important in American schools, and that students aren't taught about the diversity of language in the world. So I would like to hear any opinions on this. I know there are many high school age people on here, so what is the situation in your schools? For students from other countries, what languages are taught in your schools? I know this has a higher priority in most countries than it does in the US. -Thanks


"If you take everything I've accomplished in my entire life and condense it down into 1 day, it looks decent!"
49 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineMatt D From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 9502 posts, RR: 47
Reply 1, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 1463 times:

Everyone I've talked to that supported foreign languages in American classrooms have given me the same lofty rhetoric about diversity and the rest of the world.

I don't have a problem with anyone that wants to learn a foreign tongue. More power to them for doing so.

But here in America, English is THE spoken language. And that should be the only language taught. As you correctly noted, the only FL's taught are Spanish, French, and German. Plus, I believe that all of these different tongues and cliques and such are a key underlying root cause of so much of our social and racial tensions. If we eliminate those barriers and steer the country towards a common culture, a lot of those tensions will be eliminated.

If we try and embrace (and accomodate) the rest of the world, then we'd have to include Mandarin, Tagalog, Japanese, Arabic, Farsi, Portuguese, Italian, Swahili, etc. Along with books, videos, stationery, etc. And then that would spill over into the Public sector. The DMV study guide for a drivers license would be 5 inches thick and 700 pages long. And out of that, only 50 or so pages will be of any use to me. Of course, we could also print the said 50 pages in individual volumes, one for each langauge. Also, should all the signs and telephone books be printed in all of those languages?

Where are we going to find the resources to do that? Who should pay? Will there be any real return on investment? The schools are already overcrowded. Imagine what would happen if we brought in teachers (assuming we could get them) in every school to teach every one of those languages. Where would we put them? How would you slot the classes to offer them along with the rest of the standard curriculum?

And if that still isn't enough to convinceyou to have a one, standardized language, then consider this:

the Tower Of Babel was the "ultimate" in "diversity"; every single person spoke a unique language.


....and we know how THAT debacle turned out.


...that usually stops any further "diversity" arguments dead in their tracks.


User currently offlineB737-700 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 1454 times:


Though I think that foreign languages in the United States are not that popular and if I recall correctly also not mandatory for everyone I think that you'll hardly find any country where those other languages you mentioned are taught.

In Germany you usually start learning English in 5th grade and then French/Latin/Spanish in 7th grade.
You may also learn more if you want. In some schools you'll find Russian, Italian, Portuguese,etc. but that's pretty much it.

As for Matt D's statement "But here in America, English is THE spoken language. And that should be the only language taught" I personally think that's nonsense but that's just my opinion.
Learning a foreign language and being interested in a foreign country's culture, etc. is good for you.
You can always widen your horizon and get to know more of the world than just your own country.


User currently offlineAerLingus From China, joined Mar 2000, 2371 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 1440 times:

I certainly hope you're not suggesting that we start teaching pashto in our schools!

In my school they offer:
-Spanish
-French
-Japanese
-Mandarin Chinese

A translating device is being developed by the United States military that will allow soldiers to speak with natives in about 70 different languages. If you've watched Star Trek and you've seen that universal translator thing they have, think of that. The military device is quite similar. It's like a heavy duty handheld device that's no bigger than a Palm PC.

A key point in your post is that Pashto and Dari are needed RIGHT NOW. Will we need them in ten years? Probably not. Then think of all of the students who learned it, will go on vacation in Europe and then kick themselves in the ass because they didn't learn German or French.

The United States already has enough problems with illiteracy. The last thing we need to do is start coddling foreign language students by teaching them their own languages. That is already the one of the biggest obstacles American schools face. You cannot imagine how much ESL classes have held the system back. If anything, English studies need to be more intensive in American schools.



Get your patchouli stink outta my store!
User currently offlineKlaus From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 21407 posts, RR: 54
Reply 4, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 1438 times:

Foreign language education has got nothing to do with introduction of those languages as official languages!

Having more people qualified for keeping cultural, diplomatic, business, intelligence and military ties to the "outer world" is a good thing. Playing deaf and mute isn´t a good idea in the long run.


User currently offlineMcdougald From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 1439 times:

Many students in Canadian schools outside Quebec take French. But where I live, it was only an optional course. And it's a low-intensity course, the result being that students can take as much as eight years of courses without ever getting past 'Tourist French', such as "Je voudrais acheter trois timbres, s'il vous plait." ("I would like to buy three stamps, please.")

One of the difficulties of teaching foreign languages in North America, other than French in Canada and Spanish in the U.S., is that we live so far away from everyone else that there's little opportunity to use them.

For instance, someone in The Netherlands usually lives within 200 miles of Germany, France, Belgium, Britain, Luxembourg and possibly Denmark, which makes learning several languages practical. Few North Americans live within 200 miles of more than one country, and a good number have no other country within 200 miles of their living room. So, while learning another language is certainly a worthwhile experience, there's fairly little pressure to do so.


User currently offlineArsenal@LHR From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2001, 7792 posts, RR: 20
Reply 6, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 1422 times:
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Americans = No passports = No foreign travel = No foreign languages learnt.

Arsenal@LHR



In Arsene we trust!!
User currently offline777236ER From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 1419 times:

Arsenal@LHR = generalist = boarding on racist.

User currently offlineArsenal@LHR From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2001, 7792 posts, RR: 20
Reply 8, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 1415 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Arsenal@LHR = generalist = boarding on racist

No it's not, think before you accuse.

Arsenal@LHR



In Arsene we trust!!
User currently offlineCfalk From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 1414 times:

Matt, you disappoint me greatly with that post.

By what stretch of the imagination to you equate knowing a language and wanting to change your language of work and life? I do not question that the U.S. should make English the only official language of the country, but if there are enough people in a school who want to learn Urdu or Swahili, and the school can find a teacher, great! More power to them!

My mother speaks her native French, English with a strong Texas accent (no Texan can believe she's not from there), Portuguese, Spanish, German, Italian, Dutch, Greek and some school Latin. She can go almost anywhere she wants to go and fits right in. Is she a threat? Am I a threat? Even though her facility with languages was not something I inherited, I do speak other languages?

You seem to be extremely paranoid about the idea of Americans being able to communicate with the non-English speaking world, and I am curious to know why that is.

Charles


User currently offlineLH423 From Canada, joined Jul 1999, 6501 posts, RR: 54
Reply 10, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 1411 times:

Arsenal@LHR: American's=Travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and over 3 million sq miles of American territory that don't require passports (much more area than Europe). Furthermore, the percentage of Americans who do carry their passports use them.

Personally, I've always held great stock in learning a foreign language. For starters, American's already have a stigma as being arrogant and expect everyone to cater to them, regardless if they're in a foreign country or not. While I vehemently oppose MattD's views. I don't think that racial tensions are spurred by people speaking foreign language. Anyways, there's not much more we can do to encourage the use of English in this country. The reason the native languages stick is because the immigrants carve out enclaves in communities where they can fulfil all their needs and services in their native languages. But that's part of what makes this nation great.

But as McDougald said, you have about 300 million Anglophones living in about 5.5 million square miles. Then we have about 8 million Francophones living in Québec, and another 100 million or so Hispanics in the US and Mexico. So, as it is clear, there is less of a pressing need to learn a foreign language in the US and Canada as it is in Europe and in Asia.

LH423



« On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux » Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
User currently offlineTrvlr From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 4430 posts, RR: 21
Reply 11, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 1414 times:

At my small, private high school, only French and Spanish is offered. However, at my local public school, the array of language courses includes Spanish, French, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Latin, Greek, and German.

I think a few people have deciphered the reason for the *assumed* lack of priority of foreign languages in the American high school system. Quite simply, there are many students in the United States who realistically will have no need to learn a foreign language (other than the one or two or even three they may inherently know), depending on their socioeconomic status and/or geographic location. Conversely, in Europe, many, many people live within striking distance of multiple language regions. Therefore, emphasis on learning multiple foreign languages in school exists. This, I think, is the prime reason why foreign language programs in American schools are perceived as so backward by Europeans. Simply put, Europeans are used to a greater concentration on foreign languages in school, and are surprised when they see a school system which is not identical to theirs. On the other hand, The general nature of European high school science and math programs utterly pale in comparison to those in the United States. To each their own, I guess.

For those who actually have the need, language programs in the United States are very accommodating, and very intensive. I have travelled extensively throughout my youth, to Asia and Europe. I have been to France six times, and been able to communicate very well at that, and I know that I didn't learn the language itself on the streets of Paris. In addition, if I wanted to take another language, I could very easily sign up for a course at my local community college or state university. It's that simple.

Lastly, when considering the diversity of foreign languages available in schools, one must consider the economics of the choice. In the American environment, schools are only going to offer languages to students who are going to be able to use them sometime in the future. Therefore, nobody in the right mind is going to offer or take Urdu, or Pashto, or even Tagalog and Swedish....there just isn't the market.

Aaron G.


User currently offlineMatt D From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 9502 posts, RR: 47
Reply 12, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 1400 times:

The reason the native languages stick is because the immigrants carve out enclaves in communities where they can fulfil all their needs and services in their native languages. But that's part of what makes this nation great.

So let me get this straight:

It's alright for certain groups (i.e. the Koreans, the Italians, the Mexicans, etc.) to congregate into their own little enclaves, which to me defines isolationism to a "Tee", but for me to suggest that the English speakers (a.k.a. the Americans as a whole) to do the same thing is narrow minded.

Can anyone explain this double standard?

As for Matt D's statement "But here in America, English is THE spoken language. And that should be the only language taught" I personally think that's nonsense but that's just my opinion.

Why is that nonsense?

Are you saying that having two, three or twenty official langauges would be better?

Why?

For starters, American's already have a stigma as being arrogant and expect everyone to cater to them, regardless if they're in a foreign country or not.

I don't expect everyone to know English if I travel to a non-English speaking country. Anyone that DOES think that is certainly being arrogant. But that is not the issue here.

Again, what are you saying? That in order to break this (real or imagined) stigma of "lingusitic catering" that we should be "nice" and "tolerant" and cater to everyone else, even though in this country, English is the (for now) only recognized official langauge?

I don't think that racial tensions are spurred by people speaking foreign language

You are sort of right. Speaking a different language in and of itself is not a cause for civil discord. But it IS one of the symptoms. Along with the native tongue come the customs, mannerisms, and the cultures-which inevitably leads to human nature "My culture is better than yours" conflicts. THAT'S what I was referring to.



User currently offlineVickybiccy From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2002, 212 posts, RR: 2
Reply 13, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 1384 times:

My main language is English, but I also speak fluent French.

If you can talk to people of other languages, and of course other cultures, you can bridge the gap and also learn much more about their lives. If you are in their home country, it means you can meet "real" people rather than just hotel receptionists and tour guides etc.

It could even stop the ignorance of some people that leads to racism (IMHO a big problem in UK)



User currently offlineVickybiccy From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2002, 212 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 1382 times:

Are you saying that having two, three or twenty official langauges would be better?

How could it actually be worse?


User currently offlineCfalk From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 1385 times:

Matt, why do you equate the teaching of foreign languages with making them "official languages". The two are totally different.

Charles


User currently offlineB737-700 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 1377 times:


Who said that learning a foreign language makes them become an official language ??
The statement is (in my opinion) nonsense because of the reasons I stated in my above post and because of the reasons stated by other mebers (e.g. "...for keeping cultural, diplomatic, business, intelligence and military...")

If everybody thought the way you did, there couldn't be anything like Globalisation, no trade with foreign countries, ...


User currently offlineFlpuck6 From United States of America, joined Jun 1999, 2122 posts, RR: 30
Reply 17, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 1366 times:

I haven't read the above posts, but I'm going to post my opinion anyway.

I consider myself tri-cultural. 100% Chinese. Dad from Taiwan. Mom from Honduras, Central America though, still chinese. So I have the Latin culture too. But I am first generation born here in the US. "White" by culture, totally. I've grown up hearing Spanish and started learning French in 6th grade (12 years old). Now I am fluent in French and very proficient in Spanish. I guess one more language would be useful.

I feel that the US does need to emphasize the foreign languages more. W/o getting into the hot topic of languages from the mid-east and Asia, I think being proficient in at least one other language is so important nowadays even if it is Spanish, German, French. In Western Europe, students grow up learning TWO languages. English and another one, even if it's German/Spanish/French.

Anyway, that's my take on language. Americans need it. We need to stop thinking we're so important that everyone else needs to speak English. When we're outside of our own country, we need to be open to other languages and perhaps even learn them. (I do have another point of view on the issue of those who come to America, but that's another debate.)

-Chris



Bonjour Chef!
User currently offlineB757300 From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 4114 posts, RR: 23
Reply 18, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 1363 times:

I have to take 14 hours (4 classes) of a foreign language in order to get my B.A. in History. But that isn't the best. In order to get a PhD in History, Texas A&M requires someone to be able to read, write, speak, and understand TWO foreign languages! I find forcing it upon anyone in the name of "multiculturalism" to be pure B.S. One language I can handle, but two is just stupid.


"There is no victory at bargain basement prices."
User currently offlineAirways1 From United Kingdom, joined Jul 1999, 560 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 1360 times:

I think for the average person in the US and here in England there is no real need to speak a foreign langauge. Many people only ever go abroad on holiday, and usually to resorts or well-known tourist locations where the locals speak english. Thus the knowledge of any other language is fairly redundant.

However, I still think learning foreign languages in school is important. Whether or not one leaves school with a working knowledge of the language is one issue, but I think many other important things are learnt along the way, probably even things we aren't aware we learnt. For example, I learnt a lot about how language works in general and it's relevance to english through learning french in school. And we also learn about different cultures, and ways of living that are neither inferior nor superior to our own, but just different. I think learning a foreign language builds an awareness of the rest of the world that is hard to grasp if you never venture beyond your home-country linguistically or physically.

And apart from all this, I think monolingual people are missing out on the great joy of being able to communicate with people in a different language. What better way is there to get a first-hand view of a different culture than straight from the horse's mouth? I decided to teach myself mandarin chinese purely for the fun of it, and unless you've experienced it yourself, you cannot know how rewarding it is to be able the say something, even if only a sentence or two, to someone with whom you wouldn't have been able to communicate at all had you not known their language.

airways1


User currently offlineDesertJets From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 7760 posts, RR: 16
Reply 20, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 1352 times:

B757300- The reason that they require you to have proficency in 1 or more languages for a Ph.D is that in many cases you are going to have to do original research in a language that is not English... that might even be needed if you are dissertating on an American topic as well.

There have been numerous moves over the years to start teaching foreign languages earlier on. Typically most US schools begin to offer foreign languages in middle school. What people seem to forget is that learning foreign helps with your native language skills. Most people do not appreciate the grammar of their native language till they've spent some time studying a foreign language. Lets not also forget that having fluency in multiple languages can be a decided asset when looking for a job, and I am not talking about knowing Spanish so you can work at Taco Bell. One of the issues after 9/11 was that the FBI had less than 40 fluent Arabic speakers on staff, which creates serious problems when you get bits of info in Arabic.



Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
User currently offlineFlpuck6 From United States of America, joined Jun 1999, 2122 posts, RR: 30
Reply 21, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 1347 times:

B757300, nothing personal, but you cannot tell me you find having to learn 2 languages "stupid" as you say. A PhD is one of the world's most prestitgious titles. It comes at a price. If you are indeed going for a PhD, suck it up. It might after all be interesting to learn another language and learn about OTHER people in the world other than the relatively shallow American.


Bonjour Chef!
User currently offlineRoguetrader From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 22, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 1347 times:

Americans = No passports = No foreign travel = No foreign languages learnt

This is the truth, the only people who need to learn a foreign language are the 11% of Americans who actually hold a passport and travel. The rest: who cares? In any event, its not like people who take foreign language classes at US schools actually learn a foreign language. Language education, like the rest of education in America, is cursory at best. When I was in school, 2 years of foreign language were required in high school and 2 more in college, so 4 total. I think the 2 years that most people have to take should be plenty to know a language well: and yet practically no one does.

kind regards,

RogueTrader


User currently offlineN863DA From United States of America, joined Sep 2004, 48 posts, RR: 6
Reply 23, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 1333 times:

I speak English, French and Spanish fluently, as do many thousands (nay, millions) of people in this country and around the world.

However, does this make me any less 'American', because I was born & raised here, but at the same time can comprehend and communicate with those from a significant portion of the rest of the Western Hemisphere and Europe?

Just because I know French & Spanish does not detract from my being "American". It merely adds to my cultural awareness and knowledge of the conversation of others in other countries and other parts of this country.

If our "culture" is under threat so much that you would have people believe that my knowing a foreign language is harmful, it not only says something about the culture (if that is the case) but, in addition, the level of "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Foreign Languages" unfortunately reportedly present.

Foreign languages teach you things about your own language; closing your mind to that knowledge is the ultimate in arrogance.


User currently offlineBFS From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 738 posts, RR: 2
Reply 24, posted (12 years 2 months 1 week 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 1319 times:

I suppose its all down to choice. At my school (all boys grammar school), in your first year you do Irish, French and Latin. You keep French and Latin til at least year 3, and Irish if you wish, or swap it for German, Spanish, or a non-language subject. At GCSE at least one language is madatory, and you can do a certificate in Japanese in afterschool classes. But the fact is that after that very few people take them on to Advanced Level, although I think that may be more down to boys largely choosing sciences.

Personally, I am going to study Spanish and French at uni next year, and am doing A-Level exams in them now. I have certificates in Irish, and did a night course in German. But for me this is out of a love for language - I haven't been forced into them. Some people just have a flair for them and they are the linguist in society. They are not to everyone's tastes or abilities, so make the option open, and don't standardise minority languages (how can you justify that and then not force students to pursue dialects of their studied languages?).

Everyone has talents but in different areas.


25 Flpuck6 : Nice call N863DA. I don't see how a culture can be under threat by opening one's self to another language. It's called personal ENRICHMENT. If anythin
26 Arsenal@LHR : nice call N863DA. I don't see how a culture can be under threat by opening one's self to another language. It's called personal ENRICHMENT. If anythin
27 Avion : Trvlr: > This statement is just not true. I have gone to school in both systems and from my viewpoint the science and math programs at my private scho
28 Post contains images Matt D : I couldn't give a pitcher of spit interest in other languages or other cultures. Closed and narrow minded? Perhaps. But that is my choice to make and
29 Cba : "The United States already has enough problems with illiteracy." I couldn't agree more. My French teacher complains that she can't teach us French gra
30 Flpuck6 : True true Cba. I learned English grammar in grade school but none of it sunk in until I started learning a foreign language. I figured out what a "ger
31 N863DA : Matt D: Fine and dandy. I may not agree with your opinion but I'll die defending it. HOWEVER, please don't expect all other people to partake of your
32 Vulindlela : Well, I just woke up and was amazed by the response to this. What I have read so far is interesting to me. Thanks to all of you. MattD-I hope you dont
33 Vulindlela : Cfalk, Vickybiccy, and Airways1, your posts sum up exactly what I was trying to say. Learning a foreign language is the best way to understand a diffe
34 VirginLover : Virginlover=Passport=Several European countries= German and French
35 USAFHummer : My school district offers, French, Latin, Spanish, and German, up to 5 years of each...I took 3 years of Spanish but stopped after that cause I couldn
36 Vulindlela : And we also learn about different cultures, and ways of living that are neither inferior nor superior to our own, but just different. I think learning
37 Hepkat : What it all boils down to is knowledge, and we all know that knowledge means power. I am fluent in Spanish and German, plus am familiar with Dutch/Swe
38 Vulindlela : MattD-your last post is a perfect example of the attitude I have seen that made me post this. It reminds me of something I saw last September. I was i
39 Hepkat : I wanted to ask her how well does Bush speak Urdu? Forget Urdu, how well does he speak English?
40 Vickybiccy : My knowledge of US demographics is not fantastic to say the least, but as far as I know a large proportion of the population are Spanish speaking. Sur
41 LH423 : I have to mirror what Hepkat said. My command of English has been greatly improved by my knowledge of French. I think I did much better on the SATs an
42 Post contains images Matt D : Surely they would not be impressed with the narrow minded views of people like Matt D. English may be the common language nowadays, but that doesn't m
43 GRZ-AIR : I think that - whatever language you learn - is a great gift for you and your future. In my school you have to study English,French,Spanish as FL's.
44 Vulindlela : In the end , only Chinese, English and Spanish will survive anyway. And time will execute those changes , not politicians or rulers. You think so GRZ-
45 Banco : Interesting that some people are talking about English being the "official" language in the US. As far as I understand it, it isn't, but of course is
46 Sebolino : MattD, You are the typical narrow minded American described in European jokes about US. And your argument about the Babel Tower ... !! , wow, using a
47 PROSA : One thing no one's mentioned so far is the unfortunate fact that learned languages are very quickly forgotten unless regularly used. That's not to say
48 Arsenal@LHR : Virginlover=Passport=Several European countries= German and French That's cool virginlover, Good to see some people have a sense of adventure and a de
49 Vulindlela : PROSA- As Airways1 said, the benefits of studying a foreign language go beyond the ability to speak that language. It is true that most students in hi
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