TEEN ESSAY: Americans falling behind in foreign-language skills
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 10:55 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 10:55 a.m.
Whenever I call my cousin in France I’m always taken aback at her English rhetoric — not only is it grammatically and linguistically fluid but, rather, her confidence in her speech resonates through her steady pronunciation and ever so often rhetorical flourish.
How did she learn to be so confident in her speech, I ask. Her answer: She has taken English since our equivalent to sixth grade.
It always leaves me wondering: What are we doing wrong in America? I’ve taken Spanish since grammar school, taken it seriously since my freshman year and although I’m happy with the effort I’ve put into the class, I’m no more than proficient. My friends are all the same way. They’ve taken classes, done homework and studied hard. Yet, on an international level, these Sonoma Valley High students are nowhere near the level of language fluency of European and Asian nations.
As a matter of fact, students in Europe are three times more likely to learn a language in school than students in America, and and things are getting worse. As per the Virginia Department of Education and the Northeast Conference of Foreign Language, student language proficiency is dropping. Budget cuts, larger class sizes and stressed teachers are all resulting in a reduced level of language learning nationwide. With an even tighter budget this school year, language skills are not apt to improve.
Nationalism, pride in country, national identity and isolationism have resulted in an America that segregates foreign culture in favor of its own. Americans aren’t worried about decreased language proficiency skills because nationalistic identity states that English is the apex of language. But what if language deficiency wasn’t only weakening American students on a global level but on an individual level.
Studies by Stanford University in 2000 show advanced comprehension of language results in critical thinking and ability to make connections between analogous ideas.
By ignoring language as a stimulus to intellectual advancement, Americans are becoming globally inept. Through the promotion of nationalistic identity rather than globalism, America is slowly becoming linguistically ignorant, falling in student education polls and overall education standards. If American students are to succeed in an increasingly global world, the promotion of language as a catalyst to intellectual development is crucial — a first step to a more internationally competitive America.
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