Should kids learn multiple languages in school? | The Tylt
Should kids learn multiple languages in school?
There's no question that students benefit from learning a second language. According to Panda Tree, a site dedicated to helping young kids learn multiple languages, research shows that bilingual kids and adults have higher brain function than their monolingual peers, particularly when it comes to skills like multi-tasking and paying attention.
Furthermore, when kids learn a second language, they are more likely to perform well on standardized tests:
Studies of tens of thousands of high school students have found that students who have studied foreign languages perform better on the American College Test (ACT) for English and Mathematics. Additional studies have found that SAT-verbal scores improve with the length of time students have studied the foreign language.
Given the importance school systems place on standardized tests, particularly the ACT and the SAT, it seems like a no-brainer that a second language would be included in every curriculum. It will help achieve a district's goals.
Others don't see these "spillover" benefits as worth the time it would take to for all elementary students to study a second language. According to Forbes' Art Carden, studying another language in school is a waste of time, especially given how few students end up becoming fluent in the languages they study.
Carden ties the question of studying multiple languages to the first lesson of economics: scarcity.
By choosing to do one thing, you’re choosing not to do another, and additional language study would have to come at the expense of something else—something else that people, facing the incentives and constraints they currently face, have deemed more important than a little more language learning.
According to Carden, other classes like art history, or even economics itself, would have a more lasting impact on students, while still increasing their cultural understanding much in the same way studying a second language would.
Furthermore, learning a second language early on in life can increase your ability to empathize with others. Panda Tree's founder, Kristina Klausen, looked to Dr. Katherine Kinzler of Cornell University for insight:
As Dr. Kinzler explains, “children in multilingual environments have social experiences that provide routine practice in considering the perspectives of others: they have to think about who speaks which language to whom, who understands which content, and the times and places in which different languages are spoken.”
Given the country's current divide and rhetoric when it comes to immigration and refugees, empathy through learning would surely only help.
Even experts in the field agree that learning multiple languages in school is a waste of time. HuffPost's linguist and lexicographer Delfín Carbonell, Ph.D. is of the mind that many monolingual people and societies get on perfectly well with their single language.
Instead of arguing over Chinese for students' future business opportunities or Spanish to promote unity, Carbonell's advice is simple: when in doubt, abstain. The reformed linguist finishes his proclamation, saying:
I have come to the conclusion that life is short and we should not waste a minute of it with the effort, time and money involved in language-learning. It takes years and years and the result is never satisfactory: native speakers will always mock our accent, mimic our ways and call us names...Body language gives us plenty of possibilities to convey our thoughts and can be “spoken” in all countries...I have turned into a convert scoff-language linguist.