Is Learning A Second Language Necessary?

1796 words - 8 pages

Multicultural education in the U.S. school system has become more pragmatic with the affluent nature of globalization. As the world’s technology increases exponentially, our world has grown smaller, increasing the need for global communication skills and cultural sensitivity. However, American schools are plagued by the pressures of budget cuts, test scores, educational bureaucracies, and impending closures. For many schools, foreign language education has been put on the proverbial chopping block. In the results posted from a national survey of elementary and secondary schools conducted in 2008, foreign language education dropped from being taught in 31% of elementary schools in 1997, to ...view middle of the document...

She draws on the fact that most language education takes place at the adolescent stage of a child’s life, and only lasts for two years: “Articulation between high-school and college foreign-language programs is haphazard at best” (Porter 1). She insists that this is a waste of potential as research has shown that students who begin learning new languages or become involved in linguistic programs at an early age and stay involved in them consistently through a lengthy period of time show “enhanced cognitive abilities” when compared to their peers who do not study other languages. These cognitive abilities include the enhanced problem solving, generating creative ideas by exploring multiple solutions, and identifying pattern recognition. Such education not only increases verbal skills on standardized tests, but also increases scores in mathematics. Other stakeholders involved in the debate on foreign language education do not necessarily deny that cognitive benefits exist; however, these cognitive benefits can be found through music and physical education as well. Studies have shown that decreasing time in the classroom to increase physical activity has increased test scores in areas such as mathematics (Trudeau and Shephard, 3). Other studies have reported that children who learn to play music score higher for tests of verbal, visual, and numerical skills that involve graphs and charts (Neville, 2).
Porter continues to reason with stakeholders on the value of foreign language education, not only for cognitive learning enhancements, but also by making a case for the need to communicate in a foreign tongue for social, diplomatic, and professional purposes. When there are consequences involved, monolinguists are at a disadvantage, risking violation of “social taboos” and missing “subtle verbal and nonverbal cues” (Porter 2). She believes that the knowledge and understanding of other cultures that comes from learning to speak a second language is a required in order to be taken seriously. Other stakeholders in the debate, such as Lawrence H. Summers, renowned economist, former president of Harvard University, and former Secretary of the Treasury, believe that a well rounded, multicultural education is essential to breed cosmopolitanism; however, this does not necessarily mean that learning a foreign language is necessary:
English’s emergence as the global language, along with the rapid progress in machine translation and the fragmentation of languages spoken around the world, make it less clear that the substantial investment necessary to speak a foreign tongue is universally worthwhile. (Summers, 2)
Summer’s perspective on the actual need for fluency in a second language is further supported by many in Britain, such as David Thomas, columnist for Daily Mail in the U.K. Thomas, with an incredibly multicultural background and ability to communicate in multiple languages, takes a provocative stance on the topic in his article “Why do the English...

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