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National Education Dilemma

Aicha Ly | Opinion Editor


The United States is known for its diversity in various aspects. The United States is diverse racially, linguistically, religiously and more. This is rather unsurprising; despite the history of injustices that continues in different forms today as a fight against diversity, the constitutional values and institutions of this country not only allow but actually encourage diversity. For example, the United States does not have an official language or religion. So no, immigrants do not have to “speak English” as some xenophobic, Anglophone Americans claim. Everyone has the freedom to practice their own religion (or not) and to speak their own language or languages.

This diversity has led our country to be recognized as a melting pot or a salad bowl, depending on perspective. We are also known as the “land of opportunities.” When these titles are considered together, it reveals and interesting contradiction in our education system. We are a country full of people from all creeds, ethnicity, and more that also advertises the plentiful opportunities here but we limit generations by not teaching them foreign languages starting from an early age—which is when they are most likely to pick up languages with ease. This is not an opinionated or random claim, it is psychologically proven that language acquisition is stronger the younger people are. So, why is it that we wait until middle school or high school to teach foreign language? Why are foreign languages commonly limited to the typical Romance languages, namely Spanish and French?

While these languages are important since millions of people around the world speak at least one of these languages, foreign language education should expand beyond that. Languages such as Arabic and Mandarin are significantly harder for Anglophones to learn because they have different writing scripts. Given the fact that children have better language learning abilities than adults, wouldn’t it make sense to encourage learning these languages earlier as well? Language has the power to unite people across differences, opening minds and hearts through connections. We should be teaching foreign languages in the earlier stages of K-12 educations, and we should diversify the languages offered, so younger generations—who are the leaders of the future, can widen the scope of the audience with whom they can connect while increasing their employability and cultural awareness.

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