I just finished reading Jay Mathews' most recent post on his Washington Post education blog, 'Class Struggle,' and I am left completely flabbergasted.
"Learning a language is often a waste of time," he explains in his blog titled 'Why Waste Time on a Foreign Language.' He goes on to say that while learning a foreign language "improves cognitive development, [...] enhances academic skills, encourages a sense of the wider world and looks good to colleges," it is still pretty much pointless for high schools to continue to include foreign language study in their curriculum because "there is little evidence that many students achieve much fluency in high school."
Oh, ok, so this is too hard and if everyone is not going to be perfect at learning a foreign language then we should just quit because why bother, right? Because the past four years of my life that I devoted to studying a foreign language, living in a foreign country and all that jazz that eventually led to my current career path and meeting my current life partner, that was really all just a waste because, still, I am not actually fluent in French yet.
He even had the audacity to throw in the quote from an actual high school teacher saying, "I'd wager close to 80 percent of kids taking foreign languages in high school do so because they have to."
Well no shit. I bet there is a pretty high percentage of kids who only go to school because they have to, but do you see anyone trying to shut down the schools (well I guess with all the budget cuts they pretty much are).
You want to know why students aren't fluent after a few years of high school Spanish or French--it's because it's not possible in our education system! Do you really think that by studying a foreign language one started learning at age 15 for about five hours a week is really going to be effective? How about adding more language requirements in junior high, and elementary school! That is what should be done to solve this problem.
I have spent this past year teaching English abroad at the elementary level. My students are shocked that American children do not need to study foreign languages at the primary level.
Of course, it is not like my six-year-olds are able to carry on the most intelligent of conversations, but language acquisition at a young age is so important and can make all the difference in future language learning abilities.
Sure, English is spoken everywhere, so what's the point, right? Well go on Americans, make us look even more like a bunch of jerks. Yeah, we will just hire other people to do our work for us, because that's a great idea for when people turn against us.
Sorry, but I was just completely astounded by this and had to vent. I apologize for my harshness, but seriously, come on people!
You can read Mr. Mathews' blog here: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2010/04/why_waste_time_on_a_foreign_la.html