EDITORIAL: Bilingual education should be highlighted, celebrated | Editorials
More than 30 years ago, a Los Angeles Times The columnist denounced the ignorance that most Americans had of the rest of the world, describing us as “a nation of nothing.”
In the three decades since, our understanding of people and societies beyond our borders has barely improved. Canadians know a lot about us, for example, but we don’t know much about them, even though Canada is our neighbour, our trading partner and our close ally. The same goes for France, Sweden, Japan, Thailand, India, etc. Some of that surely has to do with geography, and some of it could be attributed to isolationism and arrogance. Whatever the causes, our ignorance does nothing to help us in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world.
Perhaps the greatest reflection of our introspective tendencies is the lack of bilingual education in American schools. A 2018 Pew Research Center study found that only 10 states and the District of Columbia make learning a foreign language a prerequisite for graduation, and only 20% of U.S. college students learn a foreign language. other than their own at some point. This compares to 92% of European students learning a foreign language.
Of course, you can counter that Europeans are around people who speak different languages all the time, so it’s more of a necessity on the other side of the pond. Moreover, English has become the language of business and international trade. Why should we waste our time trying to master German, French, Spanish or any other language when we will be understood, at least at a basic level, no matter where we travel?
But learning a foreign language has benefits even if we are not immersed in the societies where these languages are used. Numerous studies have shown that when students learn another language – especially when they are young and the brain is most receptive to language acquisition – it improves overall academic performance. Learning a second language early means that if a student continues to develop these skills, they can become fluent by the time they reach adulthood. In addition, knowledge of a second language appears to have a positive effect on brain health.
Last week the Commonwealth unveiled the Pennsylvania Seal of Biliteracy. It is designed to recognize students who are proficient in more than one language, either at an intermediate or high level, by the time they graduate from high school. Giselle Fetterman, second lady of Pennsylvania and a native of Brazil, was on hand for the unveiling at a high school outside of York.
Write in the Philadelphia plaintiff in 2019, Jamail Khan, a student at Swarthmore College, summed up why a bilingual education is so valuable: “As an immigrant from Pakistan, in the United States myself, being fluent in Urdu has greatly contributed to my success in excellence in higher education. , helping me thrive in a variety of work environments and build lasting relationships with people from a radically different socio-cultural background.
Khan added: “Language is inseparable from culture, from politics, from human identity. Speaking another language means having access to a universe of diverse experiences and worldviews from another community of people.