Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Value Our Culture Places on Learning Foreign Languages

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a friend about homeschooling and learning foreign language.  She was asking why I thought many homeschoolers don't pursue fluency in a second language for their children.  I have noticed, as my friend has, over the years that parents and teachers have different goals when it comes to students learning foreign language.

Those goals range along a continuum from exposure, to familiarity, to basic competency, and then to varying levels of proficiency and ultimately fluency.  Even fluency in a foreign language can be rated according to different levels.  Tests have been developed to rate a person's fluency in different languages.

My husband and I do value the pursuit of fluency in a second language for our children.  I asked my husband what his thoughts were about my friend's question and he had some helpful food for thought that I want to share in this post.

He pointed out to me that in Europe and around the world, being fluent in to two languages is one of the keys to successfully getting a job as an adult.  But, in the United States, it isn't.  K-12 education is focused on preparing kids for college and getting them into college.  Many parents view sports as their children's potential ticket to a scholarship for college and they large amounts of energy into that effort.  Foreign language isn't one of those things that parents think, "This could get my kid into college."

Colleges are focused on getting students ready to enter the workforce--in the United States... not in Europe or other countries in the world.  And in the United States, being fluent in two languages is nice, but not a requirement or even needed for many jobs.

Given that we live in the United States and being fluent in two languages isn't a job requirement, why do we want our kids to pursue fluency in a second language?  What will that give our kids?  Why have we made that a priority in our homeschooling?

1.  In the past, Americans have been able to be americentric in their view of culture and language.  We live in a big country where national boundaries are not close to where many of the people live.  But, our world is increasingly connected and I believe that it will be impossible to as isolationist as we have in the past.  Learning a second language and about the culture of the countries where it i spoken breaks that mold and can help kids see a wider view of the world.

2.  Here is an article with many reasons:

In the end, we value our kids learning a foreign language because we believe it will enrich their lives in many ways!   Our kids enjoy learning French and I love seeing them enjoy it!

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