Monday, August 02, 2010

Foreign language education needs revamping



By Sarah Hann - Indiana Daily Student

The full text of this article available online at:
http://www.idsnews.com/news/story.aspx?id=76312


There’s been an increasing emphasis in the past couple of decades on American children learning another language.

My mother had a foreign language requirement in both high school and college, but my father didn’t have one — foreign languages were still considered an elective for him and his classmates.

I’ve had to take one since the first grade. I was never very good at it — actually, I’ve hated every Spanish class I’ve ever taken, all 12 years’ worth. And in that 12 years, I got — well, “nothing” seems too extreme, but I’m far from fluent.

And when I got to college, I continued with Spanish because I’d tested out of part of the requirement.

But I never got an “A” in a language class, finished as quickly as possible and practically threw myself a party when I was finished, so relieved was I that it was over.

Basically, I treated it the same way I treated math classes.

I’m convinced that I’m never going to need high-level math — it’s important to be able to do long division, but I probably won’t ever need to prove the third angle of a triangle.Others might need it, but this journalism and history major will be avoiding math-related jobs.

Foreign languages, however, apply to all majors.

In an age of increasing globalization, the more languages you speak, the better. So foreign language requirements in school, as much as I didn’t like them, can really only help.

In theory.

In practice, 12 years of Spanish means I could help a Spanish-speaking customer pick out and pay for an outfit when I worked in retail, but I’d be lost after about five minutes in Madrid. I just don’t know enough Spanish.

I’ve found that’s the case for a lot of people: They learn enough to survive a class, but that’s it. They can’t apply the material to real life.

So while language requirements are a good thing, there needs to be an increased emphasis on students really learning the language, not just a few vocabulary words and (if they’re lucky) the difference between the preterite and imperfect tenses.

Steps are being taken toward our becoming a more bilingual country.


You can E-mail the article author at: hanns@indiana.edu

17 comments:

Learn English in Cebu said...

Cleverlearn, a fast- growing international school based in the Philippines with offices in various countries across the world.

Courses Offered:
1. general english
2. english for academic purposes
3. Intensive English
4. IELTS / TOEFL
5. Advanced English
6. Medical English
7. Business English

Contact Information:

Cleverlearn English Language Inc.
Cleverlearn Residences, Saac II, Mactan, Lapu-Lapu Cebu
Contact #: 032-410-6173 / 032-495-9955

Website
http://www.cleverlearncebu.com

Cleverlearn Residences Quezon National Highway, Saac II Mactan
Lapu-lapu City, 6015 Cebu, Philippines

Another Girl said...

Hello all
check this out: American attorney teaching English in Ukraine beats his former female student on the street, shouting out chauvinistic statements http://nomoretroubles.blogspot.com/
comments are highly appreciated

Aaron G Myers said...

Hey, not sure about the other two comments, but I for one want to stick to your topic. You are right! Absolutely right. Here is my observation. With the internet and globalization, access to languages is now more accessible than ever before. The opportunities on the net in things like LiveMocha, LingQ and podcasting are amazing resources for language learning - and yet the average classroom still looks the same as it did twenty years ago. Nothing short of a revolution is needed. But it is going to take a lot of thought, big thought and some serious questioning of the status quo. Keep the conversation going! I for one want to be a part of reshaping language learning for the next generation.

Arvind said...

Appreciation for this kind of important write-up! Through experience i have found
interesting stuff for your children. I always wonder how you guy acquire fantastic content. Learn Spanish Fast

Tefl Jobs London said...

Language teaching does need another approach. Rote learning for tests is not the way to go. Immersing students in the language, and focusing on communicative ability for grades could encourage more effective learning.

Carla said...

Hola desde España! Aquí también tenemos problemas para aprender lenguas extranjeras y hemos tenido que incluir reformas en educación. Yo ya llevo muchos años realizando cursos de formación en Iberestudios, pero no hay forma de aprender. No pierdo la esperanza! Saludos

Carlos said...

Yo tenía muchos problemas para aprender francés, hasta que tuve que aprenderlo obligatoriamente para poder aprobar mi ciclo formativo de grado superior. Todo es empezar con ganas :)

jahangir said...

Thanks
You know what, I was had ended up on that site and was printing bunch of sheets from that website and just finished it and looked at your reply. What a coincidence !! I was wondering how good of a site it is an I never knew it. Well it is more of practise kind so will still keep looking for actual grammar ones.

Thanks again dear.
www.kalamworld.com

jahangir said...

Thanks
You know what, I was had ended up on that site and was printing bunch of sheets from that website and just finished it and looked at your reply. What a coincidence !! I was wondering how good of a site it is an I never knew it. Well it is more of practise kind so will still keep looking for actual grammar ones.

Thanks again dear.
www.kalamworld.com

Learn ASL Here said...

When looking for an online American Sign Language learning program, you need one that will suit your needs. You need an online American Sign Language program that will be conducive to your learning style. Some of the main features to look for in an American Sign Language Program online include, grammar presented in a video format for ease of understanding, themed lessons with limited vocabulary learned in lesson. After learning the vocabulary in each lesson, you need retention exercises that will help solidify your new knowledge by offering practice. Additionally, with online American Sign Language programs, you need one that will offer fingerspelling practice. For the most part, fingerspelling in American Sign Language is the toughest aspect of the language to grasp. It takes an extensive amount of practice to be skilled in fingerspelling. The more you practice, the better you will become.

Study in UK said...

This is not the first of your posts I've read, and you never cease to amaze me. Thank you, and I look forward to reading more.

Anonymous said...

This is generally a wonderful website i should say,I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work


Education Consultants karachi

Boundless Technologies said...

You have some interesting thoughts! Perhaps we should contemplate about attempting this myself.



Web Design

Mike said...

It's really difficult for kids to rotate from subject to subject for 30, 40 or 60 minutes at a time and retain high volumes of information. We stick them in classes that we feel are important and forget that they are all individuals with different needs and learning styles. Of course there are problems, but new teachers coming through the system with creative ideas are helping to improve the system. In the meantime we have tutors and online language learning.

CharlesKelsey@Learn English said...

Learning a new language is really difficult for me. I am though happy somehow that my daughter is so open into learning new things unlike me when I was young. Sometimes we really have to go out of our comfort zone so we will be able to explore and learn and learn more and more.

JulieM ESL said...

Hi Sarah,
I had the same experience that you did. I floated along in Spanish through high school and tested out of two college semesters so figured I would just keep going. Every time I tried speaking out in the "real world", it was pitiful. Years later, I opened my own remodeling business in Texas and began working consistently with Hispanic workers. Little by little I used what I knew and after a period of time, I can now speak capably if not fluently. Language is power. I lived in China for just over a year, and not knowing how to speak or read a language where you live is miserable. I started learning to speak Mandarin and suddenly felt so much more empowered to be able to tell the taxi driver where I wanted to go, or just knowing I could go to the movie and buy a ticket if I chose. There's only so much that can be accomplished in a class room. That's why serious language students usually make trips to a country of that language to really start integrating it. By the way, Spanish is one of the easiest languages for us English speakers to learn.

Kat Tatiana Zinguer said...

I've had the same thing happen with Spanish. French as well, but to a lesser extent.
Lots of schools stunt their student's ability to learn by making it into a chore.
Now, if I wanted to learn French, I would know how to choose a proper school. But just thinking about it makes me cringe a little, as I am reminded of the constant pressure I had encountered to memorize without context and teachers' criticisms. And I am one of those high achievers. Luckily, I had some very inspiring teachers in other subjects, which made me want to continue down the academic path.