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 Sprechen sie Español, s’il vous plait?

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PostSubject: Sprechen sie Español, s’il vous plait?   Fri Sep 18, 2009 11:31 am

Here you go Diva and Red (and anyone else that wants to read it). I finally got it done! Happy reading...

Sprechen sie Español, s’il vous plait?
Imagine that Hans, an English monoglot, walks into a party where everyone else only speaks Spanish. Imagine this same Hans needs to find a job, but all positions require another language. Now imagine Hans has gone on vacation and has become completely lost in Northern Germany where Bavarian German is the only thing spoken. Do you think he’ll be able to get directions back to his hotel? Language is the most crucial aspects of human interaction, and yet, in America it is one of the most ignored. The teaching of a secondary language should be taught from elementary to college, regardless of cost or prejudice, because of the effects it has on learning, social and career improvement, and interaction with the world.

The advantages of being bilingual (and multilingual) are easily seen in a child’s education. Studies have shown that learning a second language can actually lead to a better mastery of the first (Scott et. al “Relation”). In addition, bilingual children have been shown to have “mental flexibility, the ablity to shift easily between symbol systems (such as mathematics and literacy), improved abilities in divergent thinking, metalinguistic awareness, and, occasionally, higher scores on measures of verbal intelligence” (Met “Improving Students”). Even a class of 30 minutes, once a week has been shown students in secondary language study to out-perform those not studying a secondary language (Met “Improving Students”). It has also been shown that knowing a second language makes it easier to learn a third language (or more) (Met “Improving Students”). It is true that some students are unable to effectively learn a second language. Most students that have problems with learning a second language have been shown to have a lesser grasp of their first language, usually because of a learning disorder such as dyslexia (Scott et. al “Relation”). But with these students, it is not impossible to learn the language, it just takes more effort and time. Secondary language, in the long run, helps the learner mentally.

The age of the student has an impact on how they learn a language. Studies have shown the best time to learn a language is before the age of seven (Neergaard “How Your Brain”). This is the single most important reason to start secondary language in elementary schools. Those older than age seven can still learn a secondary language, it is just continually harder the older the person is. Also, the younger the start, the more effect the advantages will have on the student. Age also has an effect on what sounds the mind can actually pick out. One of the best examples is the Japanese inability to distinguish between the English “L” and “R” sounds. Doctors tested two seven-month old babies, one in Tokyo and one in Seattle, to test their responses to the two different sounds. At seven months, both were able to tell the difference in the two sounds. But by 11 months, the Japanese baby had lost most of the ablity to distinguish between the two (Neergaard “How Your Brain”). Children learn inductively, they learn with out associating with other learned information. While it is possible to learn a language at any age, it is best to start young.

Prejudices and cost are the main opponents of secondary language education, but do not properly out-weigh the need for secondary language education. Prejudice, as defined by Merriam-Webster Online, a preconceived judgment or opinion and an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge (“Prejudice”). And it is just that, an opinion without verifiable fact to support it. One misconception is that learning a second language at a young age, while learning English, will make the student only semi-proficient in both rather than fluent in both (Boulet “Bad in Any Language”). This statement is devoid of any fact. It has been proven time and again that secondary language instruction at a young age, and more specifically, immersion and semi-immersion courses, actually make the student highly proficient in both languages and tend to test better in other subjects as well (Met “Improving Students”). Again, it has also been shown that learning a secondary language actually helps a student become more proficient in the first (Scott et al “Relation”). In other words, learning a secondary language doesn’t make a student ignorant, being ignorant makes a student not learn a secondary language. From here, statements against second language education lean towards more elitist and racist views such as “This is America, we speak English” and views that learning Spanish would be giving in to illegal immigrants that are encroaching on their territory. These views are solely opinion based and better debated with ethics rather than this essay. Regardless of prejudice, secondary language education should be taught. (Antimetabole)

The biggest hurtle for second language education is cost. Nebraska, in the 2008 school year, spent approximately $209,522,666 on education grants(“Funds”). This may seem like a hefty amount, but distributed statewide, between 1,294 public schools, it isn’t much per school (“Education Bug”). But it also should be pointed out that all school districts mainly run off of taxes collected from their communities and would not be part of the grant total. Schools will still claim no money or other resources when it comes to academia. Schools cut back on the “less important” subjects such as music, art, and second language education due to “lack of money.” Yet, talk goes on over expanding sporting activities and sporting complexes for school districts. In Beatrice, Nebraska, during a school board forum in 2006, one candidate for councilman said “The sports complex we have now is a great venue, but it's just not totally adequate,” and that a new complex was “something we need” (Campbell “New Sports Complex”). It would seem that cost is not really the issue, but priorities.

In the current job market and in society in general, being bilingual has many advantages. With the ever growing Spanish-speaking population, secondary language is becoming more and more important. Multinational companies, journalists, bankers, retailers, and many others are finding an increasing need for multilingual employees (Crispell “Speaking in Tongues”). Even the education system has felt the need for multilingual employees. In 1993-1994, educational institutions employed approximately 80,000 secondary language teachers, and 34% of schools that offered secondary language education had vacancies in those teaching positions and 24% found it hard to find teachers for those positions (Crispell “Speaking in Tongues”). Since that time, schools have seen a large decline in secondary language teachers, though interest in taking those languages has gone up (Crispell “Speaking in Tongues”). With these numbers, it is more important than ever to have secondary language education required throughout a student’s entire school career.

The acquisition of a second language has been a high priority of the US Government and the US Department of Defense for some time. The U.S. Department of Defense Foreign Language Education Program is a government program that distributes grants to educational institutions that teach secondary languages that are deemed important to national security and economic success (Zehr “Elementary”). Some of the languages that are focused on include Arabic and Chinese (Zehr “Elementary”). These languages are given extra importance in the eyes of the government due to war and the increasing amount of trade done with China. The aid given to these institutions can support just about anything from a language program in the curriculum to a summer crash-course program in the language. With the government placing second language education on such a high priority, it should be in the citizen’s interest to want to learn these languages as well.

America’s language standards must be up to a point of fluency. In a world where news reports and government announcements are translated, people may wonder why there would be a need to learn a language if the work is done. Those without secondary language education are usually those that believe that a word has an exact equivalent in another language. In reality, translations are approximations of what was actually said, and can be wrong. Near the end of World War Two, Japan was given an order to surrender from world leaders meeting at Potsdam or face “prompt and utter destruction” (“Mokusatsu”). The Japanese Prime Minister was asked by reporters how the Government of Japan planned to respond. To this he replied “mokusatsu” which literally translates to “not worthy of comment” or “no comment” as Americans would say. The problem with mokusatsu is that it has multiple meanings including “take no notice of” and “ignore.” The translator chose to use the word “ignore” in place of the phrase “no comment.” This translation was the one to reach President Truman’s ears, and the one to make him give the order that would lead to the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. One word is all it took to anger American leaders. One word was all it took to send man’s most terrible weapon into action. One word was all it took to end the lives of over 200,000 people (Miller “Atomic Bomb”). One person proficient in Japanese is all it would have took to say wrong word. The best way to avoid a mistake is to learn from other’s mistakes. This is a major reason American’s need to learn secondary languages. Americans need to be fluent in more languages than English in order to come to a full understanding to those in other countries instead of taking someone’s word for it. (Anaphora)

Learning a secondary language should be required of all students in America. From the improvements it has on a student’s learning abilities, to advancement in the workplace, secondary language is important. Without the attention this issue deserves, America’s educational system will continue to lower in standard year after year. No one likes to try to communicate with someone who is ignorant and stubborn; imagine how the world feels towards America. Priorities need to be changed, as do the requirements of the American Educational system. This change should be one that supports secondary languages, not destroy them. 


Boulet, Jim Jr. “Bad in Any Language.” English First. 27 Sep 2006. English First. 16 Sep 2009 .
Campbell, Harold. “New Sports Complex, Budget Issues Topics of School Board Forum.” Beatrice Daily Sun. 3 Nov 2006. Beatrice Daily Sun. 15 Sep 2009 .
“Census 2000 Brief.” United States Census 2000 June 2004 1-10. U.S. Census Bureau. Google. 9 Sep 2009.
Crispell, Diane. “Speaking in Other Tongues: in an English-centric Culture, Some Americans are Taking a Cue from Immigrants and Becoming Linguistically Advantaged.” American Demographics 1 Jan 1997. eLibrary. Souttheast Community College. 20 Aug 2009 .
Kingsbury, Alex. "Untying u.s. tongues." U.S. News & World Report 140.2 (Jan 16,2006): 35. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Southeast Community College. 8 Sept. 2009 .
Met, Myriam. “Improving Students’ Capacity in Foreign Languages.” Delta Kappan 86:3 214-. eLibrary. Southeast Community College. 20 Aug 2009 .
“Mokusatsu.” Unclassified 95-100. National Security Agency. Google. 7 Sep 2009 .
Neergaard, Lauran. “How Your Brain Becomes Bilingual Children Easily Learn Languages. Finding Out How Could Make It Easier for the Rest of Us.” Chicago Daily Herald 3 Aug 2009 C1. eLibrary. Souttheast Community College. 20 Aug 2009 .
“Prejudice.” Merriam-Webster Online. 2009. Merriam-Webster Inc. 16 Sep 2009 .
Strauss, Valerie. “Early Launch for Language; Young Children Have Advantage, but Linguists Say Lessons Benefit All.” The Washington Post 16 Feb 2009. eLibrary. Souttheast Community College. 20 Aug 2009 .
“Welcome to the Nebraska Public School Directory.” Education Bug. 2009. Education Bug. 9 Sep 2009 .

Zehr, Mary A. “Elementary Foreign-Language Intstruction on Descent; Cutbacks Expected to Continue in Recession” Education Week 28.23 (4 Mar 2009). Academic OneFile. Gale. Souttheast Community College. 2 Sep 2009 .

Last edited by nsanelilmunky on Fri Sep 18, 2009 6:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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La Diva Carlotta

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PostSubject: Re: Sprechen sie Español, s’il vous plait?   Fri Sep 18, 2009 1:02 pm

Interesting read!
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PostSubject: Re: Sprechen sie Español, s’il vous plait?   Fri Sep 18, 2009 2:20 pm

Well-argued, researched, and arranged. I especially like your point re: second language knowledge strengthening one's proficiency in one's first language. I can relate to that one directly -- I understood the nuances of English (even Shakespeare's use of it) much better after my 3 1/2 yrs. of Italian.

And also a very interesting read, as Diva noted. Great work, Nsane! great
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PostSubject: Re: Sprechen sie Español, s’il vous plait?   Tue Sep 22, 2009 2:28 pm

Thankies. And now to make some use of this thread...

This is mainly for my own reference. But if you like the way I'm thinking, you might try doing something similar in your state..

NE Legislature
NE Constitution
NE Constitution, English Official
NE Legislation citizen's menu
NE Dept of Education (limited) Website
NE Government Website
NE Government Directory

And that should be good for now...
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