Primary education should include second languages


Bronte Segura

Multilingual junior Hira Hamirani studies Urdu, Memoni and some Arabic at home. While at school, she speaks English and takes French IV.

As English is the second most used language in the world after Mandarin Chinese, countries whose official language is English make less of a push for a greater understanding of other languages. While English is the predominant language in the world, it is important to be able to communicate with people from different cultures and backgrounds in their language.

The Parkway School District does not have a foreign language requirement for graduation.  While students explore a foreign language in sixth grade, they do not reach an understanding of the language that children who begin second languages at a younger age.

Foreign languages should be taught at an earlier age, because not teaching it earlier prevents students from being able to learn about different cultures and people. Language should be acknowledged as more than a way into college, but as a way of communication that is as necessary as any other. The idea that because English is spoken everywhere it is the only language necessary for communication is wrong. English is spoken everywhere, but because it is so common knowing another language gives an edge in business and communication.

In this city there is a public, tuition free, immersion school system called Saint Louis Language Immersion Schools. They offer Chinese, French and Spanish for elementary school children and an International school for higher levels. However, it is the only public immersion school. There should be more schools like this one, including Parkway.

The difference between English speaking countries and countries whose native languages are not English is that they are also hearing and seeing and speaking English. They are already bilingual from an early age because knowing English is what will allow them to succeed in the world around them. Then knowing their native language connects them to their homes and cultures. English is a must-have language, but only knowing English is a detriment to an individual.

Junior Romeo Segura studies for his Spanish I class.
Bronte Segura
Monolingual junior Romeo Segura studies for his Spanish I class.

In our school system, foreign languages begin to be taught in middle school. The common age for an incoming sixth grader is 11. Eleven years of just English- then suddenly a new language. The important thing is that it is not being taught in the way these students learned their first language, by exploration and play. There may still be games, but at the end of the day by that time the students have lost interest. Reciting vocab words over and over again does not compare with the world of trial and error that English was taught with.

In learning a new language, children are able to appreciate different cultures and different points of views. They are also able to communicate confidently. By knowing the language earlier, they have more practice with it and a stronger ability. Children that learn second languages earlier have a greater chance of success in the world and in life.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Parkway School District.