Bilingualism should be a priority in the United States

Annie Laster

The United States is not well known for its language diversity. Even though many high schools and universities require languages to be taught, there is no national law mandating foreign languages be taught in schools. This seems like a disadvantage, as one in five Americans speaks a second language at home. The US is also linguistically diverse through immigration, and over 300 languages are spoken in the United States.

Benefits of speaking another language range from being faster at learning new words, better at problem solving, listening and connecting to others, and being able to use information in new ways. Speaking another language can help with analyzing surroundings and multitasking.

Learning other languages should be much more of a priority for schools. In feeder school Springdale Park Elementary, students are not taught a language until 4th grade, where the students have a class every six weeks. I believe that this is a waste, and that languages should be taught earlier.

In Europe, most countries require children to learn at least one other language, some countries even requiring two languages to be taught. Austria, Croatia, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal and Spain all require their first foreign language to be taught by age six, and Belgium requires the first foreign language be taught by age three. Studying a second foreign language is also compulsory for more than 20 European countries.

All that teaching pays off: 19% of Europeans are bilingual, 25% are trilingual, and 10% speak four or more languages.

The United States should have laws requiring students to learn another language and require school districts to put more money into funding their world language programs. Students should begin learning a language at a  young age, so they can better learn a second (or third) language. This can employ more and better language teachers, and give students a beneficial, lifelong skill.

Bilingualism comes with health benefits as well: people who speak a second language tend get dementia and Alzheimers 5 or more years later than those who do not. People who speak a second language are usually paid more than their monolingual counterparts.

When schools introduce language to students earlier, they learn and understand the material faster and better. When more of the budget is geared towards educating these young students, they can learn languages better and maximize those benefits. Though some people do argue that learning languages is money that could be better used elsewhere in schools, languages bring about just as many benefits as other subjects, if not more, and has just as many practical life applications.

The more languages you learn, the easier it becomes to learn a new language. Learning a language helps the vocabulary and ability to communicate in your native tongue.

Languages are also important in understanding other cultures and connecting with them. A good language education can bring people closer to other places. Teaching languages well should be a focus of high schools across the country, and a national law that would help to better our country for years to come.

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