Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Obama understands the importance of learning a language

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Moreover, he knows that learning a language should start in Pre-K, not in high school—even educators have trouble with that one (or maybe it’s a staffing problem). I once read a book on foreign language instruction in the elementary schools. At the time the book was written, the foreign language most commonly taught in elementary schools was Polish because of the many Polish neighborhoods in certain cities, such as Chicago. The author’s ideal was to begin in day-care, with a different language instructor appearing once a week and speaking to the tots ONLY in the language of the day. As I recall, his languages of choice were French, Spanish, German, Japanese, and Chinese (but that recollection is probably imperfect). At any rate, Obama’s comment in answer to a question at an event, via Andrew Leonard of Salon (and the whole article is worth reading):

You know, I don’t understand when people are going around worrying about, “We need to have English- only.” They want to pass a law, “We want English-only.”

Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English — they’ll learn English — you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language.

You know, it’s embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say [is], “Merci beaucoup.” Right?

You know, no, I’m serious about this. We should understand that our young people, if you have a foreign language, that is a powerful tool to get a job. You are so much more employable. You can be part of international business. So we should be emphasizing foreign languages in our schools from an early age, because children will actually learn a foreign language easier when they’re 5, or 6, or 7 than when they’re 46, like me.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 July 2008 at 10:43 am

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