Foreign languages: Should we teach them in elementary school?

Zoe Zeballos, Staff Writer

In high school, many American students are, for the first time, learning a foreign language.  Complaints can be heard about their difficulties in learning even what they are told are the simplest of languages. Many colleges require a minimum of two years of a foreign language for admittance, but why do schools wait until high school to begin instruction? In other countries, foreign languages are taught in some places as young as early elementary, and studies have shown that the best time to to learn a foreign language is in between a child’s birth and the age of seven. After puberty, this ability slowly declines. So why is an emphasis on learning new languages only happening now in high school as it starting to become increasingly harder to do so? Why aren’t we starting in elementary or in even in pre-k/kindergarten?

Recently, foreign language studies have actually been cut from public elementary schools across America. This is extremely different from schools in European countries. Most European countries have a foreign language requirement before a child turns twelve. The only European countries with no foreign language requirement are Ireland and Scotland, and even their students learn both English and Gaelic since neither is considered a foreign language.

Foreign exchange students, Jumaira Husin and Tanyaporn Permkitpaisarn, both began learning a foreign language at an early age.  They believe it is difficult at first to understand, “but as you grow, you can go along with it and it is a lot of help”.

Learning new languages only gets harder as children get older and teaching them at an early age is normal for many countries. So why shouldn’t the United States take part?