Most schools in Chesterfield County don’t require students to learn a language in school. Even then, there are only limited options for the students. Even in high school it is developmentally still too late, and not as beneficial as learning a language as a kid. Children’s brains are very active and naturally have curiosity and are able to understand information faster than adults. When kids are very young and are only just learning English, they are able to catch on fast and are able to focus more on the sounds that they are hearing. Therefore, if they learn a different language soon after they learn English then it will come more naturally to them. Most High Schools in Chesterfield only offer the most common languages such as Spanish, French, and German. What about all the other languages out there, like Italian and Portuguese?
Language development is easier to improve as a child rather than waiting until students have become accustomed to the English language and find it very difficult to adjust their brain to learning the different dialect. “I started learning Spanish at the age of six years old, which has definitely made it easier to comprehend and to become fluent. I only started learning French in high school and it is much harder to learn,” said high school student Ariana Long. In Europe and most other countries, kids are learning languages at ages as young as four and five years old and are becoming fluent by the age of sixteen years old. Americans tend to believe that they don’t need to learn any other languages knowing that other countries learn English at a young age, so they don’t have to bother learning their language. However learning languages can be fun and it’s not just about speaking another language, it’s also about learning their cultures and traditions. “I love being able to interact and have a conversation with people from other countries with different cultures and experiences,” said Long.
Why do Americans need to learn about the cultures and languages of other countries? One reason is because it not only introduces students to other cultures, but improves their understanding and comprehension of all languages including English. “Learning French and Spanish has actually helped to improve my grammar in English,” said Long. Another reason to learn a language is to open up more career opportunities. The ability to speak a second language sets those applicants apart from everyone else. Being bilingual will increase chances of getting a job by being able to communicate with patients or clients from another country like Spain or China or traveling to other countries on business. Other than just the practical reasons, learning new languages and cultures is fun. It will also help people to develop international connections and friendships, opening them up to authentic cultural experiences.
There are so many different cultures all around the world. France is the center for fashion, cuisine, art, and architecture. The culture in Italy is arts, architecture, music, food and is the center of the Renaissance. Part of learning a language is understanding the different cultures around the world.
Photo Courtesy to Alex Klahn